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  • Locations: Prague, Czech Republic; Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Budget Sheets: Summer
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Program Description:

UVA in Lithuania: Sustainable Engineering Design Challenges


UVA in Lithuania: Sustainable Engineering Design Challenges offers students of all majors and backgrounds the opportunity to work on real-world requests for sustainability interventions in two UNESCO World Heritage cities in Northern Europe and Central Europe.
Students will spend 2 ½ weeks in Vilnius, Lithuania working alongside engineering students at the elite Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU) campus. City officials, VGTU faculty, and business representatives will share their expertise with us as we work on projects for the city related to waste governance and recycling, smart interventions in mobility, green public spaces, and renewable energy and efficiency. The experience ends with four days in Prague, where we compare the two cities' experiences merging old and new through guided tours and opportunities to freely explore the city.
The primary teaching tool for this program will be a practicum focusing on an actual problem experienced by an industry client tor city agency. Understanding sustainability requires engagement across multiple disciplines. Our focus is on developing skills for investigating the combined social, technical, historical, cultural, and political aspects of enacting sustainability in practice.  These skills will be targeted at real world challenges that requiring dynamic systems thinking coupled to client focused design strategies.

Faculty will supervise student progress, offer their expertise in guided workshops, and help students and their teams to overcome any obstacles they might face. Site visits to various industries, labs and other facilities in Vilnius and Prague will enrich our understanding of the complex context and culture of these cities.

Announcements IconAnnouncement

Check back for updates about this program's Summer 2021 availability (updates to be published by February 1).

Location IconLocation

The program is based in Vilnius, which is the largest city and capital of Lithuania. Vilnius is also the home of the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU), which will provide a home base for the program. VGTU is a leading international technical university.

Lithuania is a small democratic republic with close to 3 million inhabitants on the Baltic Sea. The country is part of the European Union and NATO, becoming independent of the Soviet Union in 1990. The country is one of the more affluent in the Baltic States and the city of Vilnius is an emerging international hub for commerce, tourism, and innovation. Even as it grows, the city maintains one of the largest medieval Old Town section in Europe with baroque architecture dating back to the middle of the 13th century. Site visits and field trips will support our understanding of the history and culture of the region, while providing the context for our investigation into sustainability projects. You will be given opportunities to experience the city and surrounding areas to immerse yourself in this unique place and its people.

Known as the “city of a thousand spires,” the Czech Republic’s capital of Prague was miraculously saved from heavy artillery fire during World War II. It is one of the best-preserved historic city centers in Europe. It is a well-known tourist destination where you can see architecture that dates back to the 9th century intermixed with a highly diverse population and lively music and food scene. Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture dot the city, while renowned museums showcase everything from art to history.

UVA_SEAS_Vilnius_mall UVA_SEAS_Vilnius_street

Courses IconCourses

Sustainable Engineering Design Challenges
(STS 2500; 3 credits)
Prerequisite: None

This course places top US and international engineering undergraduates in an intense, high-pressure environment; stirs in challenging design problems and resources; and sees what kind of results they come up with. Students are expected to think outside the box, and apply critical thinking and design skills to real-world problems.


Learning Objectives
During the course, students are required:

  • Propose design concepts that address community problems ranging from smart cities to environmental resilience.
  • Understand the differences between US and Lithuanian culture and history with personal examples.
  • Work respectfully and collaboratively together in a foreign cultural & social context with Lithuanian engineering students.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of cultural differences.
  • Demonstrate an ability to understand Lithuanian culture and integrate the knowledge with interactions with people and Lithuanian clients.
  • Build and validate cross-cultural adaption skills.
  • Seek out opportunities to engage with the locals.
  • Learn a few basic phrases in Lithuanian to be able to properly greet a person or be greeted.
  • Deliver effective oral and written presentations to clients.

Faculty IconFaculty

Maya Drake|

Maya Laurinaitis Drake is an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer and an educator. At National Geographic, where she worked for 15 years, Maya traveled the globe developing films that sought to educate audiences about the fragility of life on our planet. She has keen editorial judgment, outstanding management skills, and deep experience in all aspects of production. During her long career as a filmmaker, Maya produced films for National Geographic Explorer Series, PBS, National Geographic Channel and NBC Specials. She also worked at Discovery Communications, The Teaching Company (producer of The Great Courses series) and Sylvan Learning.

Working at UVA since September 2015 as fulltime staff and general faculty, Maya’s primary role is working as an International Programs Advisor in the School of Engineering & Applied Science’s Department of Engineering & Society. She advises engineering students about opportunities to study and work abroad. Maya also teaches an STS 2500 level course Telling the Story of Science and Engineering: Making Documentary Video. Her course is offered in the School of Engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences.

A second-generation American, Maya’s parents were born in Lithuania and came to America as political refugees after WWII. She is fluent in the Lithuanian and belongs to an extended family of jurists. Her great-grandfather was a Supreme Court Justice in Lithuania before Soviet occupation. Her grandfather was an appellate judge. Establishing a study abroad program in Lithuania is Maya’s dream of a lifetime, bringing her back to her family roots.

Maya is currently enrolled at Harvard Extension School working towards a professional graduate certificate in Sustainability. The certificate studies will explore the benefits of renewable energy systems as they relate to new transportation technologies, energy requirements of food production, the effects of supply management and international commerce in energy security, energy management in buildings, and mechanisms needed to evolve current practices into sustainable energy operations.

Sean M. Ferguson |
Sean Ferguson has been teaching within the STS curriculum since 2014 and has partnered with Assistant Professor Rider Foley to explore Engineering Education Assessment Innovations in this capacity. His research includes work on digital citizenship, ethics, and the open data movement with Assistant Professor Caitlin Wylie and Associate Professor Kay Neeley. His research and teaching related to standards and Smart Cities has received funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology as well as a series of internal grants. This work, in collaboration with Assistant Professor Sharon Ku and Professor Brantly Womack is a methodological inquiry into multi-sited ethnography and a comparison of Smart City Imaginaries in several urban locations in the United States, China, and Northern Africa. He draws upon social movement studies, environmental sociology, and STS to evaluate the values, agendas, and material culture of evolving urban spaces. Prior work includes evaluation of how the bioeconomy, particularly bioplastics, emerge and are governed at multiple scales.


Accommodation and MealsAccommodation and Meals

Students will be housed in a centrally-located hotel in Vilnius, which is connected by public transit to the academic spaces at VGTU.

Cost and Financial Aid

The program cost and payment schedule are listed under the "Budget Sheets" link at the top of this page. Students with identifiable financial need are encouraged to apply for fellowships, scholarships, and financial aid.


Accessibility IconAccessibility

The University of Virginia believes in providing reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities on an individual and flexible basis. Most facilities at VGTU are accessible to students with disabilities. Students should be prepared for a moderate amount of walking over uneven surfaces during several visits to locations of cultural and historic interest in Vilnius, and not all historic sites may be fully wheelchair accessible. If you believe that you would require adjustments in order to fully participate in this program, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at 434-243-5180 as early as possible in order to begin this dialogue.


Passport IconPassport and Visa

All participants will need a valid passport in order to participate in the program. Students must ensure that their passport is valid at least six months past the program return date. US passport holders will not need a visa to participate in this program. International students should meet with their International Student Advisor in the International Studies Office as part of the application process.


Health Info IconHealth and Safety Information

All students considering Education Abroad should consult the Students Abroad section of the U.S. Department of State’s web-based travel resources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Traveler’s Health web resources to research health, safety, and security conditions; visa requirements; immunization requirements; and recommendations on staying healthy and safe in their target destination(s). Students should also carefully review the UVA Education Abroad Health & Safety Abroad web page. Parents and guardians are strongly advised to review all of these resources, as well. UVA students and visiting students enrolled in UVA Education Abroad programs are subject to the University of Virginia’s Policy on Student International Travel.

This program is currently not accepting applications.