Social Sciences and Global Challenges

Courses in the social sciences that explore important global issues through the lens of the social 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 social science as it relates to a global issue, explore approaches to and solutions for global issues, develop skills and confidence in applying know ledge 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 is encouraged but not required.

Sample Sections

Demons, Witchcraft or Disease: Understanding Mental Illness

Faculty: Madeline Lovell

This course is designed to familiarize students with the multi-faceted nature of mental illness – how it has been understood historically and how it is viewed today.  Is it a disease, deviant behavior, religious experience? How does the explanation determine the treatment given? How is it determined by cultures and societies? Students will explore social science perspectives (including anthropology, sociology, psychology, and social work) for understanding this complex phenomenon and evaluate culturally appropriate treatment responses through readings, film, visits to treatment centers and discussion with persons labeled mentally ill.

Global Economic Challenges

Faculty: Yitan Li

What are the main global economic challenges we are facing today? This course addresses theories and issues of international political economy.  By examining problems such as international trade, production, debt, aid, development, the role of the state, multinational corporations, international institutions, regionalism, and the process and impact of globalization, the course aims to help students understand the main global economic challenges, especially how these challenges could influence international justice.

The Livable City

Faculty: Emily Lieb

What makes a “livable city”? What should it look like? How should it work? How did our cities come to look the way they do, and why? How does studying urban landscapes change the way we think about politics, economics, social history, and popular culture? In this course, we will examine the causes and consequences of urbanization in the United States and elsewhere, and we will explore approaches to and solutions for contemporary urban problems.

Understanding and Confronting Genocide, Terrorism, and Ethnic Violence

Faculty: Randall Horton

Extreme forms of political violence like genocide, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing challenge many of our assumptions about human moral and psychological nature.  This course will examine the socio-cultural motives, meanings, and conditions, as well as the psychological processes, that fuel and sustain these forms of violence.  We will look at their causes, their impact on individuals and communities, and some approaches to preventing them or ameliorating their effects.  Readings will draw on social and clinical psychology, political science, and anthropology.  Case studies will examine the Holocaust, the Bosnian genocide, the Tibetan independence movement, and America's engagement with Al Qaeda and other groups in the "global war on terror".

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.