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Stony Brook Students and Faculty Pioneer International Virtual Exchange

Euglena bloom
Euglena bloom
Algae blooms caused by wastewater contamination and nitrogen is a focus of one of the joint projects of the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) exchange.

Stony Brook University faculty members, the Office of Global Affairs and students have pioneered a virtual exchange with their counterparts in Norway.

As part of the introduction to environmental engineering course, Stony Brook students worked with students from Europe and Central Asia to understand the challenges in water treatment in both developed and developing countries. This is the first implementation of SUNY developed Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) at Stony Brook, allowing students and professors in different countries to interact for collaborative projects and discussions as part of their coursework.

The program was started by Stony Brook’s Alexander Orlov and Yovana Veerasamy at the Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It was also supported by Arjun Venkatesan from the Center for Clean Water Technology and Jasmina Gradistanac from the Office of Global Affairs.

“Stony Brook and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences planned to launch an in-person international exchange in 2020, however, COVID put our plans on hold. Instead of cancelling it, we came up with a new concept of conducting the training virtually,” Orlov said. “We were assisted by the joint efforts of the American Council on Education and the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills that helped us to implement the COIL exchange concept in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

During the exchange, the Stony Brook students were invited to address treatment of water from multiple angles that included U.S., European Union, Central European and Eastern European perspectives, while remaining in their home country and partnering across different cultures.

“It was quite an eye opening experience, as I did realize that different countries view water quality problems from dissimilar social, cultural and economic points of view,” said Aidan Donnelly, an undergraduate student participating in the exchange.

Orlov hopes that similar virtual exchanges can be introduced in other Stony Brook courses, broadening international perspectives of the students. He believes that such exchanges will better prepare U.S. students for international aspects of their future jobs by teaching them about cultural differences and sensitivities.

He and his colleagues are already planning in-person summer program in Norway for Stony Brook students, where they will learn about new technologies in wastewater treatment. Orlov also expects that this international collaboration will lead to joint projects to help businesses in solving water pollution problems.

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