Grand Challenge Courses see growth in enrollment

The courses have seen increasing interest since their introduction.

Megan Palmer

Global issues courses at the University of Minnesota have seen growth in enrollment since they were first established in 2014. 

Grand Challenge Courses focuses on a global issue, such as climate change or world hunger, and is co-taught by multiple professors across departments. The program has grown since its creation. Total enrollment in GCC courses has ballooned from 107 students in fall 2015 to 247 students enrolled in spring 2018, according to Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. 

The program has expanded course offerings, growing from five classes offered per semester and to eight classes. McMaster said the good reception from students is what is propelling program growth. 

“The feedback we get from students that have taken these courses is phenomenal,” McMaster said.

The GCC courses were originally created through a grant given to the University by the Bush Foundation, McMaster said. Dan Philippon, an associate professor in the English department and instructor of a GCC course on sustainability, was involved in the planning of the program. 

“It is an important experiment that the University is undertaking,” Philippon said. “The challenges that the courses present extend far beyond that of employment [for students].”

Kelly Shanahan, a political science junior, is currently enrolled in a GCC course that focuses on socioeconomic divides in the United States. She said through the course she has allowed her to meet diverse people. 

“We’ve been introduced to professors from numerous different fields … It’s important to me because when you choose your major you tend to become secluded to a single group on campus,” Shanahan said. 

McMaster said that the University will emphasize its GCC courses moving forward. 

“We really want these Grand Challenge Courses to be the best courses taught to undergraduates at the University,” he said. 

Correction: A previous version of this story contained several factual errors regarding the University’s plan to include GCC courses in the liberal education requirements. The University has no current plans to do this.