Global seminar: building sustainable environments and secure food systems for a modern world
CALS Impact Statement
This multi-disciplinary course uses case studies to explore interrelationships among social, economic, and environmental factors basic to sustainable development. It is designed to challenge students to think deeply and creatively about critical issues facing our world in the 21st century and to share their perspectives with colleagues from around the globe. Participating universities include Cornell, Uppsala University in Sweden, the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Zamorano University in Honduras, EARTH University in Costa Rica, and the University of Melbourne in Australia. Students read case studies developed by the faculty and papers selected from the published literature. Faculty members develop statements related to the case studies and the students debate them via live video conferences. In addition, students interact with their colleagues in other universities via discussion boards on the course web site. Case study topics include global warming, genetically modified foods, water quality, and survival of the Blue Fin tuna.
This course was developed initially by Dean Sutphin, formerly professor of education at Cornell. The original motivation for the course was to offer students the opportunity to interact on an intellectual level with students from different cultures, backgrounds, and income levels. The need for this type of course has grown considerably as our understanding of the interconnectiveness of people from all areas of the world has increased. The focus on sustainability is more appropriate than ever as we hear about the alarming pace of global warming and the potential consequences for our future.
We have enabled students to discuss and debate critical issues facing the global community through structured discussions and written communications. Approximately 100 students total (from all six universities) enroll in the class each year.
This course has been successful in fostering understanding of global issues among students from very different backgrounds and perspectives. For example, students from Honduras often challenge Cornell students to defend the policies and actions of the U.S. government on global warming, agricultural subsidies, and tourism. These interactions, while uncomfortable for students in the developed countries, help to raise awareness of the problems many people from developing countries struggle with every day.