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Professor Signs MOU to Expand Students’ Global Learning

Samara Akpovo and Sarah Neessen pose in front of the Kathmandu University School of Education

by Jessica Foshee

Samara Akpovo, associate professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and previous CGE Global Engagement Champion, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kathmandu University in Nepal. After a long-term partnership with KU, Akpovo is developing an online student and faculty exchange to build a laboratory school for teacher education programs.

Before Akpovo began teaching at UT, she previously taught at the University of Wyoming where she had both an MOU and study abroad program with KU where early childhood preservice teachers would practice their student teaching in schools in Kathmandu. Akpovo explains that “we wanted to offer an experience that would challenge students’ assumptions about themselves and others and their assumptions about what schooling looks like across the globe.”

Now at UT, Akpovo saw an opportunity to start a unique COIL program (Collaborative Online International Learning) that virtually connects both faculty and students at UT and KU. She then developed COLAB, which is a network of teacher educators in New Zealand, Australia and at UT which conducts a virtual online exchange. Akpovo emphasizes the MOU with KU is so important because she wanted them to become part of the COIL/COLAB partnership.

Sarah Neessen with colleagues in Nepal

Sarah Neessen, assistant director of Curriculum and Academics and demonstration teacher at the Early Learning Center for Research and Practice, joined Akpovo for the meeting with KU to help design an Early Childhood Education laboratory school. Neessen met with master’s students and the dean at KU to discuss the work they were doing with teachers in their program. She describes that “one of the difficulties they are having is finding quality classrooms to put preservice teachers into.”

While in Nepal, Neessen created a virtual cross-cultural project where she shared pictures of her activities with preschool children with UT students to enhance global to local connections. “It was important to me to connect the children to my trip while I was gone so they could be part of that experience too,” explains Neessen. The goal for her work is to ensure “we are creating future global citizens.”

KU will be joining the COIL/COLAB iteration for spring 2023 courses, and Akpovo hopes for the partnership to continue in the future.


Jason Moody (865-974-5752,