جامعة النجاح الوطنية
An-Najah National University

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On Wednesday, November 16th, An-Najah National University held its concluding event for a virtual exchange project with Clemson and Bucknell universities in the United States.


The virtual exchange included 18 students from the civil engineering department studying pavement design and environmental engineering from An-Najah and 18 students from Clemson University in South Carolina, United States and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, United States studying engineering and taking pavement design courses. 

The students were put in bi-national virtual teams made up of 2 US based students and 2 Palestinian students and went through a seven-week virtual exchange. The exchange started with two weeks of small group cross cultural dialogue sessions guided by UN certified trained dialogue facilitators aimed at building a foundation of trust and inclusive team dynamics to help with the autonomous group work from weeks 3-7. 

The students then engaged in the five-step design thinking process (empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test) to create innovative pavement solutions to adverse weather, sustainability, safety, construction practices, and budgetary constraints. Every week, the students worked on assignments as a team through synchronous (live) and asynchronous (remote) group work. Some of the project solutions developed included using a GPS tracking technology and weight classification for roadway taxation; reuse of tires with a mixed base to improve sustainability and cut down on pollution; and using geosynthetic material for heavy rainfall.

Reflecting on her experience, Zahra'a Alakhras, 21 and in her 3rd year of study, remarked 'This experience was different, we were able to think of developing a solution that might solve one of the world's most crucial problems in pavements. I learned from this experience that teamwork breaks the time, cultural and linguistic barriers. Getting a great result from teamwork requires discussion, understanding, respect, commitment and patience.'
This project was supported by a research grant 'Strengthening the Field: Catalyzing Research in Virtual Exchange' through the Stevens Initiative.
Alia Gilbrecht, who coordinates Virtual Exchange in the Office of International Development and External Affairs, Prof. Khaled Sahili, civil engineering Professor, and Dr. Abdelhaleem Khader, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Engineering implemented the project on behalf of An-Najah, while Dr. Brad Putman of Bucknell University, Dr. Fabricio Leiva and Shilpa Girish of Clemson University were international partners in this project. 


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