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UC Berkeley Web Feature

New interdisciplinary 'Global Poverty & Practice' minor is launched

– The campus's Blum Center for Developing Economies has announced the creation of a new undergraduate program that, beginning this fall, will seek to motivate and prepare students to become active in alleviating poverty worldwide. The "Global Poverty & Practice" minor will be housed in the International and Area Studies Teaching Program. It comes in response to strong student demand for a globally-based curriculum and will serve to cement UC Berkeley's reputation as an "engaged university" that focuses on research, education and service for the benefit of society.

"This minor seeks to train students in the study and analysis of global poverty and to allow students the opportunity to participate in forms of praxis that engage global poverty in imaginative and practical ways," said Ananya Roy, associate professor of city and regional planning and curriculum director for the Blum Center. Roy said she anticipates initial enrollment in the new minor will be at least 25 students, expanding to over 100 within the next few years.

The minor is different from related offerings at other institutions in that it has a specific (thematic) concentration on global poverty, a focus on undergraduates, a requirement for a hands-on practice or research experience, and training in the key theoretical and ethical debates around poverty, inequality and development.

Of these four unique elements, students appear most excited about the transformative field experience - working shoulder to shoulder with the local organizations and individuals confronting poverty. "For many students, grinding poverty is an issue, a theme that we write about, read about, but hardly ever think about," said Vanessa Chen, a third-year undergraduate majoring in the political economy of industrial societies, who intends to enroll in the program. "I think that this minor will allow me to address and confront the issue more directly and to understand the issues behind poverty, not just know of them."

Enrollment in the minor is open to undergraduates from all disciplines. The minor's interdisciplinary nature mirrors the diversity of the faculty committee that designed it. Members of this committee also will serve as the advisory board for the minor as students begin to enroll in it this fall. The faculty committee includes Nezar AlSayyad (architecture), Eric Brewer (computer science), Alain de Janvry (agricultural and resource economics), Eva Harris (public health), David Levine (business), Edward Miguel (economics), Kara Nelson (engineering), Aihwa Ong (anthropology), Isha Ray (energy and resources), Raka Ray (sociology), Eric Stover (Human Rights Center) and Michael Watts (geography).

The signature course of the minor will be an expanded version of the popular "Global Poverty: Challenges & Hopes in the New Millennium" course led by Roy, recipient of the campus's 2006 Distinguished Teaching Award. Initially offered in fall 2006 to both undergraduate and graduate students, enrollment for the 2006 Global Poverty course was increased from 80 students to 220 students in an attempt to meet student demand for this topic. Enrollment for fall semester 2007 was expanded to 450, and all students at any level, regardless of whether they had registered for the minor, were eligible to sign up. The class is now fully enrolled with about 100 students on the wait list.

Among the requirements for the minor are:

  • Two core courses: Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium (IAS 115, fall) and The Ethics, Methods, and Pragmatics of Global Practice (IAS 105, spring);
  • Two directed electives, one each in Global & Area Studies and Sectors and Methods;
  • Practice: A transformative field experience with reflection on that experience either through an independent study (IAS 196) or by linking this work to a thesis or senior project

The minor will also sponsor new courses in various thematic areas (poverty and law, poverty and media, poverty and enterprise and poverty and technology) through an open call for course proposals. The new program will initially receive funding from the Blum Center. Designed to serve as the focal point for the campus's efforts to address global poverty, the center was established in March 2006 through a generous founding gift from San Francisco financier, philanthropist and UC Regent Richard C. Blum. Its mission is to develop a new generation of global citizens, while simultaneously leveraging UC's institutional and intellectual resources to develop and disseminate high-impact, sustainable technologies that create jobs, increase income, bolster resilience and improve the quality of life among the poor.

For questions about the minor and to obtain a full copy of the requirements, please e-mail Ananya Roy at ananya@berkeley.edu or Phillip Denny at pdenny@berkeley.edu. For more information on the Blum Center, see its Website at: Blum Center Website or e-mail blumcenter@berkeley.edu.