University Core Curriculum
Module III: Engaging the World

Natural Sciences and Global Challenges

  • Courses in the natural sciences that explore important global issues through the lens of a specific discipline in the natural sciences. Each course focuses on a particular issue/challenge and course content assists students in understanding key disciplinary knowledge and approaches that provide insight into the issue. Students explore ways to productively think about and address the issue.

    These courses help students increase their understanding of complex global issues, develop knowledge of a natural science as it relates to global issues, explore approaches to and solutions for global issues, develop skills and confidence in applying knowledge to complex issues, and improve writing and research skills. Global Challenges courses include students from a variety of disciplines, promoting interdisciplinary conversation and understanding. This course requires a major paper or project, as well as some kind of reflective assignment where students are asked to synthesize their overall learning as it relates to the global issue being studied. Community-based learning and/or field or laboratory research is encouraged but not required.

    Sample Sections

    Climate Change: Chemistry and Controversy

    Faculty: Charity Lovitt
    Driven by the question: “Climate Change: What should we do about global warming?”  Includes an investigation into chemical properties of greenhouse gases and their potential link to global events.  Just as the behavior of individual molecules causes mass action, you will see how individual decisions influence global change.  Culminates in the creation of a public policy document.

    Nuclear Arms Control and Nuclear Power: Science and Policy

    Faculty: David Boness

    Students in this course will learn about the history and physics of nuclear weapons and the global threats that those weapons continue to pose, as well as about nuclear power and its problems and benefits globally.  Topics of reading and discussion include the physics and environmental effects of nuclear reactors, as well as how nuclear weapons were developed, how they work, what devastating effects they have on people and on ecosystems, and attempts to control their proliferation.

    Technology and Social Justice

    Faculty: Henry Louie

    This course focuses on the role and application of technology in the promotion of social justice and humanitarianism.  Applications of modern (e.g.cellular phone applications) and mature (e.g. electric power) technologies to benefit the underserved and assist the differently-abled locally and abroad are examined.

    The Big C: Cancer in the 21st Century

    Faculty: Heather Brown

    What is cancer, what causes it, and what can you do about it?  In this course, we will explore the basics of cancer biology, the link between genetics, environment, and cancer, and the many treatments for cancer.  Along the way, we will discuss issues surrounding environmental and social justice, and the impact of lifestyle on cancer risk.

  • Learning Objectives

    Through the focused study of a global challenge, students gain additional social scientific knowledge and improve their abilities to use rigorous social scientific thinking to answer questions and solve problems. 

    Students will develop their abilities to reflect on and use relevant knowledge they have learned in other courses across a variety of disciplines. 

    This course assists students in becoming effective writers, including writers of high quality academic prose. 

    This course helps students learn to engage in persuasive communication in appropriate civic spheres. 

    Each section of this course teaches students to deeply understand a major global issue or challenge (primarily from a social scientific perspective). 

    This course helps students understand relevant cultural dimensions of the global challenges being studied and, when appropriate, helps students develop awareness and skills in cross-cultural engagement.