Fostering global connections

Digital technology enables powerful learning and international collaborations for public health.

Two years ago, UMD Assistant Professor Marzell Gray met Michael Brown through a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) course. A public health research associate at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in the United Kingdom, Brown was working with Professor Linda Gibson.

COIL is an innovative method of teaching that links students and faculty from different institutions and countries so that they can learn together and collaborate on projects. Gray and Brown had common research interests in global public health. Their connection sparked an ongoing relationship. 

Brown had a chance to visit UMD in August to further their collaboration through a research mobility grant through the Turing Scheme. A recipient of NTU’s Vice Chancellor’s Ph.D. Studentship, Brown is working closely with Gray on some research, grant applications and papers. They’re collaborating with other researchers from NTU, Northumbria University in the UK and Makerere University in Uganda on projects related to mental health; drug and substance abuse; and physical activity.

Through NTU’s Institute of Health and Allied Professions, Brown coordinated seasonal research activities within the Public Health Department such as NTU’s COIL Global Summer School, which Gray co-tutored. Positive feedback from the 2021 summer COIL session led to the idea to develop a COIL post-graduate certificate program.

A Collaborative Certificate Program

The new program will be run by NTU in partnership with Gray at UMD, and co-tutors from Makerere University and Thomas Sankara University in Burkina Faso. It will be focused on global health and development and will enable students to have an in-depth understanding of global health issues.

The program will strengthen UMD's collaboration with NTU and other global partners. The hope is that participants from all four universities will come together in the final summer to learn together.

Brown appreciated the opportunity to deepen his connection to UMD through his visit this summer and said his time in Duluth was “amazing.” Brown spent time working on research projects with Gray and met with the CEHSP leadership during the visit. He and Gray also found time for a few fun activities such as attending the Minnesota State Fair.

Brown notes that “it’s an especially important time to have critical discussions about global health and development.” Both Gray and Brown look forward to enhancing the collaboration between NTU and UMD with the certificate program, which they hope to have in place by fall 2023.

“The partnership with NTU is adding into students' understanding of global health, international programs such as the pilot course that create opportunities to learn from a diverse population, completing COIL, and has led to partnerships with other schools such as Makerere University,” says Gray. “It is important to continue building relationships with international partners who share a common goal of inclusiveness.”

About UMD's Public Health Program

Feature photo from L to R: Michael Brown and Marzell Gray