The Global Conversation
The Global Conversation Course seeks to explore ways in which humans have been living on the planet and assess the consequences of our actions on the environment. At the same time, the course provides knowledge that helps us to act as global citizens concerned with sustainable ways of living.
The course, taken as a re-entry course for BCA Study Abroad students, is meant to help students develop a better understanding of the environmental problems associated with economic globalisation and thus to prepare them for active participation as citizens engaged in a "global conversation" in a civil society that is also global in its scope.
Increasing numbers of experts agree that the problems we face as a species are massive and only by understanding them within a global context, will we be able to find the solutions necessary for viable human habitation of the planet to continue.
The course attempts to make a step toward these goals through traditional pedagogical techniques modified for online delivery, including video lectures from leading experts from around the world provided by University of California TV and others. In addition, the "classroom" is global, as well, because it connects students throughout the world in online discussions of course issues and in collaborative projects developed through organized exchanges on the internet.
How is The Global Conversation Organized?
The Global Conversation was developed by BCA Study Abroad and Dr. James Skelly, and is an optional offering for all students after completion of their semesters or years studying abroad through BCA. It is formally a part of the curriculum in International Politics at the Magee campus of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. In addition to normal classroom work at Magee, students can access all of the course materials online and are therefore able to take the course as part of the curriculum at various other institutions including: the Institute for Social & European Studies in Köszeg, Hungary; the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Ireland; and the Universidad Veracruzana in Veracruz, Mexico; In addition, other students are able to take the course as an independent study under the supervision of the course’s Adjunct Faculty and the Course Coordinator at several institutions in the United States and abroad.
Topics in the Course
At a very basic level of analysis, The Global Conversation is about how we live on the planet both individually and collectively, and it poses the two fundamental questions – "Is our way of living on the earth sustainable?", and, "How ought we to live?" The unsustainable manner in which humans are living on our planet therefore requires that we try to "connect the dots."
We explore the increase in toxic substances in the human body while also analyzing the manner in which many products are produced. We also look at the fundamental assumptions informing our global economic system, built around consumerism and growth even though the planet has finite limits. With this as a foundation, we address other problems, most notably climate change, energy issues, concerns with water, food, and population - linked phenomena which can only be addressed effectively by understanding the broader context within which they have developed. We conclude the course, with a look at "reasons for hope" and explore various concrete initiatives, as well as the importance of developing a culture in which empathy for all life is central.
What is a Learning Circle?
One of the key aspects of the course are the online Learning Circles, each established with a small number of students studying in various parts of the world working on a common problem by assessing both its local and global aspects. The Learning Circles work towards completion of a collective project that looks at how specific environmental problems might be addressed given their political, economic, and social impacts.
US Colleges & Universities with students Enrolled in The Global Conversation 2007-2010
- Austin College
- Baker University
- Bethel College
- Bridgewater College
- California State University, East Bay
- Capital University
- Chapman University
- Eastern Mennonite University
- Eastern University
- Elizabethtown College
- Franklin College
- Hastings College
- Haverford College
- Houghton College
- Juniata College
- King’s College
- Manchester College
- Mansfield University
- McPherson College
- Messiah College
- Montserrat College of Art
- Peace College
- Regis University
- Roanoke College
- Saint Lawrence University
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Simpson College
- Soka University of America
- Stonehill College
- Swarthmore College
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Texas, Austin
- University of Scranton
- University of Vermont
- Ursinus College
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Western Carolina University
- Western Washington University
- Westmont College
- Winthrop University
- Whitworth College
Who teaches The Global Conversation Course?
Dr. James Skelly, BCA’s Coordinator for Peace & justice Programming, as well as Visiting Professor of Peace Studies at Magee College where he is based, is the academic coordinator for the overall course and is also responsible for the academic assessment of BCA and University of Ulster students enrolled.
- Becki Bowman (McPherson College)
- Don Kelly (University of San Diego)
- Judith Liu (University of San Diego)
- Bud Mehan (University of California, San Diego)
- J.D. Mininger (LCC International University)
- Byron Plumley (Regis University)
- Alex Ascherson (London)
- Christine Cutting (Boston)
- Jenna Goodhand (Köszeg)
- Chris Kjonaas (San Diego)
- Samantha Martin (New Paltz)
- Angelia Shugarts (Denver)
- Emma Taylor (Derry)
How are students be assessed in The Global Conversation Course?
The following guidelines for assessment is used for students enrolled at BCA sites and the University of Ulster, and may be modified as needed by local course coordinators.
The components of the assessment process include: general online participation; a midterm essay; a final essay; and collective online presentations by Learning Circles; as well as, a final write-up of the Learning Circle project with individual student’s contributions highlighted. Suggested percentages for each activity are:
- Online participation: 10%
- Midterm essay: 25%
- Final Essay: 40%
- Online Presentation of Learning Circle Project: 10%
- Final Written Version of Learning Circle Project: 15%
What credits will students earn for The Global Conversation?
If students choose to take The Global Conversation Course for credit, it is worth 3 credits. Students also have the choice to audit the course. By participating as an auditor a student will develop a better understanding of how the issues connect to specific facets of their host country’s politics, culture and economy.