Penn State professor travels to Jamaican university for EDGE collaboration

A group of people posing with a We Are Penn State sign

Penn State Abington students, Katrina Black Reed, Kimberley Hemmings-Jarrett and tour guide hold up number one for the first trip to Jamaica. From left to right: Kazuyoshi Miyazaki, Swain Reid (tour guide), Daeja Newman, Dr. Katrina Black Reed (co-lead), Mya Lepard, Darryl Gregory (back), Sarah Johnson, CyNaa Mitchell, Kimberley Hemmings-Jarrett (lead), Yash Amin (back), Gabriella Gibilante, Brianna Thompson, Keon Hayes

Credit: Kimberley Hemmings-Jarrett

ABINGTON, Pa. — Kimberley Hemmings-Jarrett, assistant teaching professor of business and social science at Penn State Abington, recently integrated two Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) projects into her embedded course on social media analytics and inclusive leisure last fall. The EDGE program, a global virtual exchange initiative rooted in project-based learning, draws inspiration from the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program established at the State University of New York. Hemmings-Jarrett has been a proponent of EDGE since 2022, when she first implemented it into her classroom.

Hemmings-Jarrett began teaching at Penn State Abington in 2021 after completing her doctoral degree at Drexel University College of Computing and Informatics. Additionally, she serves as an adjunct professor at The University of Technology (UTech) in Kingston, Jamaica, where she pursued her undergraduate studies. Although Hemmings-Jarret is a native of Jamaica and resided as an international student in the United States for several years, she said she initially lacked exposure to global programs before joining Penn State. Through conversations with colleagues and exploring the EDGE program, Hemmings-Jarrett said she recognized the program's potential for fostering continued collaboration with her home institution.

The EDGE program provided Hemmings-Jarrett with an opportunity to streamline her teaching efforts while engaging in a unique collaboration spanning both of her home universities. Operating mostly as a “guest lecturer” at UTech, she adapted topics from her lectures into EDGE projects, creating a cohesive learning experience for students across institutions. This past fall, Hemmings-Jarrett took advantage of the opportunity to collaborate in person with UTech in Jamaica, enhancing the educational journey for her Penn State Abington students and fostering international partnerships in academia.

"Last fall, [Penn State] students who couldn't physically travel to Jamaica in my fall embedded class got to virtually explore places on the island while their Jamaican EDGE partners gave them the tour," Hemmings-Jarrett said. "Then they flipped and they gave the Jamaican students a campus tour of Abington in the fall ... it was awe-inspiring to hear the Jamaican students get excited about standing under trees that change color for the first time."

The social media analytics and inclusive leisure class led by Hemmings-Jarrett delved into the complexity of creating social media content tailored to demographics beyond one's own. The course emphasized search engine optimization concepts crucial for social media managers and content creators, ensuring content searchability while instilling a subtle marketing approach. Students were tasked with crafting content that was not only accessible and inclusive but also accurately targeted their chosen audiences or represented them in suitable ways.

For the first EDGE project, students were tasked with creating text content using artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT, working alongside The University of the West Indies globalization and policy students to ensure ethical and legal standards were met. At this time, the U.S. students had not traveled to the locations they were tasked with creating content for. So, Hemmings-Jarrett said, it was important for students to utilize the West Indies collaboration to ensure the content was appropriately representing these locations and the culture.

"It's not only about what our students can get but also what they can give," Hemmings-Jarrett said. "Immersive technologies like virtual reality allow communities of people globally to meet virtually, and walk, explore and create together."

The second EDGE project focused on creating 360-degree, immersive video content of the locations visited throughout the trip to be used in virtual reality (VR). Before traveling, Penn State Abington students were trained by the Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) faculty on how to use the cameras required to capture this form of content, as well as the immersive platform ThingLink for the creation of VR tours.

A notable aspect of this EDGE project was its adaptation for students who could not physically travel to Jamaica. Among the 14 students involved, four were unable to participate in the embedded experience. To bridge this gap, VR tours of Jamaica were created specifically for them during the trip, marking the first time VR technology was integrated into the EDGE program.

For Hemmings-Jarrett, the most rewarding aspect of this work with the EDGE program was encompassed in the entirety of the experience. Introducing students to a diverse international perspective, especially in a Black-majority country, was immensely fulfilling, she said. Being the first to lead students from Penn State Abington to the Caribbean community (CARICOM) held significant meaning as Hemmings-Jarrett calls herself “fiercely Caribbean” and is proud and passionate about her Caribbean identity.

"International academic partnerships must be truly inclusive, amplifying voices too often marginalized," Hemmings-Jarrett said. "We live in a globalized community so why not bring that into our classroom experiences too?"

This experience had profound impacts on the students as well, Hemmings-Jarrett said. Having two first-generation Jamaican students on the trip added depth to the cultural exchange, offering them a chance to connect with their roots in ways they had never experienced. For some students, this trip marked their first international experience, with four students obtaining passports and stepping outside of the U.S. for the first time. The transformative nature of the journey was evident, she said, as students matured and gained valuable skills, leading to two students’ employment on a grant project building VR project for a colleague from the West Indies.

Plans are already in motion for the next trip in spring 2025. This time, the focus will be on a business intelligence class, embedded at Penn State Abington and set to explore five Caribbean islands. 

EDGE provides opportunities to further enhance cultural exchanges and expand educational horizons. This program can be implemented into nearly any academic course, embedded options included. For more information on how to start an EDGE collaboration, visit or email Tracy Coleman, EDGE program associate, at [email protected] for more information.