If there is one thing the past two years have made perfectly clear, it’s that global health issues are not just matters that impact those half-a-world away.
They impact all of us – no matter where we reside.
That only underscores the importance of the new global health minor, which has been approved by College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University common boards to begin being offered this fall.
“COVID has made it even more relevant,” said Ellen Block, an associate professor of sociology at CSB+SJU, who has served as director of a $143,563 grant the two schools received from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Program of the U.S. Department of Education which helped pay for the minor’s development.
“A lot of people hear about global health and they think about doing Doctors Without Borders or working in a hospital in Haiti. But I think people now have more of a recognition that we’re all a part of global health. Things like the supply of drugs or policies to control the spread of a virus impact us right here at home every day.”
Block said the new minor will include faculty members from 11 departments on campus, including sociology, peace studies, history, communications, nutrition, nursing and Hispanic studies.
It will total 20 credits and include one required course: Global Health, Culture, and Inequality. Students can then select their remaining four courses from a range of electives across disciplines, working with their global health advisor to tailor their course of study to their own interests.
Students are also encouraged to complete an experiential learning component through internships, research or study abroad opportunities related to global health.
Block said the vast majority of the courses are ones already being offered on campus, so it was just a matter of organizing them into a minor.
“We wanted a minor that pulls everything together in a comprehensive way and that would resonate with our students,” she said. “We already had a large group of people interested in being part of this and faculty members already teaching classes that fit in with what we’re trying to do. In all, we only had to add two new courses. So we already had the pieces to do this in place. It was just a matter of pulling it all together in a robust manner.”
Block said this was already an area in which students have been engaging extensively.
“The Global Health Club is very active on campus,” she said. “Square One (a group in which CSB+SJU students seek to create lasting micro-business ventures in developing countries) has been doing a lot of things related to health. Our students were already passionate about these issues and were seeking it out on their own.”
CSB senior Grace Savard is one of those students. She will graduate in May, meaning she will not be able to participate in the minor. But she has already taken enough of the courses to qualify had it been offered.
And she said she couldn’t be more thrilled for it to become a reality.
“It provides a home for students who have this passion,” said Savard, a double major in biology and peace studies. “There wasn’t a place to really stick us before. Our advisors helped, but there wasn’t a distinguished home to go with our passions. Now there will be and that’s really exciting.”
Sophomore Annika Gothmann and junior Kaia Hoiseth echoed those sentiments,
“Now more than ever, people recognize global health is a very important field, and it will continue to be important even post-pandemic,” Gothmann said. “It’s an important and valuable thing that this minor is going to be offered because this is an area more and more employers in the future are going to see as a huge asset.”
“It’s also a great way to combine a lot of different things,” she continued. “It’s a great add-on minor because the course load pulls from so many different areas.”
“For me, as a nursing major, I think it’s important to have an awareness of ethical issues that are prevalent not only around the world, but in our own country and state,” Hoiseth added. “These are issues we will be dealing with in a hospital setting or with our patients.”
The total cost of developing the major was $292,364. By providing faculty support, CSB and SJU made an in-kind contribution of 51% of the cost of the program ($148,801). The grant from UISFL covered the remaining 49%.
Block said remaining funds leftover have gone to finance five paid summer student internships over two summers with community groups working on global health issues in the Twin Cities, as well as to cover the cost of a Health Equity Forum on campus next fall and a four-part faculty workshop that will end this April.
“So much credit needs to go to the professors who were willing to do what had to be done to make this happen,” Savard said. “They put in the work to make this a reality.”
Those interested in learning more about the minor are encouraged to contact Block at [email protected].