Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
wall map of the world with cyclone tracks overlaid

Global Perspectives

Main content start

Global Perspectives courses in the spring quarters investigate several different global phenomena, enabling you to make comparative analyses and locate your own actions within a global context. These courses are 4 units and structured with faculty-led lectures (2x/week) and fellow-led sections (2x/week). Students placed in spring quarter in August will submit course preferences before spring enrollment opens.


Environmental Sustainability: Global Predicaments and Possible Solutions

How do we balance the benefits of industrialization against environmental justice? Is technological innovation a reason for optimism about the future of the environment? What do we lose as the biodiversity of the planet declines? This course engages with the big questions around the future of environmental sustainability from a global perspective, touching on climate change, energy, natural resources, waste, and technology, as well as the human impacts. Students will not only consider how global citizenship is informed by a responsibility towards the environment, but will have the opportunity to develop a practical solution to one of the key sustainability challenges.

 William Barnett, Graduate School of Business 

 Chris Field, Earth System Science


The Politics of Development

How do we define development and how does it work (or not work) in practice? How might technology and identity shape development? Are development and environmental sustainability fundamentally at odds? This course examines foundational reasons for why some countries remain poor and why inequality persists today. You will get the chance to engage with policy-makers, activists, and development advocates who will share their experiences grappling with the on-the-ground realities of development policy.

Soledad Prillaman, Political Science


Preventing Human Extinction

Killer epidemics, climate change, nuclear war, hostile artificial intelligence: is human extinction inevitable? Is it necessarily bad for the planet? What might we do to prevent it? You will have the chance to explore several plausible scenarios by which human extinction could occur within the next 100 years. We’ll study the psychological, social, and epistemological barriers that frequently derail efforts to avert these catastrophes.

Paul Edwards, Science, Technology & Society

Stephen Luby, Medicine (Infectious Diseases)


Where Does It Hurt?

How can physicians best prevent or relieve pain? What is suffering? You will use case studies and live interviews to understand how individuals environments shape the experience of illnesses, including recovery and loss. You will also develop skills for reflecting upon how one’s culture and personal context influence how you may make meaning of illness and suffering.

Lidia Schapira, Medicine (Oncology) 

Karl Lorenz, Medicine (Primary Care and Population Health)  

Nicole Martinez-Martin, Pediatrics (Biomedical Ethics)


Rules of War

When, if ever, is war justified? How do we determine what limits, if any, govern how wars are fought and who may be killed? Are these rules still relevant in light of the changing nature of warfare? You will actively engage with the main ethical questions raised in this course through an interactive role-playing simulation, in which you will be assigned roles as government officials, advisors, or other actors. Students will confront various ethical, legal, and strategic problems as they make decisions about military intervention and policies regarding the threat and use of force in an international crisis.

Scott Sagan, Political Science

Allan Weiner, Law



The Spirit of Democracy

What has led to the remarkable spread of democracy around the world? And why do freedom and democracy now appear to be receding in the world? How are the original debates on the design of constitutional democracy in the United States relevant to the current challenges it faces? The class is a unique opportunity to not only study democracy in the United and around the globe but also participate in a practical experiment in “deliberative polling.” You will help develop and organize a focus group and run through a simulation of the deliberative democracy process.

Larry Diamond, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

James Fishkin, Communications


Living with Viruses

What is a virus? How do viruses affect our lives? Does the virus make us distinctly human? This course challenges you to think beyond conventional disciplinary distinctions through questions about the impact of biology on human behavior as well as the potential of humans to shape biology through genetic engineering. Through creative projects, students will engage the study of individual viruses in their microbial as well as cultural context.

Julie Baker, Genetics