Convergence of Disciplines

January 28, 2019

Students preparing for meaningful careers in global society gain an advantage by understanding how scientific, economic, and social issues impact their work, their service, and their futures. 

Intro to Global Development Studies (GDS) 111 is just such an interdisciplinary exploration into globally-informed problem-solving. 

During one 15-week semester, students investigate multifaceted subjects like the human drama of migration in China or the role genetically modified crops can play in improving food security for developing countries. They may even take a deep historical dive into the impact of colonization on south Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, or Latin America. 

Considered the “gateway course” to the Global Development Studies concentration, GDS 111’s hands-on approach attracts majors from across the spectrum. Not only does it prepare students for more intensive study within the GDS concentration, it allows integration of their particular interests through the convergence of humanities, social science, and STEM disciplines. 

“The Global Development Studies concentration is one of the best examples of that kind of convergence on campus,” says Leif Brottem, assistant professor and GDS interdisciplinary program co-chair. 

“As an introductory course, GDS 111 is truly interdisciplinary in the sense that I teach about issues that represent each of the divisions, such as climate change and other forms of environmental change that affect development,” Brottem says. “But we also explore economic systems and political institutions, as well as cultural and historical factors that shape development prospects in different countries.

Important Global Challenges

Brottem says GDS 111 is an exciting way to discover non-Western cultures that are different historically and socially from the United States and Europe because it takes on topics that students find relevant. “Development and poverty reduction are arguably the most important global challenges we face,” Brottem says. “I find that a lot of incoming students are already interested in development as a moral and social project.”

Perhaps most importantly, GDS 111 and the GDS concentration open doors to a lifetime of possibilities for students seeking meaningful solutions to sustainable development and human development around the world.

“We require hands-on engagement in the form of an internship or an independent research project,” Brottem adds, “and we do whatever we can to support students who want to go overseas to developing regions in order to pursue those opportunities.

“Very few undergraduate programs have an explicit development focus, so GDS is very much unique to Grinnell’s globally informed, inquiry-led curriculum.”

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