COIL Rural CommuniTIES: Connecting Rural Classrooms with International Partners

Alumni TIES
5 min readJan 5, 2024


This article is reposted from a previous article by authors Jodi Resch Brownell, Dr. María Montoya, and Dr. Paul Edleman

The Alumni TIES in Birmingham, AL in February 2023 was offered with the goal of identifying current challenges to outreach and barriers preventing rural communities from engaging in global affairs. Attendees collaborated on ways to increase diversification and support underrepresented voices from rural communities in the global conversation. That goal and the seminar’s collaborative activities brought together three attendees from New York, Illinois, and Wisconsin who had spent their careers working on the same goal in their rural educational institutions.

Participants from the Alumni TIES in Birmingham, AL.

Dr. María Cristina Montoya (Fulbright Specialist Program, Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program) from SUNY-Oneonta was a presenter at the TIES, and her passionate presentation on COIL: Collaborative Online International Learning made “COIL” the buzzword of the week. Dr. Paul Edleman (Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program, Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad) from Sauk Valley Community College, IL, also presented on “Teaching and Engaging Students in Global Affairs Opportunities” and made all educators at the seminar think about ways to promote global connectivity while keeping diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind. Jodi Resch Brownell (Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms), a teacher at Crandon High School, WI, was not only an attendee, but also participating in the Stevens Initiative’s Virtual Exchange Academy in February, and both María and Paul’s presentations resonated with her and her goals for her rural students.

Edleman presenting at TIES on global education.

On the second day of the conference, these three educators decided to work together to apply for one of the $10,000 TIES grants to bring COIL to rural K-16 educational institutions. Over the months that followed the seminar in Birmingham, the team found that they worked very well together and when notified they had won a grant, immediately began working on their project: COIL Rural CommuniTIES.

The proposed goal of this project aims to exponentially grow our COIL Rural CommuniTIES across America and across the world. The project’s first objective is to provide equity to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to connect globally. Building skills of intercultural competence, empathy, critical thinking, collaboration, language acquisition, and global citizenship will open more doors for student success and participation in the global market.

The team leaders started by selecting some of their best students to learn about COIL and assist with the dissemination and training stage. From Oneonta, NY, Jocelyn Perez (a student at SUNY- Oneonta, majoring in Childhood Education/Spanish) was selected; from Dixon, IL, Kora Bajrami (Sauk Valley Community College student majoring in Early Childhood) was selected; and from Crandon, WI, Madelynn Erdmann (a junior at Crandon High School) and Maya Quade (a sophomore at Crandon High School) were selected.

The main activity of the COIL Rural CommuniTIES grant is to organize three COIL Academies in the rural communities where the team members reside and work (Dixon, Illinois; Crandon, Wisconsin; and Oneonta, New York). The first academy was conducted at SUNY-Oneonta, NY. Team leader, Maria Montoya, has experience in conducting this type of training since she has been a COIL practitioner since 2014, and the SUNY system counts on institutional support from the SUNY-COIL Center. The COIL methodology was initiated at this consortium of higher education.

COIL Rural CommuniTIES team with student leaders.

Over the summer of 2023, the team leaders and the student leaders were assigned tasks to prepare for the first workshop in NY. Team members worked to promote a hybrid workshop to attract attendees. Presenters who had experience with COIL partnerships participated virtually and in person with a diverse audience of educators. Additionally, the workshop shared opportunities for educational professional development available through U.S. State Department exchange programs. The first of the three workshops in New York would be the model for the next two coming up in the spring in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Flyer promoting the COIL workshop at SUNY-Oneonta.
Montoya presenting at the NY workshop on creating COIL partnerships.
Resch Brownell presenting at the NY workshop on State Department opportunities.
Student leaders registering workshop participants.

In addition to the COIL workshops that will take place in rural educational institutions, part of the TIES grant project will also be the creation of a database where U.S. rural educators can enter their contact information and can find the same information from international educators who are interested in creating COIL partnerships with U.S. classrooms. The project team will also be creating and sharing materials with workshop participants that they can use to assist in creating COIL modules and projects.

Jodi Resch Brownell is a 2020–2022 alumna of the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms in France. Dr. María Cristina Montoya is a 2019 alumna of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program and 2022 alumna of the Fulbright Specialist Program- both in Colombia. Dr. Paul Edleman is a 2015 alumnus of the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad in the Philippines and a 2017 alumnus of the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program in Chile. They participated in the February 2023 seminar on Rural Engagement in Global Affairs in Birmingham, Alabama.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)



Alumni TIES

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.