Filomena Critelli: Globalizing the Classroom

Portrait of Filomena Critelli.

Though initially drawn to COIL by her interest in Latin America, Filomena's engagement with the SUNY resource has grown into a global experience with unique impacts for herself and her students. Engaging with partners abroad and the resulting opportunities for publication and presentations have enriched her career and her teaching through encouraging her students to deeply engage with the course material.

Filomena Critelli, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, was initially drawn to COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) by her interest in Latin America, but her engagement with the SUNY resource has taken on a life of its own. COIL has opened doors for both her and her students in a way that has led to truly global impacts.

“Having the opportunity to travel to Mexico and build relationships with partners was very valuable. My partners became my colleagues, and now I consider them friends. I got a chance to meet people not only in my own discipline, but various disciplines throughout Mexico and the SUNY system, and that was really a wonderful experience.”

Because of her involvement with COIL, Filomena has presented at multiple conferences, both nationally and internationally, including the COIL conference, a social work conference in Denver, and two human rights conferences, one of which was in the Netherlands. Through collaboration with Laura Lewis, Assistant Dean for Global Partnerships and Director of Field Education, and her COIL partner, she also published an article in March on the lessons she learned from teaching a COIL course. “I’ve learned a lot and it has enriched my teaching,” Filomena says of her COIL experience.

She hopes faculty from across the university will see the exciting opportunities this type of engaged teaching and learning has to offer students, too. “My students got to have very in-depth exchanges with [the Mexican students], to share ideas, to learn about their lives and how the issues are playing out from their perspective. We had them exchange with each other beyond the academics and encouraged them to share things on Facebook and inform each other of current events. I think they learned a lot, but I think they also had fun in the process of getting to know others.”

At a deeper level, COIL courses, and international collaboration in general, are important because they help students become better global citizens. “We’re living in an increasingly connected world, where things that are happening in other parts of the world are affecting our lives, and we’re being shaped by it in ways we don’t realize. Connecting more to global learning is important for any person getting educated at a university. This kind of class is really the second best thing to traveling. Having an international perspective is extremely important; unfortunately, that has not necessarily been an important aspect of education for many students, so it’s a great opportunity for me to be able to broaden their perspectives.”

By developing and implementing a COIL course through online collaboration with partners abroad, Filomena and her students have reaped the benefits of an international education without even leaving the UB campus, and so can you. Contact Christina Heath at to learn more about COIL and how you can get involved.


Written by Amanda Hellwig ‘19