Q&A with new faculty fellow for Global Classrooms, Jessie Dubreuil

Global Engagement sat down with Jessie Dubreuil, Associate Director for Learning at the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL), to talk about her new role with the Global Classrooms initiative, and the unique opportunity that it presents to faculty at UCSC.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

What interested you in serving as faculty fellow for Global Classrooms?

From my first meetings with the Global Classrooms team, I was struck by the synergies between their program goals and the values that drive my learner-focused, faculty-facing work for the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning. The scaffolded programming that Global Classrooms provides supports faculty in crafting unique virtual exchange experiences connecting UCSC students to global partner courses and campuses. Together, faculty in these cohorts are strengthening partnerships with collaborators worldwide, as well as with each other, while making space to reflect on pedagogies that fuel powerful learning. I am passionate about the reflective, participant-driven values and practices that underlie the Global Classrooms initiative and I think they resonate with the work I love at CITL.

How does a virtual exchange through a collaborative online international learning model enhance learning opportunities for students at UC Santa Cruz?

Global Classrooms brings the world to UCSC in ways I think UCSC students appreciate in their learning experience. The opportunity for hands-on collaboration and sustained, reciprocal contact with other people and perspectives seems particularly meaningful for students looking to connect their classroom learning to the larger purposes of their educational journey. Global Classrooms tend to be project-based, real-world engagements with problems and people beyond students’ own experiences and perspectives, and I think our students thrive on the opportunity to connect their disciplinary interests to the larger world in this way. Experiencing authentic connections between the subjects that move them and the world they want to join is a real impetus for further learning. It’s also true that surfacing the ways in which our research, teaching, and learning participate in global cultural dynamics provides an invaluable window on the meaning of the university experience.

What do faculty gain from developing Global Classrooms courses?

At the core, I’m seeing faculty employ virtual exchange in their Global Classrooms to address dual passions—for their discipline, and for maximally supporting their students’ learning. As teachers, we devote ourselves to the deep investigation of our topics and to nurturing students’ growth in our classes. Both of those goals are served by the continuous exploration of new connections and contexts, and Global Classrooms provide a ready environment for the intentional and conscious examination of both. Many of us are also accustomed to pursuing professional and curricular goals largely alone, and appreciate the energy and insights provided by developing courses with partners who are equally passionate about our fields, but situated in cultures and systems with a lot to teach us. Global Classrooms is in a position to curate relevant, actionable conversations about teaching, including providing resources on issues of cross-cultural communication, global access, equity, and power. It’s another way in which the program presents a strong fit with the UCSC community and its priorities.

The Global Classrooms model allows you to reflect deeply on what your course is for—both for UCSC students at home and for the students abroad who join, enhance, and expand this learning community. It gives you a new lens on the total picture that you’re trying to provide for your students to see the class from these different points of view. Though it requires dedication to develop a Global Classroom, once faculty cross that barrier, it winds up being some of the most meaningful, relevant professional development that they invest in, because it’s based on their own goals and priorities. Additionally, developing these courses allows faculty to connect to a broader audience and develop a global community. The Global Classrooms staff is dedicated to lowering the barriers to entry and providing the just-in-time support that makes these courses possible, sustainable, and so rewarding.

I also think the program does a great job acknowledging and responding to the real challenges of preparing a course like this, and seeks to support the individual goals of specific faculty members, classes and syllabi. I believe in the integrated approach to course development Global Classrooms pursues. From intercultural communication to support for students’ engagements with different perspectives, we’re trying to bake in the training and resources faculty will reach for in their courses, all within the context of a year-long cohort community meant to accompany and enhance the experience by connecting faculty on similar journeys with lots to share. 

So many of the things that we care about in the classroom every single day, virtual exchange or not, are represented and raised up in the virtual exchange vocabulary. It frequently becomes true that what faculty are investing in developing for the Global Classroom is actually also wonderfully appropriate in the classroom more generally. By designating a protected space for supporting that work, we are embedding ourselves in the way faculty think about something personal and important to their own teaching and learning goals.

Where do you see Global classrooms fitting into the future of learning and teaching?

What interests me so much about this discussion now is how different it seems to feel from discussions we might have had before the global pandemic. The opportunity to re-engage the perception of what virtual exchange does—what it is for—in our new educational environment is welcome because the answers are somewhat counterintuitive. Whereas I think the virtual part might have seemed to participants to be a more distant format for doing exchange before Covid-19, as we’ve transitioned more of our real pedagogical presence online and bridged all kinds of distance in that way, virtual exchange feels more intimate than it once did.

That we can be so close to each other, so quickly, through technology, and that we can share very vulnerable and potentially life-changing questions with people and perspectives that are different from our own still feels profound. The future of virtual exchange and programs that essentially aim to globalize our classroom experience seems very bright. The hands-on, real-time, ride-along development of compatible, partnered curricula is so important because we’re not just saying we can share the miracle of online education or communication –the exchange of information and data– we are saying we can be together across difference, that this thing has an ethos of engagement that is valuable in and of itself.

By posing the questions we do in Global Classrooms, we are asking what we need to know about ourselves and others to enable collaborations in the world we hope to join after this classroom experience has concluded.

What does an in-house, homegrown professional development program for faculty actually look like?

Developing Global Classrooms for the UCSC community aligns with the way that I have, across my career, participated in faculty development, which is by building on-the-ground, campus-specific, culture-specific programs to support a given set of goals. I think that the opportunity to engage faculty in helping craft something very true to the campus’ history and mission is fairly unique. 

So far, two cohorts of UCSC faculty have gone through the program and feedback has been very positive and insightful. We’re committed to providing a structure that helps everyone feel like they really know what COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) is and gives them a foundation in the principles that impactful virtual exchange is based on.

Also, being able to make this work with faculty a highly personal, customized collaboration, where curriculum designers are embedded in the faculty experience and stay engaged as they develop their goals, means that these are not cookie-cutter responses to the challenges that faculty will be encountering—they really can be custom-built.

You mentioned curriculum design. Do you plan to work with Aaron Zachmeier?

Yes, knowing we would join this team together was very exciting. Every project I’ve worked on with Aaron has been so fundamentally enhanced by the expertise he brings to curricular design in online settings. We have to think of the online education portion, the virtual exchange/COIL curriculum, and the campus faculty development for these courses as absolutely intertwined. This way, none of our decisions are made without an awareness of what it means to each aspect of the program, and Aaron’s knowledge about what works in the virtual environment and how to build for that is essential.


Jessie Dubreuil received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in English from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia. She has for several years directed the CITL Undergraduate Fellowship, a program to nurture peer-to-peer learning at UCSC, and supports faculty and programs across campus. Jessie is also a faculty member in the Writing Program and at Merrill College, where she serves as College 1 Coordinator and leads the fall seminar for Merrill Course Assistants. She has studied in Madrid, Spain and Oxford, England.

Learn more at the Global Classrooms webpage, and stay tuned there for details of a new call for applications to be announced in late fall 2022.

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