The Swede Life

Stephen T. Frezza, Ph.D., and two of his computer and information science students were among a select group of Americans that participated in a software development project in Uppsala, Sweden that crossed borders–political, linguistic and cultural. 

The students, Scott Conrad and Brett Schultz, both juniors, joined five students from Indiana’s Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and 18 students from Sweden’s storied Uppsala University in what Frezza called “an open-ended project in a trans-national, cross-cultural setting, but also a class.”

The task was to design software for all the doctors and hospitals in a Swedish county, which is roughly equivalent to an American state. “It’s like running an information technology system for a large U.S. hospital system that has the reputation as being one of the most technologically advanced in Sweden, and thus in Europe,” Frezza explained.

Frezza had known the project’s originator, Mats Daniels, Ph.D., senior lecturer in information technology at Uppsala, through 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,” he said.

The American students traveled to Sweden twice, once in September to determine the project’s scope and issues of accountability, legality, patient identification and privacy, then in December to present their findings to the county government.

"Getting out of their [cultural] shells was important, as was seeing that what they’re learning at Gannon is world-class"

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, received 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 (“Not an instructor,” he noted), 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.”