Honors Program, UNMC partner to offer pandemic seminar

· 4 min read

Honors Program, UNMC partner to offer pandemic seminar

The University Honors Program has partnered with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to offer a course that explores the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of international relations.
The University Honors Program has partnered with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to offer a course that explores the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of international relations.

The University Honors Program is offering a new course aimed at exploring the ongoing COVID-19 crisis through the lens of international relations, with a particular emphasis on global leadership. Having started July 13, the new, five-week Honors Seminar features discussions via Zoom three times each week.

“Saving the World: Global Leadership in the Time of Pandemics” (UHON 298H) is taught by Patrice McMahon, director of the University Honors Program and a professor of political science.

This course represents a new iteration of a class she has taught previously, which uses an interdisciplinary approach to help students understand complex global issues and identify realistic pathways to solving those problems. While McMahon has used her “Saving the World” model in previous Honors Program 298H “Solution Seminars,” this summer’s offering narrows the scope of the course to focus on the current pandemic, which has allowed for unique and exciting collaborations.

“The NU system is full of extraordinary faculty who focus on pandemics, public health, and global politics. When I spoke with my colleague, Jessica Tschirren, who is the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the UNMC College of Public Health, we were easily able to put together an interesting and interdisciplinary class,” McMahon said. “I am delighted by the response we received from faculty at UNMC and UNL. This is a great demonstration of Nebraska’s expertise and collaborative spirit.”

Like all University Honors seminars, the course is designed to be discussion-based and interactive, and features opportunities for students to interact with multiple faculty members from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health.

Guest faculty for the course include, among other faculty guests: Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of the College of Public Health, who will discuss the challenges related to combating global pandemics and emerging infectious diseases; Dr. Jesse E. Bell, Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Health and Environment at University of Nebraska Medical Center, who will lead the students in an exploration of the connections between climate change and pandemics; Dr. Regina Werum, Professor of Sociology at Nebraska, who will help students unpack the German response to the current crisis; and many more.

Tschirren will help conclude the class by talking to students about the challenges of leadership in times of misinformation.

“We were thrilled by the opportunity to collaborate with Honors and our UNL colleagues to bring together this interesting and timely content to students,” said Tschirren. “Between our two institutions, we have such a wealth of expertise in global security and international relations, it makes perfect sense that we work together to bring that expertise to our students. Hopefully we will also inspire some to join us in this work in the future.”

The faculty from University of Nebraska Medical Center will help students in this course understand some of the science behind the pandemic, including how the virus spreads, potential treatment methods and environmental factors that could impact the virus. Through readings, videos, and other materials, students will also develop a historical context for responding to pandemics and other public health crises, drawing on knowledge gained from the 1918 influenza pandemic and the more recent Ebola outbreak.

Throughout the course, McMahon will lend her expertise as a scholar of International Relations, helping students understand the various institutions at work and ways that global cooperation can transpire and help to address this crisis.

“COVID-19 is a global challenge that is dramatically impacting the world,” said McMahon. “It is important for our students to know more about this crisis, and how different countries and organizations are attempting to ‘save the world.’”

This course meets ACE 6 and 9 outcomes for undergraduates, and is open to all Honors and non-Honors students at the university, as well as any student in the University of Nebraska system. Students interested in “Saving the World: Global Leadership in the Time of Pandemics” should enroll via MyRED.

Questions can be directed to uhon-office@unl.edu.

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