UMD: A Globally Connected University

Cross-Cultural “Global Classrooms” Explores Assisted Reproduction Law and Policy in the US and Brazil

Cross-Cultural “Global Classrooms” Explores Assisted Reproduction Law and Policy in the US and Brazil


Oct. 26, 2021 | By Sara Wiatrak

For Dr. Kerry Tripp and students around the world, UMD’s Global Classrooms courses, like FMSC286: Assisted Reproduction Law and Policy in the U.S. and Brazil, are about enriching global exchange and cross-cultural learning. Debating, collaborating, and learning within international groups allows University of Maryland students and their global peers to compare firsthand experiences and learn more from one another than in a lecture or typical seminar, all while determining actionable change in their field of study.

Dr. Tripp’s Global Classrooms course, which ran first in Fall 2020 and again in Summer 2021, enables students of all majors to work and study synchronously with their international counterparts in South America. The curriculum of FMSC286 functions to help students think critically about the ethical, legal, policy and scientific issues in the field of Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART) in the two countries of the U.S. and Brazil. Students of UMD and Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) collaborate over Zoom on projects centering cultural differences in health care and reproductive health policy.

“I remember, there was one class where we talked about the differences between Brazil and the U.S., and on some things, Brazilian students were like, “‘Oh my god, is it really like that there?’” said Cassia Perry, a Brazilian psychology student who participated in the course during its first offering. “Exchanging [experiences] with students who are from the States… you never get that in the normal university subject.”

Dr. Tripp explained how the course is designed to compare not only the fertility treatment technologies and policies of the U.S. and Brazil, but also to bring together two classrooms that can discuss challenges in the field with varying perspectives.

“I decided to try to reach out to other countries who had a nationalized health care system, where these very expensive procedures in the United States would be free,” Dr. Tripp said. “We looked around, then, for more Latin American partners and I was thrilled when [we found] a woman from the University of Brazil, who is a psychologist, who works with LGBTQ families who are considering going through assisted reproduction procedures.”

Backed by OIA and in collaboration with UFRJ, the course was launched during COVID-19 and quickly made the most of the global virtual environment. With the Brazilian students only one time zone away, the class readily provided opportunities for the peers to discuss and work independently with each other.

“One thing that's beautiful about the Global Classrooms is, it levels the playing field,” Dr. Tripp explained. “Your tuition is going to allow you to get on a figurative airplane twice a week, and meet with students that are in Rio, and talk about these issues.”

The program is sustainable, she added, in the sense that students don’t need to spend money or leave their room to be able to benefit from valuable international opportunities. She emphasized the significance of the final project for the course: a small-team assignment to propose a new family law or policy dealing with assisted reproduction, and writing a letter to a representative—whether of Brazil or the United States—advocating on the behalf of those who’d benefit.

Cassia Perry also served as a teaching assistant for UFRJ’s class equivalent, assisting Professor Ana Cristina Barros da Cunha in Rio. Her study of psychology includes interest in the psychology of maternity and maternal mental health. She appreciated not only the course’s intersection of law, psychology, and wellbeing, she said, but also the unique exploration of cultural differences and challenges.

Brazilian student Lívia Ferioli agreed, adding how surprised she’d been to hear that while assisted reproduction procedures are free in Brazil, her American classmates had stories of selling their own eggs for money.

“I think if I hadn’t taken the class, I wouldn’t know about these cultural things,” she said. “I think that for me, the exchanges were really a big part of it because we do have internet and we know what’s going on in the States, but [we were] exchanging and seeing other points of view and knowing, more closely, what happens there.”

UMD students similarly appreciated the dialogue and relationships that developed in the Global Classrooms course. UMD junior Cristian Ortiz-Romero remarked that he loved being able to communicate with his Brazilian counterparts, and highlighted the importance of developing cross-cultural friendships and learning to overcome communication barriers.

Dr. Tripp believes that students have a lot to teach each other—including on an international scale. “Doing that final project, showing teamwork skills and international leadership and certainly learning to appreciate cultural issues, other cultures, and creating cultural competency… is the most important thing that this class delivers on,” she explained. “I'm glad they learn the other pieces, don't get me wrong, but I think these classes really are about that.”

Now in its eighth year, the Global Classrooms program has provided hundreds of students with virtual opportunities for global engagement and cross-cultural learning. Global Classrooms courses are developed in partnership with UMD’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) and facilitate both short- and long-term collaboration with peers, faculty and experts from partner universities and communities around the world. 

FMSC286 is what is known as a Global Classrooms Signature course, the program’s original format, which emphasizes immersive, project-based learning. Global Classrooms underwent an expansion after receiving a grant from the Office of the Provost to integrate global learning elements into more Fall 2020 courses. OIA developed another, more flexible model that could be incorporated on a larger scale into bigger, lower-level undergraduate courses: Global Classrooms Connections.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, 1,226 UMD students participated in a total of 49 Global Classrooms Signature and Connections courses. The students came from all schools and colleges, all class levels, and were remarkably diverse. Currently, 253 students are enrolled in the 14 Fall 2021 Global Classrooms courses being offered.

These experiences are available every term. Registration for Winter and Spring 2022 Global Classrooms courses is open as of  Oct. 19, 2021—explore the upcoming offerings.