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Challenge Accepted

CBS faculty co-teach new interdisciplinary courses designed to help students think about how to tackle tough global issues such as climate change, food security and disease.

globe resting on moss

Tackling the problem of disease prevention is no small feat. From ecological perspectives to medicine, public health and policy, the steps necessary to prevent the spread of disease is multifaceted and complicated. But problems just like these are issues that CBS faculty, along with peers across the university, plan to take on as part of the U of M’s new Grand Challenge Curriculum. The new curriculum features courses taught by faculty from different specialties and colleges to look for solutions to problems ranging from food security to global health or post-war reconciliation.

Using this interdisciplinary approach, instructors can offer their individual perspectives as part of a group while trying to tackle some of these issues. Clarence Lehman, associate dean for research and graduate education for CBS and a research professor in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, will co-teach the course “Toward Conquest of Disease” in spring 2016. He already sees the impact of this cooperative approach.

“I know for sure that when you have co-instruction by faculty across colleges — and I’ve already seen it in a pilot for this course — it generates new ideas that you didn’t have before,” Lehman says.

In particular, he notes the discussion between faculty on common themes and research tactics in studying disease prevention and ecological preservation. He sees this curriculum as not only a tool to enhance idea generation between faculty at the U of M, but also a way to look toward the future.

“I think one of the great things about the Grand Challenges is that it makes us think ‘What are the big problems?’ and let’s get those out there and let’s get people working on them,” says Lehman. “Let’s get the next generation ready.”

Other CBS faculty teaching Grand Challenge courses this academic year include David Tilman co-teaching “Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It?” and Jennifer Powers co-teaching “Climate Change – Myths, Mysteries, and Uncertainties”.

Check out the Grand Challenge curriculum website for more information on these courses.

— Lance Janssen / September 2015