Fall 2023 - IS 101 D900

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

Class Number: 4526

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Wed, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 6, 2023
    Wed, 3:30–6:30 p.m.



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.


This course provides an introduction to International Studies, an interdisciplinary field focused on the global challenges of the 21st century.  The course is structured around the three interrelated streams of the undergraduate major at SFU:  1) International Security and Conflict, which examines the causes and consequences of wars, both within and between states, and of the possible ways of resolving conflicts, and building peace and security.  2) Comparative World Politics, Culture and Society, which examines issues such as religion and politics, nationalism, and patterns of democratization and authoritarian rule around the world; and 3)  International Development, Economic and Environmental Issues, which examines the problems of poverty and inequality, development strategies and policies, and issues around sustainable development. The course introduces some of the questions, debates, and approaches for understanding and addressing important global challenges in each of the three streams.

This course will be of general interest to students in all disciplines. It is also a gateway to the major in International Studies. It provides knowledge valuable for careers in: international development, international law, diplomacy, human rights, humanitarianism, journalism, and environmental sustainability. In addition to developing your knowledge of global affairs and your critical thinking skills, the course requirements are designed to help you develop the kind of practical writing skills needed to work in many jobs in government and nongovernmental organizations, as well as in a range of professions beyond academia.


  • Tutorial Discussion 10%
  • Midterm Exam 25%
  • Briefing Paper 30%
  • Final Exam 35%


Plagiarism and Cheating
Plagiarism and other forms of cheating on exams will be met with stiff penalties.  It is your responsibility to read and understand university policies on these matters.  See: https://canvas.sfu.ca/courses/15986

The briefing paper due at the end of semester requires upload to turnitin.com

Make up exams:
Make up exams are granted only in very limited circumstances: 1) genuine family emergencies, 2) or severe illness or injury. 

Amendments to the syllabus:
Some course readings may be added or substituted as the course proceeds.  Additionally, the deadlines on this syllabus may shift if we get behind schedule, or in the event of official university closures due to snow, etc.  All changes will be announced via email, so be sure to check your university account regularly.


Following the News
Students are encouraged to keep abreast of the daily news.  The course readings and discussions are meant to engage the world around us and following the news will make this course more fulfilling.  I suggest accessing the websites of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Guardian, or the BBC. You should also find a local news outlet from your country of choice (see below) so that you can access local perspectives. 

Tutorial Exercise: You’re the Expert!
Select a country that you would like to follow through the semester.  Beginning in week 3, you should be able to discuss via a short recording, a bit of research on your country in relation to the topic that we are studying for that week.  For example, in week 4 (human rights), you can access the most recent report on your country from the UN Human Rights Council (through the web links provided) in order to understand the current human rights challenges that your country faces. The same goes for the weeks that are devoted to the environment, forced migration, inequality, public health, etc.  The web links below each week’s readings provide some good starting points for exploration; others will be provided as we go.  And you are encouraged to find your own sources, too.  Time will be set aside in each tutorial to discuss your findings and to link them to the readings for the week. This exercise will help you select a topic for the briefing paper assignment for your chosen country.

Discussion marks will be based on active engagement. More specifically, this part of your grade will be based on: 1) the regularity or consistency of your participation in tutorials, and, 2) the extent to which your contributions engage with the assigned readings (for example, by raising questions about them, by thoughtfully responding to them, or by applying them in thoughtful ways to current events, etc.)



Additional readings will be made available via Canvas or will be linked online. Canvas will also be used to view lecture powerpoints.


Scott Straus and Barry Driscoll, International Studies: Global Forces, Interactions, and Tensions (CQ Press) 2022.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.