ISyE Hosts*1st Int'l Undergrad Dual Degree Program

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Globalization of business has always been a key driver in the field of industrial engineering. As technology advances, markets open up, and cultures homogenize, preparing students to work in a global marketplace has become an essential component to education. As one of the many initiatives in this area, the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) at Georgia Tech now offers an undergraduate level dual-degree program in conjunction with Monterrey Tech (ITESM) in Mexico. The dual degree program allows engineering students attending ITESM to transfer to ISyE at Georgia Tech during their third year. After completing the IE degree requirements at Tech, students return to ITESM to complete the degree requirements there. Upon completion of the program, students earn an engineering degree from ITESM and an IE degree from Georgia Tech.

The program with Monterrey Tech began fall semester 2007, and it is Georgia Tech's first undergraduate level, dual-degree program with an international university. Currently, four students from ITESM are enrolled. They include: Patricio Bichara, Allam Garcia, Alejandro Leyva, and Hector Morales. Next year, six students plan on participating in the program. Overall, the experience provides a tremendous opportunity for students to learn more than just the engineering course work. It provides a background for unique employment opportunities and cultural experiences while integrating global competence into disciplinary curricula.

Below, ITESM students Patricio Bichara, Allam Garcia, and Alejandro Leyva discuss why they chose to participate in this unique program as they share experiences and reflect on important lessons learned.

Q: What made you decide to enroll in the dual degree program and come to Georgia Tech (GT)?

Alejandro: I was fortunate to be the first generation of this new dual-degree program between ITESM and GT. As soon as I heard I was a potential candidate for the program, I knew I wanted to participate. My decision was basically based on GT's #1 ranking in Industrial Engineering.

Patricio: The truth is I've wanted to come to GT since I graduated from high school. I always wanted to go to college in the U.S., but my high school didn't really encourage students to apply to schools abroad. So I entered ITESM, one of the best universities in Latin America, to study IE in an international program. The international component requires us to study 33% of our courses in a second language and study abroad for a year. After the first year, I still wanted to go to college in the U.S. I took the SAT and TOEFL to transfer, but my mom thought that two years abroad was a lot, so in the end, we decided on a one year program.

I looked at different options in the U.S., Australia, and Europe because I wanted to go to an excellent school with great professors in a big city. Georgia Tech was the obvious answer.

Allam: I decided to enroll in the program because Georgia Tech is a very prestigious university, especially in the field of Industrial Engineering where it provides a top quality education.

Q: How is GT perceived in your community at home?

Alejandro: As a university of high prestige, it is an honor for any student to study at Georgia Tech. The reputation of its graduates speaks for itself. I've had the opportunity to meet people in Mexico that studied at GT and their experiences were incredible. Every time I mention to people in my community that I study at GT, they know I'm in the best IE school in the U.S.

Patricio: GT has always been a well-known university, especially among engineers. Two of my uncles are alumni and I was familiar with its reputation, especially the IE school. But when I started the application process, I was amazed at how many people know Georgia Tech. In Monterrey, it is considered one of the greatest engineering schools.

Allam: GT is perceived as a school with a great reputation and one that is tough to get into.

Q: Did you have any mentors at GT? Or did you have any help for faculty and students at GT to help you get acclimated?

Patricio: Part of what I've found at GT is great people. Dr. Paul Griffin has been a fantastic mentor. He has been working with the people of ITESM to design this program for a couple of years. He has also helped a lot during the application process, and especially during our stay here. Patti Parker and Valarie DuRant-Modeste have also been very nice, helping us transfer the ITESM credits and choose which classes to take in each of our three semesters here.

Along the way, we've also had great help from the faculty and students. Our classmates have been really nice, especially during the first days when the professor wants you to look for a homework assignment on WebCT and you have no idea how to log in. Outside of class, several students and friends, many of them from the Hispanic organizations, have helped us solve everyday issues that are a factor when you live away from home.

Allam: There have been several people who have helped us throughout our time here at GT, among them are Patti Parker and Paul Griffin.

Alejandro: Yes, I consider Paul Griffin and Patti Parker, my academic advisors, as my mentors at GT. They have looked out for me since I got here, supported me academically and socially. They are really nice and have helped me through the process.

Q: How does GT compare with ITESM?

Alejandro: Although academically they are similar, GT has something extra that better prepares its students for the professional world. Also, the atmosphere at GT tries to encourage you to participate in more school activities.

Patricio: Both are well-known universities, with great engineering and business programs, but the main difference is that GT dedicates more resources to research while ITESM is a bigger university (it has campuses all across Mexico with almost 90,000 students). Academically, GT requires more personal commitment to study: you need to read the book, maybe do a few homework assignments, take one or two midterms, and a final exam. At ITESM, they put more pressure on you, and you learn by working a little harder: they take daily class attendance, you have three midterms per class, weekly homework, usually one project per midterm, and a final exam. In the end, at GT you study more. At ITESM, you work more.

Allam: Both GT and ITESM are very demanding universities and I have greatly enjoyed being part of both of them.

Q: What do you find most challenging here?

Patricio: We were the first class of this dual-degree program, and some details are still being fine-tuned. We realized we needed to take more classes than expected, which wasn't really that bad. At ITESM we take 7 classes per semester, but it means you have to find a way to divide your day in order to have enough time to go to class, study, do homework, help in different organizations, exercise, and go out and have fun. It can seem easy, but if you're taking many classes, things can get out of hand and you start to lose your sleeping hours.

Allam: What I find most challenging is the management of my time to avoid leaving things until the last minute.

Alejandro: Well, because I had to take a lot of classes for the completion of the dual degree program and because the time is limited to one year, my semesters have been really loaded, especially this last one. Allocating time to all the various school tasks has been really challenging.

Q: What is the most remarkable experience you had so far since you have been here?

Alejandro: Being able to meet exceptional students that share the same objectives that I have and, of course, Senior Design. Even though I'm still at an interim phase, I've learned a lot already. It has given me an opportunity to put in practice everything I've learned throughout my career.

Patricio: My most remarkable experience has definitely been the football games. One of the things I've been most anticipating is fall semester because of football season, and that first game against Samford was a day I'll never forget. Seeing all the people, wearing white and gold, cheering the yellow jackets, singing with the band, it's a wonderful feeling. I really think that is something ITESM is missing. Sadly in Monterrey, you don't see that many people wearing ITESM clothes, and although we're the national football champions, the students don't go to the games very much.

Allam: I don't think I could pin it down to just one remarkable experience. My whole time here has been filled with interesting events that have helped me improve, not only as a student, but as an individual as well.

Q: What advice would you give to another ITESM student who is interested in coming here for a dual degree program that would help to make their experience more successful?

Patricio: First, I would advise them which classes to take at ITESM so they can get credit at GT (which we have already done with the second class coming this spring). Then I would tell them to try to get involved in all that Tech has to offer (the student organizations, the CRC, Career Service, etc.). I would also tell them to plan the classes they're going to take throughout the 3 semesters so they are able to take advanced classes in their favorite track (Logistics, Manufacturing, EDA, etc.). Lastly, I would advise them to attend class because it's a very important factor in order to get good grades.

Allam: It's very easy to procrastinate, but if you avoid doing it as much as possible and go to class, you'll be successful in your studies. Also, get involved in student groups. There are a lot of interesting people you can meet in these groups.

Alejandro: Absolutely plan their academic load and anticipate the classes they will be taking in order to save a lot of stress and time. I've had a hard time managing my schedule as I've had to take some classes I could have taken in Mexico before coming to GT.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? Do you plan to work in Mexico, United States or somewhere else?

Patricio: I would love to work in something related to financial engineering or logistics. I'll probably work for a consulting firm in the U.S. to get more experience, and perhaps try to get a master's in IE at GT. After a few more years, I'd like to go back to school to get either an MBA or a PhD. After I finish grad school, I would like to go back to Mexico to work in the government or for an NGO. It would be selfish to have all this great education and opportunity and not use it to make Mexico a little better than how I found it 21 years ago. After all, we are all here to try to make a difference in the world.

Allam: This is a decision I have not made yet. My home country is Nicaragua and at the moment, I am considering working in any one of these three countries.

Alejandro: Well, I don't have any expectations about where I will work, but I can assure you that the work I will be doing is what I've studied to do.

Q: When you look for a career, how important is the idea of globalization in your search?

Patricio: Once a professor said to me that you need to prepare as well as you can. In today's world, we're not just competing with students from Mexico or the U.S., we are competing with students from all over the world. That is very apparent at GT, and the same goes for companies, nations, etc. Basically, the more we are able to experience different cultures, the better prepared we are going to be. Globalization also brings opportunity to study and work anywhere in the world, applying your knowledge and competencies to different organizations around the globe.

Allam: Given the future that I could potentially be working in different countries, I consider it of great importance to have a career that allows me to apply my skills to different regions, countries, and cultures.

Alejandro: These days, globalization has grown in such a way that it's almost impossible not to consider it when choosing a career. I believe that it's important to choose something you enjoy doing and definitely something that can be applied across frontiers.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Ruth Gregory
  • Created: 11/05/2007
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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