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Salem State Receives AASCU Excellence in Innovation for International Education Award

Interview by the Center for Research and Creative Activities

Congratulations to Assistant Provost for Global Engagement Julie Whitlow, Faculty Fellow Julie Kiernan, and the COIL Faculty Learning Community for receiving the AASCU Excellence in Innovation for International Education Award for their project, “Collaborative Online International Education (COIL): Sustaining Global Engagement During a Pandemic.”  The program was selected by the awards committee for its outstanding results and potential to influence and serve as a model for other institutions.

The COIL concept was pioneered by SUNY in 2006 with the goal of connecting students and professors in different countries for collaborative projects and discussions as part of their coursework.

Dr. Whitlow had heard about COIL for many years both in conversation and at conferences but hadn’t conceptualized how to begin a COIL program at Salem State, or what it would even look like. However, when international education at Salem State was largely suspended last year due to Covid19 restrictions, Dr. Whitlow, along with CIE faculty fellow and assistant professor Julie Kiernan decided that the time was right to try a COIL pilot.  Whitlow and Kiernan asked faculty to participate in a Faculty Learning Community on COIL and twelve faculty members across several different disciplines applied to be a part of the pilot program during the 20 – 21 academic year.

Whitlow and Kiernan were the program facilitators and the following professors made up the Faculty Online Learning Community:

  • Zlatinka Blaber (Accounting and Finance)
  • Ana Emlinger (Geography and Sustainability)
  • Melanie Gonzalez (Secondary and Higher Ed.)
  • Rebecca Hains (Media and Communication)
  • Cissy Hartling (Marketing and Decision Sciences)
  • Youn Jung Huh (Childhood Education and Care)
  • Severin Kitanov (Philosophy)
  • Kim Poitevin (IDS)
  • Anna Rocca (World Languages and Cultures)
  • Vanessa Ruget (Politics, Policy, and International Relations)
  • Fatima Serra (World Languages and Cultures)
  • Chaerin Yun (Management)

Whitlow says that the faculty members were responsible for the success of the COIL pilot. They used the fall semester to discuss and learn about COIL, secure an international partner, and collaborate with that partner on a Spring 2021 COIL implementation.  Whether that was having collaborative Zoom calls or class or group discussions, sharing google documents and commenting on data points, or simply interacting with their international peers, the success of the program was because of the creative teaching and proactive engagement by the faculty.

“The faculty were amazing. What they did was quite remarkable” is how Whitlow characterized the faculty participants.

In addition to the 12 Salem State University faculty, the program also included more than 200 students from SSU and over 250 students participating internationally. And while there were some challenges associated with incorporating the COIL components due to time differences and diverse modalities, the pilot program was a huge success. Based on surveys Whitlow collected after the program, more than 88 percent of the student participants said they had a great experience and were so grateful for the opportunity. More than 80 percent said that if they had known about the COIL component prior to the course, they would have enrolled.

With such positive reviews, Whitlow decided to nominate the team for an AASCU award, and Salem State has been recognized with the Excellence in Innovation for International Education Award. The award ceremony will take place in November in Clearwater, Florida.

Since then, Salem State has received an Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad to expand and diversity international education at Salem State, and that will include a COIL training for five general education faculty. Whitlow is also hoping to archive course materials so as to expand the COIL program into a COIL Center at SSU so that faculty can access the information and expand the program.

Learn more about the Center for Research and Creative Activities. All Salem State University students, faculty, and staff are invited to email their research to be featured by the CRCA:

Evea Raye
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