University of Southern California The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering

Welcome Message from A Previous iPodia Student, 

Mr. Craig Western

I want to share with you my experience as a student of USC Viterbi iPodia(ViP) –one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career. As a mechanical engineering major at USC, I originally became involved during the inaugural year of iPodia and remained involved the following year as program assistant. With the growing influence of globalization in industry and academia, and the critical need for collaboration across multiple cultures, joining the program seemed like a natural choice: iPodia appeared to fill a unique and important educational niche by teaching skills for technological innovation in the context of an increasingly globalized world.

For me, iPodia came to life early in the semester when I walked into class for the first time and sat down to face a room full of Chinese students looking back at me from Beijing. Incorporating live discussions, debates, and presentations with students literally on the other side of the world, lectures are designed to take full advantage of the fact that a single classroom spans multiple countries and cultures. In-class activities highlight cultural differences as discussion points for the generation of new ideas; ideas are then put into action through team projects. In developing these projects, teams are challenged to bridge cultural gaps and international borders in producing innovative solutions to problems found right on their own campuses, in areas such as transportation and energy conservation.

Class trips during the semester are designed not only to facilitate implementation of teams’ project ideas, but also to allow students separated by thousands of miles to meet each other face-to-face. I became close friends with my Chinese teammates during the semester through classroom and Skype discussions, and I’ll never forget finally seeing them as they came to greet us at the Beijing airport. The following weeks that we spent together allowed all of us to form friendships that transcend international borders as we pushed our work to completion. The final presentation - a festive affair that has in the past involved students, friends, families, school administration and faculty, and a Nobel Prize winner – aims to showcase practical, innovative solutions that stem from the intersection of countries and cultures and demonstrate the power of true international collaboration.

As an iPodia student, I learned to see differences in culture not as obstacles to be overcome in a work environment, but as tools to be used in developing new and different ideas. I learned how to work alongside those with completely different team norms, a skill I will certainly be putting to use in the years ahead. I forged lasting friendships with some of the best students at the best universities in the world’s most influential countries. And I was privileged to be a part of the beginning of a true paradigm shift in the world of academia, with an emphasis on learner-centered, context-based education.

I strongly encourage all those who are interested to become a part of this truly unique program. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Craig Western
iPodia Team Project Coordinator, 2011
BS Mechanical Engineering
USC Viterbi School of Engineering