Grant to fund proposed new global health minor

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September 14, 2020

Ellen Block

Ellen Block

You don’t have to look far to see student interest in global health on the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University campuses.

“Students have been finding ways to explore their interest in global health on their own initiative - from the Global Health Affairs Club, which has a large and active membership, to the Global Medical Brigades trips that students take every year,” said Ellen Block, associate professor of sociology at CSB and SJU.

Now, thanks to a $143,563 grant from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Program through the U.S. Department of Education, CSB and SJU could soon be offering an interdisciplinary minor in global health that takes a liberal arts approach to the study of health within a global context.

The proposed new minor will likely begin in fall semester 2022, but classes will start being offered for the 20-22 credit minor in spring semester 2021.

“The global health minor, which builds on significant expertise among faculty across disciplines at CSB and SJU, will finally be able to give students some academic foundation in this important area of interest,” said Block, who will serve as the grant’s director. 

“The momentum for the global health minor has been apparent in recent years, as students have expressed growing interest in exploring global health challenges,” Block said. “Even before COVID-19, global health has been on our students' radar - from Ebola to the Zika Virus to health disparities in our own communities, these are issues that impact everyone and that students care deeply about.”

The courses and training provided by the minor will help students analyze some of the most pressing problems that shape our world, preparing students for exciting careers in health care, public policy, international service and more. This timely program particularly complements majors in the sciences and will be valuable for students interested in public health, global health and the medical field.

UISFL’s funding will support initial development of the minor. Funds will support revising and developing new courses for the minor; establishing new health-related experiential learning opportunities in South Africa and Minnesota organizations that serve Spanish-speaking constituencies; and sponsoring faculty professional development around teaching global health.

This minor will meet student interests in social-scientific and humanistic approaches to global health issues; offer an in-depth exploration of the economic, political and social factors that impact health care globally, and better prepare students for graduate school or health-related careers with culturally diverse populations, both locally and globally.

Students in the new minor specifically will:

  • Critically analyze global trends and issues that impact health and well-being at local, regional, national and transnational levels;
  • Learn how cultural and linguistic values and practices, as well as unequal structures, impact people's experiences of health, illness, and healing globally;
  • Closely examine the connections among socioeconomic, historical, political and biological determinants of health, and their importance to global public health;
  • Demonstrate an increased understanding of programs, policies and social movements that aim to address and improve health.
  • Improve problem-solving and analytical skills through an increased appreciation for the complexity of global health research through experiential learning.

The implementation of the minor will be carried out by a Global Health Steering Committee including Block, Barb May (academic dean), Jeff Anderson (associate professor of peace studies), Brittany Merritt (visiting assistant professor of history), Roy Ketchum (associate professor of Hispanic studies), Mani Campos (professor of biology) and Kevin Clancy (director of the Center for Global Education).

By providing faculty support to develop the minor, CSB and SJU will make an in-kind contribution of 51% of the cost of the program, or $148,801. UISFL will finance the remaining 49% of the project, or $143,563. The total cost of the project is $292,364.

The grant, which began Aug. 15, runs through Aug. 14, 2022.