June 18, 2009

UW Honors students selected to participate in Global Honors College seminar on sustainability

By Undergraduate Academic Affairs

UAA News

Eight Asian and American universities—University of Washington, Columbia, Harvard, Korea, National University of Singapore, Peking, Waseda, and Yale—are considering the formation of a Global Honors College that will regularly assemble groups of faculty and students to study, on site and on line, issues of enduring and emerging global concern.

To test the feasibility of this enterprise, a “pilot program” will be mounted from July 27-August 14, 2009, at Waseda University in Tokyo. The program will bring together one faculty member and three undergraduate students from each participating university for three weeks of intensive study in Japan, followed by a final week of work online. The program will take the form of an undergraduate research seminar and be offered formally as a summer course of Waseda University, which will award course credit for its successful completion.

UW Honors students Jasmine Zheng, international studies and community and environmental planning, Joshua Hatfield, civil engineering and biology, and Reemah Medina, international studies and comparative literature, will represent the University of Washington at the seminar. Professor Mary P. Callahan, Jackson School of International Studies will also participate.

Course Description
“Sustainable development seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the future.” So wrote the World Commission on Environment and Development in its report, Our Common Future, presented in 1987 to the U.N. General Assembly. Intended as a summary of the Commission’s recommendations, “sustainable development” has often been criticized as both concept and norm. Yet the value of integrating the social, economic, and natural systems of earth so as to protect our common life and the environment we share is increasingly asserted as a political mandate and scientific endeavor.

The Global Seminar on Sustainability will be an intensive, multi-disciplinary study of the idea and implications of sustainability understood in this general sense. It will conduct its investigation by studying concretely the issue of sustainability embedded in actual past and present cases of human endeavor. During the first week the seminar faculty will present from their sundry perspectives the case of the Aswan Dam development, then summarize their findings for critical review by the class. With this as a model of investigation, teams of students with varying interests and backgrounds will be challenged to analyze contemporary cases of “sustainability” and to bring their conclusions to the seminar for critical review. Their work will extend on line for a week beyond the end of the on-site meetings, and their final reports will be circulated electronically at the end of this time.

Readings of select materials will precede the seminar and other readings will be assigned during the course itself.

For more information, contact Julie Villegas, associate director of the University Honors Program.

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