National Taiwan University of Science and Technology
Leading in USR: Taiwan Tech builds on international partnerships
- Taiwan Tech a frontrunner in USR and Internationalization at Home
- Engineer in Action – Community projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and East Taiwan
- USR: An integral part of education at Taiwan Tech
University Social Responsibility: Giving back to Communities
Over the last ten years, an increasing number of institutions worldwide have integrated the concept of University Social Responsibility (USR), also dubbed the Third Mission of Universities, into their curricula and strategies. In Taiwan, the Ministry of Education launched an USR program in 2018 which encourages universities to engage in community projects, fostering students’ social awareness and international outlook. The idea is to bring expert universities’ expert knowledge, combined with student creativity, to local communities, thus closing the gap between learning and application.
Like no other university in Taiwan, Taiwan Tech has embraced USR projects building on its strong international partnerships and alumni connections to realize projects in neighbouring countries and in indigenous communities in East Taiwan.
Taiwan Tech a frontrunner in USR and Internationalization at Home
Taiwan Tech’s unique achievements in this field gained nationwide recognition. Since 2019, Taiwan Tech has been ranked top in the annual University Citizen (USR) Rankings held by the local CommonWealth Magazine which monitors a total of 153 domestic institutions based on four parameters, i.e. university governance, social engagement, environmental sustainability, and teaching commitment.
Taiwan Tech’s commitment to USR is corroborated by integrating social service into undergraduate curricula. Since 2017, it has been a requirement for undergraduates to earn one credit in social projects in the course of their studies. What this requirement means in practice, will be shown by the following three projects carried out by students and staff of the College of Engineering. They do not only give an impression of the many USR- ideas that are sprouting on Taiwan Tech campus, but also show the importance of close alumni-connections for successfully implementing USR projects abroad.
Engineer in Action – Community projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and East Taiwan
The Taiwan Tech Engineer in Action (EIA) program, launched in 2017 by the College of Engineering, has implemented several projects in Indonesia and Vietnam in cooperation with partner schools Widya Mandala Catholic University the Institute Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember, and Can Tho University. Mixed teams of local and Taiwan students joined hands to carry out two-week projects which were designed to improve living conditions in rural communities in the surroundings of our partner universities.
One of the villages that received support is Currah Cottok in Indonesia’s Surabaya District, a dry area that often suffers from draughts. EIA teams worked on the village irrigation system in 2018 and 2019, and designed an efficient mobile sprinkler system with a radius of 30 meters to improve irrigation efficiency.
The local elementary school in Puhsarang Village, also in Surabaya, is another site where the young engineers-to-be showed their skills. They improved the garbage collection system, and refurbished the library and the school restrooms. Local school kids were invited to decorate the walls with hand-stamping and graffiti, creating a sense of belonging and pride for their school.
In Vinh Thanh village in Vietnam, about 60 km west of Can Tho university campus, the EIA-participants joined hands with a local elementary school to work on a playground, an innovative teaching classroom, and the school library.
In 2020, when the COVID19 epidemic, made international travel impossible, the EIA implemented a project at an Elementary school in Dongao, Yilan county in East Taiwan which is mostly attended by aboriginal children. The student teams, which included many international students, designed ecological channels and set up an intelligent monitoring system for slope stability in Qalang Skikun which also served the purpose of disaster prevention – an important issue for villages at the East coast that are often struck by typhoons and other natural disasters.
USR: An integral part of education at Taiwan Tech
One of the reasons for the success of these projects was their meticulous preparation. Taiwan Tech faculty joined hands with their Vietnamese and Indonesian colleagues to design a cross-disciplinary study program that includes a one-semester preparation course at Taiwan Tech. This course is not only about technical and practical issues, but also offers intercultural training as well as Indonesian and Vietnamese language classes.
Exchanging the air-conditioned Taiwan Tech classroom for a village school campus, transforming textbook knowledge into practical applications, applying “soft skills” like teamwork, intercultural communication and problem solving, these are just a few of the many experiences and learning results for the participants of those projects.
Thus, USR-projects have become an integral part of teaching at Taiwan Tech, and are important milestones in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals for which educational institutions, and in particular universities, are playing a key role. As this article shows, they have already been engrained in Taiwan Tech’s educational vision and internationalization strategy, and Taiwan Tech staff and students will continue to contribute to local communities in Taiwan and abroad.