SJSU is one of five institutions piloting an elite course developed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) designed to teach students how to critically think and discuss global issues.
Named the "Global Challenges: Promise and Peril in the 21st Century," the course was developed by AASCU's American Democracy Project that teamed up with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the New York Times Knowledge Network to create "learning modules for a coherent course," SJSU anthropology professor Bill Reckmeyer said.
Reckmeyer said he uses the Global Challenges study as resources for two courses, "Global Citizenship" and his Provost Honors Seminar, "Global Citizenship: America's Role in a Complex Global World."
"I find it really helpful that students have access to full range of material that's already been organized and vetted by real experts with all kinds of lesson plans," Reckmeyer said.
Each seminar opens class discussions with the question, "What's going on in the world today?"
"First day of class, Professor Reckmeyer said everything's on the table," said Jennafer Maggiore, a senior accounting information systems major. "No subject is taboo, anything we want to discuss in the class with any kind of perspective is welcome in this class."
Reckmeyer said the seminar exposes students to what's going on the world as well as engaging students to discuss significant issues that transcend cultural and national boundaries.
"A critical part is that if you want to take a look at what's going on in the world, you need a global perspective," Reckmeyer said. "How you look at different issues depends on where you stand."
Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, national manager of the American Democracy Project, said the program didn't evolve as one course initially but started as a series that faculty were teaching all over the country.
"Instead of just one faculty teaches and the other has to create their own course, how about we share resources," Domagal-Goldman said. "They decided to take the best of what they all have been teaching and create a course they all contribute to."
According to Domagal-Goldman, the course was developed based off of CSIS' Seven Revolutions, seven trends that will reshape the globe within the next 20 years.
The Global Challenges program brochure lists the revolutions as population, resource management and climate change, technological innovation and diffusion, the development and dissemination of information and knowledge, economics, the nature and mode of security and the challenge of governance.
"The CSIS target audience was government officials, so they were giving their information to senators and state officials, and those are leaders today," Domagal-Goldman said. "But they were concerned about leaders twenty years from now."
The course made its way to SJSU through Reckmeyer's involvement with the Salzburg Program, an Austrian-based initiative that holds discussions on global issues.
Reckmeyer, along with three other Salzburg Fellows – Bill DeVincenzi, Michael Fallon and Dennis Jaehne – attended a special AASCU institute last fall then applied to bring the program to SJSU.
"I want to help transform the university, to help globalize and get students to start connecting the dots to produce better global citizens," Reckmeyer said.
Global citizenship is another part of the Global Challenges program that helps students develop the "knowledge, skills, tools and attitudes to live and work in a complex interdependent world."
"It's about being a more informed traditional citizens in the sense of civic responsibility and awareness," Reckmeyer said. "But it's also about being able to make a living. And we don't think those two should be separated."
Domagal-Goldman said the idea of global citizenship is key in getting students to think not only how global issues make an impact locally but also how they are interrelated.
"I decided to take this class because I don't know a whole lot about global issues and this gives you a great understanding of that," said Chris Martinez, a senior global studies major. "Just how America is and how it fits into the world and how it should fit into it on the future."
Reckmeyer said that ultimately he wants the course to become a graduation requirement so that all SJSU students become global citizens.
"Whether they are going to work in tech, or if they're going into social work or going back to work on the farm," he said. "What's going on in the world is going to effect what they're doing."