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Elective course challenges students to collaborate and solve global problems

By Tina Shaygan, October 27 2017 —

The University 201: Global Challenges Inquiry I course from the University of Calgary’s College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation looks to bring interdisciplinary education to first-year students. Capped at 30 students per class section, UNIV 201 is an elective course that looks to integrate students from different faculties together in solving a “global challenge.” This year, the theme is feeding 9 billion people by the year 2050.

Jay Cross, Director of the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation, said the course is designed to allow every student to contribute to the topic. He added that the goal is to help students develop “system-level” thinking skills while still in their first year.

“The idea of it being a first-year course is bringing students from different disciplines together,” Cross said. “It’s an opportunity to think more broadly.”

Cross said the course allows for students to develop essential skills early on in their university career.

“There are many courses analogous to this in bringing information together but they’re usually done as fourth-year or capstone courses,” Cross said. “The old idea of education was that you need to have knowledge to apply it. This philosophy is flipping on its head.”

Nicholas Cramb is a first-year environmental studies science student currently enrolled in UNIV 201. He said the course has taught him how to start research early on.

“One of the assignments we had was a reflection to get you started on the global challenge,” Cramb said. “How you relate to it and what things you bring to the table.”

Michael Do was one of the students enrolled in the course last year when it was first offered. He said that in response to the global challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, his group came up with the idea of vertical insect farms.

“It was all about breaking down really complicated problems to more manageable things,” Do said. “I enjoyed this 500 per cent more than my other courses.”

Students who have taken fewer than 18 course credits can enrol in the course and must complete a day-long Global Challenges Conference for the class during block week. The follow-up course, UNIV 203, is offered in the winter semester.

Correction: A previous version of this story specified that students were challenged to find a solution for feeding 50-billion people by 2050. Actually, it was 9-billion people. Additionally, it mentioned that students had to complete the Globe Challenges Conference before enrolling. Actually, they complete the conference after enrolling but before the semester begins. The Gauntlet apologizes to its readers for these errors.

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