UAlbany Faculty Keep Internationalization at the Forefront

UAlbany Can COIL logo with two parts of globe connecting.
UAlbany faculty are collaborating with international partners on COIL activities.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2021) – Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, University at Albany faculty are finding creative ways to work with valued international partners to further UAlbany’s strategic goal of internationalization.

Five faculty are teaching classes this spring in which their UAlbany students partner with students at universities in Germany on project-based learning on global teams.

These are called COIL activities, for Collaborative Online International Learning, an ongoing initiative of the State University of New York.

“The COIL experience supports my encouragement of students to engage with other cultures to enhance their learning and to think as citizens of the world,” said Debernee Privott, who is teaching a criminal justice course.  “COIL provides a unique and highly effective vehicle to cross boundaries without a ship or an airplane, particularly as we are challenged with using these resources during the pandemic.”

Professor Rita Biswas, who teaches a senior honors finance class to 16 UAlbany students, said her students share four synchronous classes with an MBA class in Bremen, Germany, taught by Professor Mechthild Schrooten. Students have collaborated offline to form teams with their counterparts in Germany to prepare for Tip of the Iceberg, a simulated game in which two native speakers of English and two non-native speakers role play as CEO and CFO, collecting as much information as they can in 15-20 minutes for a presentation to a venture capitalist to obtain investment in a water purification unit. The students’ task is to learn to communicate effectively with their teammates despite language differences.

“The students love it,” she said of the interaction with their fellow students in Germany.

Courses like these serve to connect UAlbany faculty and students with communities thousands of miles away more deeply and strategically, said COIL coordinator Annette Richie, the SUNY lead on the project. Faculty who want to know more can visit the COIL website and contact Richie at the Center for International Education and Global Strategy.

The courses with German students are part of a project with German Universities of Applied Sciences 7 (UAS7), one of SUNY's (and UAlbany's) key consortium partners.

The German UAS7 universities involved are: Berlin, Bremen, Munich and Osnabruck. In addition to UAlbany, the SUNY schools participating include Canton and ESF.

UAlbany was awarded a 250,000 euro (almost $295,000) International Virtual Academic Collaboration grant from DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) for the courses.

Other innovative COIL activities involving UAlbany students include: 

  • New this spring, the ‘Intelligent Internet-of-Things’ course is designed to prepare undergraduate and graduate engineering students to step into the machine learning arena, said electrical engineering Professor Hany Elgala of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS). His colleague in Germany is Professor Clemens Westerkamp at Osnabruck. Elgala said interacting with the students in Germany helps his UAlbany students strengthen skills like teamwork and problem-solving.
  • Assessing air quality and control with real-world data from the U.S. and German cities and understanding the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on air quality (environmental engineer Md. Aynul Bari in CEAS and Anja Noke at Bremen. Four UAlbany and four Bremen students are working in pairs to conduct case study projects to answer real-world air quality research questions. 
  • Weighing corporate (and other) social responsibility, comparing the impact of legal systems in Germany and the U.S. In teaching this course, Privott is partnered with Municipal Judge Peter Ries in Berlin. Last semester she worked with her long-term COIL partner in China, Professor Gao Ping from Tianjin Normal University.
  • Debating models of global leadership against the case study of the 1996 Mount Everest climber expedition tragedy, as well as other types of leaders and current events. (Offered by the School of Education and the Center for Leadership and Service’s Martha Asselin and Dominik Hammer at Munich).

“Due to COVID, we had to think outside the box and to redesign a program (originally meant to be held in person abroad) that is more inclusive and adaptable to the current times. This is a first for me as an educator and I am really excited about what lies ahead,” Asselin said.

“We are already expanding the UAS7 Virtual Academy for 2022 and beyond, with travel and visits planned,” Richie said.