Penn Global Seminars Course Offerings by Term

Applications for offerings in Spring 2025 will open in alignment with advanced registration. You are invited to join our mailing list to receive course updates, reminders, events, and notices regarding application deadlines.

Fall 2024 - Spring 2025

Travel Over Winter Break 2024 

Sustainable Development and Culture in Latin America 
Dr. Teresa Giménez, Department of Spanish and Portuguese; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to Costa Rica  
This interdisciplinary course offers students an exploration of the three dimensions of sustainable development—environmental, economic, and social—within the context of Latin America.  The course integrates this analysis of sustainable development with a focus on cultural sustainability and the cultural practices associated with peyote, coca, and coffee. We delve into their rich, traditional heritage and their significance in literature, film, and the arts. Moreover, the course provides students with a unique opportunity for experiential learning through a one-week immersive experience in Costa Rica. During their time in Costa Rica, students gain a firsthand understanding of the biodiversity found within coffee fields and delve into the scientific aspects of coffee production. This immersive trip is designed to augment the course by incorporating additional experiences that broaden students' comprehension of sustainability, particularly within the crucial tourism sector, which has a significant impact on Costa Rica's sustainability efforts. 

Exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine | China Education Initiative 
Dr. Jianghong Liu, Department of Family and Community Health; School of Nursing 
Travel to China 
This course, which is supported by Penn’s China Education Initiative, introduces students to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a specific form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The course will cover introductory principles on TCM theory, common therapies, and the efficacy of this practice. The first component of the class will meet on-campus every other week through lectures, discussions, and demonstrations with Penn professors and experienced TCM practitioners. The cohort will participate in a local field trip in the Philadelphia area for clinical observation. The second part of the course will involve travel to Shanghai, China, in which there will be guest lectures by TCM professors and practitioners, clinical observations and hands on at Longhua Hospital affiliated to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, visiting Shanghai TCM university, and other immersive experiences. 

Global Business Communication for Impact 
Sean Carney and Sara Mangat; The Wharton School 
Travel to the United Kingdom 
Limited to Wharton students; WH 2011 satisfies the requirement for WH 2010. 
This seminar is reflective of the interconnected world we live in – a world marked by geopolitical tension, rapid advancements in technology, and rising extremism. As a vibrant hub of commerce and culture, the UK occupies a unique link between our past and present, offering lessons in diversity, innovation, and resilience. The seminar combines the business communications tactics taught in WH 2010 with added context on how they can be applied to global scenarios. We'll look at World War II London to analyze the impact of words, examining how soft skills like audience analysis, strategy, persuasion, public speaking, conflict resolution, and risk management helped save (and change) the world. For the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders, this will be an incredible opportunity to prepare for the future of work by learning the critical role communications plays in international affairs. The semester will culminate in an immersive trip to London, visiting classic landmarks, building key relationships with top industry executives and Wharton alumni, and gaining the firsthand knowledge/experience necessary to help students navigate today’s global economy.  

Global Jewish Communities 
Dr. Peter Decherney, Department of Cinema and Media Studies; School of Arts and Sciences & Dr. Sara Byala, Critical Writing; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to Uganda 
This course will introduce students to emergent Jewish communities across the globe through a case study of the Abayudaya in Uganda. Students will learn about the origins of this more than one-hundred-year-old community and its recent rebirth within the context of modern Ugandan history. This course will entail a strong emphasis on writing as part of a larger effort to amplify stories from the Abayudaya community. At the same time, the course will introduce students to fieldwork and filmmaking theories and practice in preparation for a site visit to the Abayudaya in January (over winter break). During this trip, students will work in teams to create short profile films of community members. These may include religious and community leaders, physicians and nurses from the Abayudaya medical and dental clinics, Abayudaya businesspeople, and more. Strong emphasis will be placed on understanding the ethics and rigors of written and visual fieldwork, as well as the intricacies of writing and creating short films. The course output will be housed on a Penn website and YouTube channel, and the films will be shared with community members as part of the faculty’s ongoing collaboration with this community. 

Travel Over Spring Break 2025 

Comparative Cultures of Resilience and Sustainability in the Netherlands and the United States  
Dr. Simon Richter, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to the Netherlands 
Coastal and riverside cities worldwide are under increasing pressure from sea level rise and other effects of climate change. Resilience and sustainability are paradigmatic concepts for how cities address their impacts on water, food, energy, and housing. This course focuses on the cultural side of resilience and sustainability in four notable cities: Rotterdam (with areas 7 meters below sea level), Nijmegen (which has devised a new way to live with a major river), New York City (which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy), and New Orleans (one of the most vulnerable American cities). Of course, other cities (Amsterdam, Arnhem, Boston, The Hague, Houston, Miami, and cities from the Global South such as Jakarta) will also play. In deeply uncertain times, cities such as these confront an array of interconnected choices that involve not only infrastructural solutions, but priorities, values, and cultural predispositions. Ideally, the strategies that cities devise are generated through inclusive processes based on the understanding that resilience and sustainability should be grounded in the cultural life of their communities. When this is the case, resilience and sustainability can become unique and motivating narratives about how cities and their residents co-develop the kinds of hard, soft, and social infrastructure the climate emergency requires. With this in mind, we will analyze climate action plans and resilience strategies; explore cultural histories relative to flooding events; and consult with Dutch and American experts in climate adaptation, governance, community development, and design. The highlight of the course will be travel to the Netherlands during spring break for site visits and discussions with experts. 

Cairo as Palimpsest 
Dr. Fayyaz Vellani, Critical Writing; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to Egypt 
Fulfills Writing Seminar Requirement. Priority will be given to first-year students, but all students (except graduating seniors) who have not yet taken a writing seminar are eligible to apply. 

This first-year writing seminar provides in-depth engagement with Cairo through an examination of its cultural and geopolitical landscapes. Based on the concept of the palimpsest in urbanism, this course studies contemporary Cairo with a view to tracing the multiple layers of history which permeate the city. With more than 21 million inhabitants, Metropolitan Cairo is the most populous urban agglomeration in Africa, the most populous Arab city, and the sixth-largest city in the world by population. Founded by the Fatimid Caliphate in 969, Cairo has been a seat of power for empires including the Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottomans, French, and British. Each of these eras has left an indelible mark on Cairo, suffusing the city with a richly cosmopolitan flavor. Greater Cairo is home to world-famous monuments including the Giza pyramid complex, the ancient city of Memphis, numerous Islamic architectural splendors, and Belle Epoque-style grand boulevards. This course examines the intersection of these various facets of Cairo, including visits to the sites, connecting the city’s cultural scene to its multi-dimensional, living history. 

Global Radiation History: Living in the Atomic Age 1945-Present  
Dr. M. Susan Lindee, Department of History and Sociology of Science; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to Japan 
In this seminar students engage with the global rise of nuclear weapons and nuclear power after 1945 with special attention to the human experience of radiation risk. We explore the stories of atomic bomb survivors, Navajo uranium miners, Marshall Islanders, scientists and physicians who studied radiation, populations affected by the Fukushima disaster and the accident at Palomares, and other groups.  Readings include novels, poetry, historical accounts and scientific reports, and we analyze these sources drawing on theories of “irresponsible purity,” agnotology, standpoint epistemology, actor networks and biological citizenship.  By considering the protracted political and ethical debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and key artistic, literary and film reflections on the nuclear age, we place science, art, politics and literature in conversation, as we work to understand the impact of the atomic bombs, the rise of nuclear energy, and the continuing legacies of radiation exposure and risk today.  

Perspectives in Afro-Luso-Brazilian Culture 
Dr. Mercia Flannery & Dr. Carlos Pio, Department of Spanish and Portuguese; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to Brazil 
This interdisciplinary survey course offered in two sections (Portuguese and English) will provide additional exposure to the language and culture of the Portuguese speaking countries (including Brazil, Portugal and its ex-colonies in Africa), and students will broaden their knowledge by complementing the classroom discussions with the experience of visiting historic and cultural sites in Minas Gerais, Brazil. This 1000-level course fulfills the following requirements: 1) advanced language course for students in the Huntsman Program in the Portuguese track, 2) the certificate or minor in LALS, and 3) the Portuguese certificate. The history of Portuguese colonization and its influence, and current discussions about contemporary challenges will be incorporated in this course as a way to familiarize students with key issues, such as the influence of African and Indigenous culture in Brazil's language, art, culture, and racial relations in Portugal and the Portuguese ex-colonies in Africa. At the end of this course, students will recognize and discuss important themes, historical figures and cultural characteristics of the Portuguese speaking countries. 

Bicycles: The Mechanical Advantage 
Dr. Dustyn Roberts, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics; School of Engineering and Applied Sciences  
Travel to the Netherlands 
This interdisciplinary course combines bicycle design, engineering, and service learning to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the history, evolution, and impact of bicycles on society and the environment. Through hands-on projects, community engagement, and class discussions, students will develop bicycle design and engineering skills, gain practical experience and exposure to bicycle repair and maintenance, explore the impact of bicycles and related technologies on society and the environment, and understand the role of bicycles in sustainable urban mobility and planning. This course will also have an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) designation through the Netter Center for Community Partnerships.  

Global Aging—Challenges and Opportunities 
Dr. Iliana Kohler, Department of Sociology; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to Malawi 
This PGS explores the multifaceted implications of the worldwide phenomenon of population aging, a defining demographic, social and economic challenge of the 21st century. Global aging stems from rapid shifts in demographic patterns, including decreasing fertility rates, improvements in health care, and increases in longevity. Often misperceived as primarily impacting high-income countries, population aging in the 21st century is a global trend that affects nations across the development spectrum. The challenges and opportunities linked to aging exhibit significant variation contingent upon the by social, economic, and cultural contexts of diverse regions and responses to this challenge need to reflect the diversity of social, economic, institutional, and epidemiological contexts around the world. For example, while achieving intergenerational equity is a common thread across the globe, many low-income countries navigate at the same time rapid population growth and rapid population aging. In contrast, middle- and high-income countries face problems like an aging workforce, increasing old-age dependency ratios and other substantial ramifications for their social welfare systems. In this PGS, students will develop a comprehensive understanding of the diverse challenges and opportunities associated with global aging. The PGS will synthesize current research findings from demography, sociology, economics, epidemiology, public health, and healthcare policies, providing students with a multidisciplinary perspective on global aging. Students will also be familiarized with available aging data resources, and the ethical aspects of research with older individuals.  

Science Accessibility in India 
Dr. Aurora MacRae-Crerar, Critical Writing; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to India 
India is home to an incredible amount of diversity, from its abundant wildlife to its kaleidoscope of cultures. In the face of global warming, this dynamic country is experiencing significant change. In this writing seminar, we will hone our science communication skills across international borders in order to explore the intertwined effects of climate and culture in India and beyond. To ground the course, we will read the book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis by Vandana Shiva, an internationally acclaimed environmental activist. As a Penn Global Seminars course, we will travel to Navdanya, the eco-education farm Shiva founded outside the city of Dehradun, India during spring break. From her farm to the city, we will meet with a diverse range of people including organic farmers, scientists and politicians fighting for a better world in the face of climate change. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dehradun is home to the Wildlife Institute of India and the Forest Research Institute, which we will also tour as part of the course. We will take the lessons learned from our visits to Navdanya Farm and other ecologically focused institutions to inform how we discuss the impacts of climate change with diverse audiences, including yoga practitioners and visually impaired high school students from the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, one of India’s the premier institutions promoting inclusive disability practices. 

People of the Land: Indigeneity and Politics in Argentina and Chile 
Dr. Tulia Falleti, Department of Political Science; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to Argentina 
This undergraduate seminar compares the evolution of relations between States and Indigenous peoples and movements throughout the Americas, with a particular focus on the Mapuche people of the Patagonia region, in the south of nowadays Argentina and Chile. The main goal of the course is to comparatively study the organization of Indigenous communities and analyze their political demands regarding pluractionality, self-determination, territory, prior consultation, living well, and intercultural education and health, as well as the different ways in which States repress, ignore, or address such demands. The course starts by reviewing what does it mean to indigenize and decolonize the academy and political science. We then focus on the controversial question of who is Indigenous and comparatively assess the legal answer to this question in different countries of the Americas. We then tackle the issue of research methodology and positionality of the researcher, the ethics of studying Indigenous peoples, and using in-depth interviews as a tool for social science research. After briefly reviewing some of the consequences of the conquest and colonialism, we study the topic of global Indigenous rights and politics and from there we zoom in the politics of Indigenous peoples in Argentina, and the Mapuche of Neuquén, in particular. In the last part of the course, including during our travel component, we delve into what are the main issues that Mapuche communities of Neuquén confront in the present: from territorial land claims to interactions with extractive industries, co-management of natural resources with the National Parks Service, intercultural education, and intercultural health, among other topics. 

Travel in May 2025 

Before Netflix: The Past and Present of Latin American Television 
Dr. Juan Llamas-Rodriguez; Annenberg School for Communication  
Travel to Mexico 
Since the mid-20th century, the telenovelas, newscasts, and variety show produced by Televisa in the capital city of Mexico have traveled across the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas. In the first half of the course, we analyze this history by considering how technological developments, industry practices, and programming trends resonated across different countries, as well as how audiences created (or resisted) a sense of “Latin American” identity through their television consumption practices. In the second half of the course, we look at the current state of television as it has been shaped by globalization, digital media, and new social movements. In particular, we are concerned with how streaming platforms such as Netflix have (and have not) disrupted longstanding practices while introducing new ideas into the television mediascape. Course content will consist of reading economic, social, and cultural studies of television and analyzing the content of historically significant TV shows and newer original series.  

Disability Rights and Oppression: Experiences within Global Deaf Communities 
Dr. Jami Fisher, Department of Linguistics; School of Arts and Sciences 
Travel to Italy 
This course explores the linguistic and social statuses of global Deaf communities. It utilizes the Italian Deaf community as a framework for understanding its quest for national recognition of their sign language (LIS) and their continued efforts toward parity with hearing people. Topics to be explored include the following: an overview of the cultural model of being Deaf; the social and historical underpinnings of Deaf people’s oppression and marginalization by hearing people; social construction of deafness as disability and Deaf-as-asset (Deaf-Gain); sign language as a human right; and language policy and practice as it relates to Deaf people’s access to or restriction from learning a sign language as a first language. The course will use first-hand accounts via text and film to elucidate a variety of global Deaf perspectives. Travel to Italy will bring the theoretical topics discussed in the semester to life via the following experiential activities: academic and social interactions with Italian Deaf community members; visits to sites important to Italian Deaf people and their history; intensive beginner LIS instruction to facilitate direct conversation with Italian Deaf community members.  No previous sign language experience is required to take this course.   

Mongolian Civilization: Nomadic and Sedentary  
Dr. Christopher Pratt Atwood, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to Mongolia 
This course will explore how two intertwined ways of life – pastoral nomadism and settling down for religious, educational, and economic reasons – have shaped the cultural, artistic, and intellectual traditions of Mongolia. In this course, students will learn about Mongolian pastoral nomadism, and how the Mongolian economy, literature, and steppe empires were built on grass and livestock. We will also explore how Mongolians have also just as consistently used the foundations of empire to build sedentary monuments and buildings, whether funerary complexes, Buddhist monasteries, socialist boarding schools, or modern capitals. Over time, these cities have changed shape, location, and ideology, all the while remaining linked to the mobile pastoralists in the countryside. We will also explore how these traditions of mobile pastoralism and urbanism were transformed in the 20th century, by urbanization, communist ideology, and the new reality of free-market democracy, ideological pluralism, and a new mining-dependent economy. We will meet modern painters and musicians who interweave Mongolian nomadic traditions with contemporary world trends and consider the future of rural traditions in a modern world. 

European Foreign and Security Policy in Times of Crisis 
Dr. Valeriya Kamenova, Department of International Relations; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to Bulgaria 
European integration has been one of the most decisive developments since the Second World War. Europe was destroyed and the main question was how to avoid a new war in Europe in the light of the Cold War. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Europe has experienced a remarkable transformation with significant consequences for the region’s most important intergovernmental organization, the European Union. Externally, the EU has slowly been emerging as a major player on the world scene, while internally the system attempts to strike a balance between continued enlargement and further political integration. A plethora of external security challenges and shifting foreign policy dynamics confronts Europe today: migration, the Russo-Ukrainian war, disinformation and cybersecurity issues, energy security, and climate change. The course aims to provide students with the opportunity to engage in debates and scholarship on the foreign policy and security decisions facing Europe in the 21st century. Accordingly, the course will systematically look at the processes behind EU institutions and national governments in consolidating a common response to international challenges: peacekeeping missions, migrant coordination mechanisms, promotion of democracy and human rights protection, cooperation on climate change and energy security, EU-NATO relations, strategic partnerships with China and India. 

The Tangled Web-National Competitiveness and International Security in Northeast Asia 
Dr. Tomoharu Nishino, Department of International Relations; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to Japan 
The course will take a multi-disciplinary approach to examine the problem of international security in Northeast Asia. In the 20th century, the region was one of the most conflict-prone parts of the world. Today disputes over territory, maritime influence, and nuclear proliferation make the region potentially one of the most volatile. The region is unique in many ways: it is where the world’s three largest economies meet, it is arguably the most integrated into the global economy, and the region has long been the world’s manufacturing hub. Intra-region trade is essential to each country, while technological development is at the root of national competitiveness. At the same time, the region is uniquely primed for volatility. It is where four nuclear powers operate near each other, and the four largest and best-equipped navies of the world (US, China, Russia, and Japan) jockey for position. The course will provide the student with the theoretical tools and historical knowledge to start to understand the various forces shaping the region. The course will cover the evolution of the region over the last 150 years from a political and economic perspective and discuss the myriad challenges facing the region today. 

Policy Task Force on U.S.-China Relations | China Education Initiative 
Neysun Mahboubi, JD, Department of Philosophy, Politics and Economics; School of Arts and Sciences  
Travel to China 
More than forty years after the normalization of relations between the United States and China, the relationship faces new and fundamental challenges with global implications. Designed as a policy task force, taught in coordination with a similar course to be taught at Tsinghua University in Beijing, this course will introduce students to the most pressing issues in U.S.-China relations –– including security, trade, climate, tech competition, and human rights –– and invite them to deliberate on and formulate recommendations for U.S. policy towards China. Each student will be required to complete a policy paper on some aspect of U.S.-China relations. At the end of the course, students will travel to China to meet in-person with their Chinese counterparts at Tsinghua University, and to present their policy papers and recommendations to relevant interested Chinese audiences in Beijing and Shanghai.