Belgium Campus iTversity and Pennsylvania State University have been working together since 2015 to promote global-thinking and intercultural awareness amongst students. Belgium Campus students work with students from Penn State University’s mechanical and electrical engineering faculties on joint industry innovation projects. These projects prepare students to enter the industry with ease and also provide them with a global perspective, allowing them to assimilate into the globalised world we live in and equipping them to tackle the challenges that come with it.
This Women’s Month, we introduce you to two of the phenomenal women at Penn State University who help make this collaboration possible. These women are Dr. Meg Handley, Associate Director for Engineering Leadership Outreach and Dr. Dena Lang, Associate Director of the Engineering Leadership Research Program.
Dr. Dena Lang, Associate Director of the Engineering Leadership Research Program at Penn State University, holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from West Virginia University, an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a PHD in Kinesiology with a focus on biomechanics from Penn State University.
Her previous professional experience and research interests range from mechanical engineering facilities design to research that applied engineering and molecular biology approaches to the study of the skeletal response to mechanical loading. As a mechanical engineer, she worked on facility design projects involving mechanical systems (which included heating, ventilation and air conditioning), energy conservation systems, as well as R&D of air conditioning equipment for Navy ships.
Dr. Lang's research interests have also included investigating the relationships between components of the indoor environment, occupants, and energy usage. Specifically, the effects of the indoor environment on occupant health and well-being and in parallel, how socially-mediated energy-saving strategies can increase awareness of energy use and/or increase energy saving behaviours.
Her current research interests focus on identifying, assessing, and developing key skills, knowledge, attitudes, and other intrinsic and extrinsic factors required for engineers to effectively lead others, particularly other engineers and across cultures.
Dr. Lang’s current research interests provide a solid foundation on which cross-cultural collaborations, such as the one between Penn State University and Belgium Campus iTversity, can be built. It is important for the future leaders and thinkers in the field to learn from industry professionals with a wealth of experience and crucial industry knowledge and Dr. Lang has an abundance of both.
“Experiences that involve cross-cultural team work, like the collaboration between students at Penn State University and Belgium Campus iTversity, provide students with an opportunity to uncover unconscious biases, practice better communication, and build trust among teammates of different backgrounds and beliefs. These activities can be difficult for all involved, yet instrumental in fostering change for future technology teams,” comments Dr. Meg Handley, Associate Director of Engineering Leadership Outreach at Penn State University.
Dr. Handley completed her PHD in Workforce Education at Penn State, with a focus on interpersonal behaviours and their impact on engineering leadership potential. She has also completed the HPI D-School training programme and uses design thinking techniques to educate engineers in fostering innovation and creativity through their leadership skills.
Dr. Handley believes a diverse workforce is essential for a successful technology industry, especially in today’s global environment. “As engineering faculty leadership and educators, our job is to build consciousness around challenges related to cultural and gender differences. Leaders in the technology field must build consciousness of their own biases and lack of understanding of other cultures in order to create the potential for inclusive environments,” she says. She believes that the creation of these environments not only builds trust but also increases engagement and productivity which ultimately leads to better solutions.
Dr. Handley is also a broad-certified coach with experience in developing students’ leadership and professional competencies through teaching and one-on-one coaching. She is most interested in developing student knowledge and leadership skills to aid their successful transition to the workplace. She gave us her advice for individuals struggling to integrate into the world of work. “Finding support from others, building a positive view of yourself, sticking to the plan, practicing problem solving techniques, and developing emotional intelligence are essential for thriving in difficult work environment,” she shares.
We are privileged to be able to collaborate with international institutions like Penn State University in a way that positively enriches both our institutions and the IT sector as a whole. A new set of industry innovation projects have just begun. We are excited to see how our students collaborate to push the limits of innovation and technology even further.