Gannon University Students and Professor Assist With Project in Sweden

UppsalaPosted: March 2, 2015

Engineers will tell you that software is a universal language, and so it is for Stephen T. Frezza, Ph.D.

Frezza, a professor in the department of computer and information science, and two of his Gannon University students, were among a select group of Americans that participated in a software development project in Uppsala, Sweden that crossed borders that were not only political and linguistic, but cultural, too. 

The Gannon students, Scott Conrad and Brett Schultz, both junior computer and information science majors, joined five students from Indiana's Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and 18 students from Sweden's Uppsala University in what Frezza called "an open-ended project in a trans-national, cross-cultural setting, but also a class."

Frezza had known the project's originator, Mats Daniels, Ph.D., senior lecturer in information technology at Uppsala, as a fellow member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). When Frezza's dean, W.L. Scheller II, Ph.D., asked his faculty to pursue more international collaborations, Frezza was ready. "I had been contemplating this for five years."

The American students traveled to Sweden twice, once in September to determine the project's scope and assign project responsibilities, then in December to present their findings to the stakeholder, in this case, a governmental body for the Swedish equivalent of a U.S. state. The task was to design software for all the doctors and hospitals in the jurisdiction. "It's like running information technology for a large U.S. hospital system which has the reputation as being one of the most technologically advanced in Sweden, and thus in Europe," Frezza explained.

The project was a pre-pilot for the rollout of a patient records system, which meant that the students had to address issues of accountability, legality, patient identification and privacy, among others.

For the Gannon and Rose-Hulman students, it also involved the understanding of a very different system of supplying healthcare than their own. The Swedish students, for their part, got a good opportunity to hone their English skills, because English is the dominant language of instruction for information technology classes in Sweden.

For Frezza, who served as a mentor to the student team, the experience Conrad and Schultz gained was unique. "Getting out of their [cultural] shells was important as was seeing that what they're learning at Gannon is world-class," Frezza said. "So was seeing that they can compete with the top undergraduate engineering school in the U.S. [Rose-Hulman is ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report among institutions whose highest engineering degree is the master's] as well as Uppsala students. They can compete, do well and work in their teams, as people, students and developing professionals."

Frezza's international experience didn't end with the December trip to snowy Sweden. This week, he's been invited to speak at a symposium organized by another collaborative partner of Uppsala University's, Al Baha University in Saudi Arabia. His topic at the Al Baha University-Uppsala University Symposium on Quality in Computing Education (ABU3QCE) is "Professionalism and Quality: What Can Accreditation Offer Engineering?"