Summer 2021 - IS 350W D100

Seminar on Global Problems in Interdisciplinary Perspective (4)

Class Number: 3256

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    60 units. International Studies major or honours students.



An in-depth examination of select global problems. Focuses on developing policy-related writing skills valuable for careers in government and in intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. Assignments may include: briefing papers, policy papers, grant writing, and op-ed essays. Students with credit for IS 450W may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


This course aims to prepare students for professional roles beyond academia, in both the public and private sectors. These roles often involve researching a particular issue or problem over a short period of time and presenting key arguments and information in a concise and organized way. Often this work involves identifying the best course of action from a range of policy alternatives and developing arguments in support of this action. Always, such writing requires clarity of thought and economy of expression.

The course will focus on the following four problems or issues in global affairs:

1. What are the key successes and failures of the international climate regime? In particular, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Paris Agreement?
2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of civil disobedience as a form of protest; and when, if ever, is uncivil disobedience warranted or justified?We will explore these questions in relation to recent protests against authoritarianism and racial inequality in various countries around the world.  
3. In its efforts to combat terrorism, the US has embraced drone strikes and ‘targeted killing’. What are the legal, political, and ethical problems associated with ‘targeted killing’?
4. What is 'climate justice', and how can efforts to realize climate justice play a role in combatting climate change?

Course delivery: The course will combine synchronous and asynchronous elements. Some lecture materials will be posted on Canvas in recorded and/or written form. In most weeks, the class will also meet synchronously on Zoom for up to two hours, with a break in between the first and second hours. However, students are expected to be available for synchronous activities during the full regularly scheduled class period (on Wednesdays from 1:30-5:20pm), as the specific timing of synchronous activities within that period may vary from week to week. These synchronous meetings will consist of discussions about the assigned topics/readings and exercises that focus on various aspects of applied writing. In some weeks, the regular class meeting will not be held. Instead, during these weeks, I will schedule individual consultations to discuss feedback on specific writing assignments. (These consultations will take place on Zoom.)


By successfully completing this course, students will strengthen their abilities to:

  • Analyze and evaluate policy options related to the core themes of the course, which include: combatting climate change and promoting climate justice; strengthening peaceful efforts to promote democracy and equality; and, regulating drone warfare
  • Communicate ideas and complex information to a non-specialist audience, including policy-makers and the public
  • Gather and synthesize information from an array of sources, including academic research, policy sources, and journalism
  • Organize and write a literature review, a briefing paper, an op-ed essay, and a policy paper
  • Deliver an effective presentation


  • Literature Review (2500 words) 25%
  • Briefing Paper (1500 words) 20%
  • Op-ed Essay* (800 words) 15%
  • Policy Paper (2500 words) 25%
  • Group Presentation 8%
  • Participation 7%


The writing assignments for the course include formats that students may be asked to take up in their professional careers. These include a literature review, a briefing paper, an op-ed essay, and a policy paper. Students will also be required to collaborate in small groups on a short presentation, which will be based on their research for one of the written assignments.

*The op-ed assignment will include an in-class peer review exercise.

Students will be required to submit their written assignments to 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:



All assigned readings will be available electronically (online or through the Library/Canvas).

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  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 ( or 778-782-3112).