Summer 2023 - IS 101 D100

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

Class Number: 3760

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 8 – Aug 4, 2023: Thu, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 8, 2023
    Tue, 8:30–11:30 a.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.


Equips students with the tools needed to understand international affairs and to be able to pick up on structural global inequalities. In order to do this, the course will introduce students to some of the major challenges of the 21st century, but also to global (non-Eurocentric) perspectives on how to think about and address those challenges. The world was global before International Relations was a field. What did global affairs look like then?

With this framing, we will center anti-racist and anti-colonial ideas in our understanding of international affairs. The recommended readings will cover some of the pressing global challenges of the 21st century which are related to: security and armed conflict, poverty, migration, nationalism, environmental change and global health. They will also provide students with the conceptual tools and a foundation for understanding international affairs while also including the work of scholars who have critiqued these conceptual tools from a social justice lens.

We will begin by examining key aspects of contemporary global affairs, including: the system of sovereign states, global capitalism, globalization, and the international human rights regime. We will also examine some of the key actors in global governance and in world affairs, including states, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and transnational corporations.

To understand the multifaceted nature of contemporary global problems, we will focus on 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 states and how is their sovereignty negotiated in international affairs?
  • Why are some states more powerful in international institutions?
  • 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?
  • How has democracy been challenged across the world and what are some of the responses to these challenges?
  • 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?

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


In this course, students will develop an ability to:

  • Describe and critically analyze the nature and causes of contemporary global challenges related to security, development, environmental change, migration and global
  • 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


  • Reading review 20%
  • Essay (policy brief) 25%
  • Tutorial participation & small group exercises 20%
  • Final Exam 35%


To receive credit for the course, you must complete all of the above writing requirements and exams



All readings will be available electronically and hyperlinked through the course Canvas page. You will not be required to buy any textbook for this course.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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.


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.