COIL Spotlight

Photo of Professor Shamika Mitchell

Meet Shamika Mitchell, PhD

Dr. Mitchell teaches in the Department of English at Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York. She has been integrating COIL into her classes since 2015.

Dr. Mitchell and her students have had successful COIL collaborations with partners in Mexico, Egypt, Brazil and China.

Most recently, the United States Embassy in Algeria invited Dr. Mitchell to be an honored guest speaker for their 12th annual The International Festival of Comics (Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Alger, FIBDA). Dr. Mitchell was with a group of US delegates and was honored to represent both the United States and SUNY.  She discussed her work in the comics industry, American Muslim comics artists, as well as comics development.

Q&A with Dr. Mitchell

What’s most rewarding to you about a COIL collaboration?

What’s most rewarding about the COIL experience is being able to foster cross-cultural exchanges with students. Travel is now even more of a luxury, and through online interactions, the students can gain a better understanding of different cultures and experiences. In some cases, students become inspired to travel or study abroad, which is special, but in all cases, the students cultivate new knowledge and appreciation of our diverse world.

In your opinion, is there a common misconception about COIL?

There may be the perception that students are casually socializing online. In truth, students are collaborating on different kinds of academic projects, and learning how to connect with their own classmates. Group assignments are always challenging, and having an international partnership is a unique experience for them. Because students are covering a similar curriculum during the collaboration, they have a rare opportunity to share ideas about the same content and bridge cultural differences.

What do your students get out of doing a COIL collaboration?

My students get to broaden their horizons and explore new opportunities for learning. We usually have fun in my classes, and the COIL collaboration is a way for them to experience an international learning environment. Some of my students have remained in contact with their COIL partners even after the semester ends. Social media can be helpful for bridging societies, and my students realize that we are more alike than we are different, even if our language and culture aren’t identical.

Examples of Dr. Mitchell’s COIL Collaborations:

1. Partnered Courses: College Writing I (SUNY Rockland) and Business Entrepreneurship (Centro Universitario del Norte, Mexico) and Photo Journalism (Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico)

COIL Collaboration: Students made short films and wrote business plans about ways to improve the local economy. A second version of this collaboration focused on interviewing vulnerable groups about the realities of their hardships and strategies for improving their lives.

2. Partnered Courses:  African American Literature (SUNY Rockland) and English and Cultural Communication  (American University in Cairo, Egypt)

COIL Collaboration: Students partnered to examine a cultural artifact and explore its socio-historical impact inside and outside the USA.

3. Partnered Courses:  College Writing II (SUNY Rockland) and English as a Foreign Language (Tianjin Normal University, China)

COIL Collaboration: Students read literature by Chinese American women and Chinese women, specifically American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and the classic story by Lu Xun, The real story of Ah-Q, discussing the cultural portrayals in the works as a jumping off point to discuss cultural views of women in each country.

4. Partnered Courses:  College Writing II (SUNY Rockland) and French Language (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil)

COIL Collaboration:  SUNY Rockland students read the English translation of The Three Musketeers while the Brazilians read the original French. Students discussed various aspects of the plot and literary devices, along with how aspects of French culture described in the novel related to US and Brazilian cultures. During the implementation of the collaboration, the Brazilian students expressed an interest in manga comics, which were part of Dr. Mitchell’s course. The students then worked together to read and discuss manga (English and Portuguese translations) and the cultural impacts of Japanese immigration in Brazil.