Humanitarian Challenges


The Humanitarian Challenges Focus seminars introduce students to global citizenship, the challenges that face societies in our contemporary world, and approaches of both thought and action that address these challenges. "Humanitarian" by definition implies promoting human welfare, social justice, and human rights, and "challenges" refers to the obstacles that block the achievement of those ideals. Working together within individual seminars in class, and across courses during our shared evening events, we’ll gain an appreciation of ties that bind us to people in other contexts and societies. The lives of great humanitarian activists in history revive our faith in the future as we confront environmental hazards, threats to human dignity, social inequality and global health crises. Our sources range from focused academic readings in the disciplines referenced, to poetry, music, film, spiritual texts, and biography. Throughout our courses and weekly programs, we will explore means of advocacy, modes of dissent, routes of reflection, models of civic mobilization, and possibilities for change. The seminars of this cluster range from learning to advocate for change through effective communication skills, exploring the traits and ideologies of great leaders in societies experiencing crisis or transition, investigating issues of identity and belonging, and understanding the importance and limitations of language in the pursuit of a better comprehension of the world around us. In grappling with the challenges presented to us as humanitarians, we forge an intellectual family and a compassionate community that, as one student put it, ‘thinks critically about thematically-related issues which make us better people and better global citizens.’


Cultural Anthropology 114FS - MAKING YOUR CASE: Advocacy for Change (EI, SS, CCI, W)


Dr. Ingrid Bianca Byerly, Humanitarian Challenges Focus Director and Senior Lecturing Fellow: Writing/Cultural Anthropology/Public Policy

How did Mandela defuse an audience of critics with a single speech, transforming himself from prisoner to Stateman? How did Marc Anthony convince a crowd who wanted to assassinate him for the murder of Caesar that they wanted him as their Emperor instead? How do great speakers change minds, or inspire humanitarian action? Effective advocacy is essential in achieving philanthropic goals. This course will explore the theoretical and practical elements of advocacy through public speaking; especially in relation to pressing humanitarian challenges. We focus on global crises and causes, to identify not only your own desires for change, but for the way in which to ‘make your case’ for change. While the focus is on efficient communication (both in large public speaking environments, and in smaller interactive exchanges), stress is also given to ethics in decision-making, considerations of cultural sensitivity and awareness of global codes of conduct. In developing compelling arguments, thoughtful considerations have to be given to both spoken and written expositions that will have potential effects on others. Emphasis is placed on inter-cultural sensitivity, variable codes of conduct, and the human dimensions of the communication process; vocal intonation, body behavior, audience evaluation, focus, control, distraction, and self-awareness. Advocating for change explores public advocacy, empowering students to speak up for causes they care about. Tracing different forms of activism across diverse eras and cultures, the course explores the mechanics of successful social movements, including effective public speaking strategies, cultural nuances, and personal charisma. The course is geared towards students interested in entering the public or political arena, those interested in investing their skills and passions in humanitarian ventures, and those spearheading initiatives towards global change. It emphasizes self-reflection and growth, and you may find the most important things you learn about will be yourself. 

Psychology 215FS - The Psychology of Crime: Scientific and Public Perspectives (SS, EI)

Miriam Ehrensaft

Dr. Miriam Ehrensaft, Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Introduction to theories of criminal behavior from developmental and psychological perspectives, with focus on scientific and public perspectives. Investigate risk and protective factors influencing the development of delinquency and crime, systemic and sociocultural factors, ethical controversies, and applied topics in criminal behavior. Students critically evaluate, synthesize, and debate cases in context of current empirical research. Interactive learning emphasized. Open only to students in the Focus Program.

Writing 101FS - Challenges of Identity, Belonging, & Connectedness in a Global Society

Sheryl Welte Emch

Dr. Sheryl Welte Emch, Lecturing Fellow of Thompson Writing Program

This course offers a unique exploration of the challenges surrounding identity, belonging, and connectedness in our global society, with a special emphasis on fostering both individual self-awareness and interactional understandings. Through a humanitarian lens, students will engage in a transformative journey that intertwines theoretical perspectives with personal reflections; aiming to cultivate empathy, inclusivity, and a heightened mindfulness of the complex issues shaping our interconnected world.

Throughout this course, students will be encouraged to explore their own identities, examine their biases, and cultivate a deep understanding of the challenges faced by diverse communities globally. By fostering a supportive learning environment, the course aims to equip students with the skills and perspectives needed to contribute meaningfully to humanitarian efforts and promote positive change in our interconnected world.

This course will fulfill the Writing 101 requirement.