Penn Global Announces Launch of the Global Seminars Program

Penn Global at the University of Pennsylvania has launched the Global Seminars program, an initiative, which provides financial and logistical support for embedding overseas travel into undergraduate seminars. 

These courses will combine an intensive semester-long seminar with a short-term travel component, led by the course instructor, which will deepen the students’ understanding of concepts discussed in the classroom. The Global Seminars program, which  realizes the vision of the Penn Compact 2020 by bringing the world to Penn and Penn to the world, is intended to complement Penn’s existing study abroad programs. It is ideal for students who wish to explore a facet of another country’s culture or history under the guidance of a Penn faculty member, and students who have limited flexibility in their course schedule or extracurricular commitments, factors which often prevent students from studying abroad during Fall or Spring semesters. 

“Penn Global is dedicated to expanding and diversifying international education opportunities for undergraduates, Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives said. “The Global Seminars program gives our students another dynamic study abroad option and increases engagement between students and their professors.”

Penn Global has received 27 statements of interest from faculty from the four undergraduate Schools, as well as enthusiastic responses by faculty who have long had a desire to teach such courses.

Michael Weisberg, a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy, jumped at the chance to take students to the Galápagos in Fall 2016 to teach them about the history, science and conceptual issues of evolutionary biology.

He said: “No matter in what context I present this material, the students are always drawn to the Galápagos. These islands stand at the center of evolutionary theory’s history, and they also provide a natural testing ground for contemporary ideas in evolutionary biology. In Philadelphia, I can bring the students travelogues, data, images, and videos, but there is nothing like being there in person.” 

The Global Seminars program also provides an opportunity for faculty to collaborate across schools and disciplines. Commenting on the interdisciplinary nature of their course, Eugenie Birch, a Penn Design faculty member and Andrea Goulet, a Romance Languages Department faculty member in the School of Arts and Sciences noted that it is unusual for a French professor and a city planner to work together so seamlessly.

Justin McDaniel, professor of religious studies, who will be taking students to Thailand in Fall 2016, had only been able to travel with students locally due to a lack of funding. He said that the Global Seminars program jump-started plans for him to collaborate with James Pawelski of Penn’s Positive Psychology Center to bring a psychological perspective and assessment to a course he has taught at Penn. Faculty whose courses have been selected for inclusion in the program will work closely with Penn Abroad to plan and execute their course.

A description of each course and application information can be found at  Applications are being accepted for Spring 2016 courses.

The first Global Seminar courses in Spring 2016 are:

  • The Making of Modern Paris led by Birch and Goulet
  • Blends of Cultures: Understanding Conflict and Cooperation in Africa (Morocco/Tanzania); led by Mauro Guillen of Wharton
  • Solar Energy for Development (Rwanda); led by Jorge Santiago of SEAS

The first Global Seminar courses in Fall 2016 are:

  • Laboratory of Evolution: The History, Philosophy, and Science of Evolution in the Galápagos (Ecuador); led by Weisberg
  • Living Deliberately: Monks, Saints, and the Contemplative Life (Thailand); led by McDaniel

The Global Seminars program is made possible by contributions from the Provost’s Global Engagement Fund and by a generous donation from the Hasan and Arifa Ahmad Fund. Student Financial Services will adjust financial aid awards to cover the cost of travel and possible program fees. Penn Global is committed to making the Global Seminars accessible to all students, regardless of financial background.

Three Global Seminars will be offered in Spring 2016 and two more will run in Fall 2016. Many of these courses target destinations infrequently considered by students for a full term abroad, such as Morocco, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Galápagos and Thailand. Although travel in many of the Global Seminars will be done over Spring Break, some trips will occur during the winter break or directly following the conclusion of spring courses.


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