Skip to content

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Challenges (JCR1000Y)

Course Number
[External Courses]
Course Instructor(s)
Yu-Ling Cheng, Anita McGahan, Joseph Wong

To create sustainable solutions that address the world’s most important challenges, global development professionals must reach beyond the traditional boundaries of their disciplinary training and field of expertise to combine scientific/technological, business, health and social ideas in an approach known as integrated innovation. In this project-based course, students from multiple disciplines (engineering, management, global affairs, public health and social sciences) will work together – using participatory methods with an international partner – to address a locally relevant challenge. Students will be expected to communicate with and understand team members from other disciplines, integrate their knowledge and experience of global issues in order to:
(a) identify and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches to addressing the challenge;
(b) analyze the characteristics of existing social frameworks (ethical, cultural, business, political);
(c) identify gaps and needs; and,
(d) propose an appropriate and integrative approach to a solution that incorporates an analysis of the challenge through these different lenses.

The final deliverables for addressing the challenge at the end of the school year will include the following: a proposal for an integrative innovative approach to address the challenge and a presentation of the key elements. Students have taken their ideas further and participated competitions such as the Geneva Challenge in Global Health, which encourages interdisciplinary teams of graduate students to bring forward innovative proposals, grounded in theory, solutions-oriented, and that affect global change.

Learning is achieved through a combination of lectures, guest lectures by experts in the field, practical workshops, guided discussions in class, team meetings with stakeholders and with faculty from each discipline. The course will model real life and lead to interdisciplinary integrative approaches for addressing major global challenges.

Global challenges are complex and require interdisciplinary teams to address fully issues around problem structuration, as well as the development, implementation and evaluation of solution systems. Students typically only get the perspective of their own discipline; this graduate level course will cultivate the interdisciplinary skills (e.g. learning one another’s vocabularies, perspectives, and methods) that are needed to work effectively in understanding and addressing global challenges.

FOCUS for 2019-2020 – The gender and equity implications of employment