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Program Description

Program goal

Students will contribute to global sustainability by completing a project in small groups, in partnership with community based and nonprofit organizations around the world.  Students will complete coursework on intercultural storytelling and international perspectives on one of six UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These courses will provide concepts and knowledge that students will apply to the development and execution of their projects. Students will gain skills in storytelling, intercultural communications, and collaborative project development by telling the story of one of these partner organizations through the framework of one of the SDGs. Partner organizations around the world will work with groups of students to develop these stories and receive use of the final products. 


Students sign up for the SUNY COIL Global Commons program, and will register for two courses: Intercultural Storytelling and one of the following:

All students will take the Intercultural Storytelling course. Students will enroll in the SDG focused course of their choice. Both courses follow a similar approach, starting with foundational concepts and issues, followed by a deeper examination of these concepts and issues through a particular framework, such as a disciplinary lens of study or the medium in which a story is told.

The Intercultural Storytelling course will start with foundational concepts of storytelling.  Students can then explore storytelling through a choice of mediums, for example, storytelling through written narrative, or storytelling through video. The medium allows students to explore how storytelling is developed through that medium and will include international comparisons of storytelling traditions in that medium. This provides the background to understanding how to develop the story of an international partner organization, and how to organize and develop one’s own story. Course content for Intercultural Storytelling will be the focus of the first week and a half of the program.

The SDG focused courses will also start with foundational concepts of that goal. Students can then choose to explore the issues through a particular lens, which could be disciplinary, topical or geographical.  For example, students could explore International Perspectives on Climate Action through an economic lens, or through the lens of Climate Action in South America. The specific lenses associated with each SDG will be determined in late May.  The SDG focused courses will begin in the second half of week 2 of the program and remain the focus of the program through week 3

The culmination of the courses will be the application of knowledge and skills through the development of a storytelling project about an international organization’s work on the SDG, which will be the focus of the program in weeks 4 & 5. International community based and nongovernmental organizations (CBOs and NGOs) carry out important local work, but often face resource constraints that limit their ability to fully meet their goals. Student projects will help meet these needs. The projects will allow students to understand the work of the organization, the socio-cultural context in which that work is done, and how that work relates to the SDG studied. Selected partner organizations have a defined need that can be met through projects during the program.  Students will work in small groups to develop, complete and present the projects as part of their coursework.

Students are expected to complete 4 hours of coursework per day for the first 3 weeks of the program, plus related readings and activities. Courses include featured presentations, readings, discussions and activities presented online. Much of the work will be completed asynchronously, providing flexibility to fit students’ schedules. Discussions and activities will start with general concepts and become more focused as the lens of study is applied. When the project phase begins, exact schedules will be determined by the project’s scope and needs. Students will work with their SDG-focused course faculty, the partner organization, and other students in their group to set expectations, divide tasks and schedule discussions. The final week of the program will include presentation of projects, reflection and future application of learning.

how it works graphic
SUNY Global COIL Commons program flow

Program flow

Although comprised of two distinct courses, this program will operate holistically. Students begin the program with a self-assessment and goal setting exercise, an introduction to intercultural communications and general background information on the history and development of the UN SDGs. The Intercultural Storytelling course then begins, followed by the SDG focused courses. As students move closer to the beginning of their project, they will begin to study the organization, its work, and the culture and country in which it operates. Students will work in small groups with their SDG faculty, who will provide guidance on how to work with the partner and supervision of the project as it’s developed. Storytelling faculty will provide support for the medium of the story through office hours, clinics and/or other activities throughout the project phase. Students will have support for the context, content and process of developing the organization’s story and producing an outcome (for example a poster, an article, social media materials) that will directly benefit the partner organization.

Like course materials, the product of the projects will carry an open license, allowing the partner organization to use and modify the work to suit their needs, while allowing the student and SUNY to showcase the work. Final products will be showcased on a dedicated website and shared with other students in the program during the final week. The final week of the program will also feature activities for reflection and leveraging the work done during the program for future endeavors.

Administrative and logistical aspects

This program is conceptualized like a study abroad program for administrative purposes. Within SUNY, this permits flexibility in registration and credit transfer.  At their home campus, SUNY students will be registered as taking a study abroad program for six credits. Individual courses will be administered by different SUNY institutions; therefore, students will receive transcript supplements from these SUNY campuses that indicate the course the student completed and their grade. These courses will then be transferred back to the student’s home campus.

The Intercultural Storytelling course is being developed to align with SUNY Gen Ed requirements (for example, Other World Civilizations), while the International Perspectives on {the applicable SDG} could be more personalized.  By enrolling as a study abroad/study away program, students can work with their advisors or departments to determine the pathways through the program content that could allow them to petition for major credit (for example, Special Topics in X). This flexibility would allow students at all levels of their academic careers to participate in the program, including incoming Freshmen.

Any SUNY student, from any campus, may participate in the program, at any point in their educational career. To enroll, students will fill out an application/registration form, which will enroll them in the Intercultural Storytelling course and the SDG focused course they select.  These are each three credit courses. Students will pay their home campus tuition for these two courses. All course materials will be Open Educational Resources (OER), therefore, there will be no instructional materials costs associated with this program. The course will be housed in SUNY’s Blackboard learning management system.


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