Fall 2020 - IS 101 D900

Global Challenges of the 21st Century: An Introduction to International Studies (3)

Class Number: 4972

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:


  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 11, 2020
    6:00 PM – 6:00 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby



Introduces the interdisciplinary field of International Studies to all undergraduates and IS majors. Examines the major global challenges of our time, including poverty and inequality, environmental degradation, nationalism, civil war, and armed conflict. Explores the challenge of global governance and global citizenship. Breadth-Humanities/Social Sciences.


Course Delivery: Asynchronous lectures (recordings will be posted on Canvas), with an optional synchronous video Q&A on Fridays from 9:45-10:15am. Synchronous tutorials (attendance on Zoom is required).

This course examines some of the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century, which are related to: security and armed conflict, poverty and inequality, economic development, migration, nationalism, environmental change, and global health. We will explore the conditions that give rise to these challenges, and we will assess different ways of responding to them.

To gain a fuller understanding of today’s global problems, we will focus on relevant research from across the social sciences, and we will discuss this research in relation to contemporary events.

The questions we will explore include:

• What are the causes and consequences of war and armed conflict; and, how can such conflicts be prevented?
• Why has poverty persisted in different areas of the world and what should be done to reduce it?
• In what ways has democracy been challenged and weakened by globalization and inequality, populism, and conflict?
• How do international human rights agreements protect individuals from political violence and from other threats to their security, dignity, and well-being?
• Why is it difficult to address environmental problems at a global level? How might progress be made in responding to these challenges?
• What are the most significant challenges in improving global health? What role do international organizations play in addressing these challenges?
• Should infectious diseases, like Ebola or Covid-19, be treated as “security threats”?

This course provides valuable knowledge for careers in: international development, international law, diplomacy, human rights, humanitarianism, journalism, and environmental sustainability.


After completing this course, students will have developed an ability to:
• Describe and critically analyze the nature and causes of contemporary global challenges related to security, development, environmental change, migration and global health
• Describe and evaluate key international responses to these challenges
• Describe and critically analyze: the system of sovereign states, capitalism, globalization, and the human rights regime
• Describe and critically assess the roles played by states, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations in addressing global challenges
• Communicate ideas clearly and persuasively in writing


  • Essay (1100 words) 20%
  • Fact Sheet* (650 words) 15%
  • Midterm Exam (24-hour take-home exam) 20%
  • 24 hour take-home due at 6pm on Friday, December 11 30%
  • Tutorial participation and small group exercises 15%


*Note: This assignment will be connected to a small group exercise in tutorials and it will therefore involve some collaboration with other students. However, each student will write their own individual fact sheet, and their grade for this assignment will be based on this individual component. The factsheets will then become part of a briefing folder assembled by their small group.

Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.


This course will be delivered via online platforms, such as Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.

Students are required to have a computer, with a microphone, webcam, and speakers. They also must have good access to the Internet.

Microsoft Office is required, and a free version of Office 365 is available to SFU students here: https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/software/office365.html.

Students will be required to upload assignments to Canvas and through Turnitin.com.



Required readings available on Canvas, online, or in the SFU Library’s electronic collection.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).