Global Challenges Courses

The College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation invites you to take the lead in exploring complex global issues, ask important questions and solve problems that mean something in some of the University of Calgary's most exciting new undergraduate courses.

The Global Challenges courses challenge you to think critically about complex problems and how to solve them. As such, many of our students find that the learnings apply well beyond the boundaries of the content itself. The courses are, more generally, about the study of idea creation. What pathways can we take to answer a question? To generate a solution to a problem?

The Global Challenges courses have no particular domain or discipline of their own. Therein lies the excitement. They empower you with tools and frameworks that you can apply to any question, regardless of your path, in university and beyond.

About global challenges

UNIV 201: Global Challenges Inquiry I
UNIV 201: Global Challenges Inquiry I introduces students to inquiry-based learning by exploring the challenge of Feeding Nine Billion People by 2050 from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Inquiry-based learning is a highly participative approach to higher education where students take the lead in exploring complex issues, identifying important questions, looking for evidence and solving problems (Aditomo et al., 2011). Instructors serve primarily as facilitators rather than lecturers. Students will develop and present a targeted innovation that is designed to address one aspect of the global challenge in a meaningful way. They are encouraged to view the global challenge from many perspectives, including but not limited to social, cultural, scientific, philosophical, political and economic perspectives. By collaborating with one another and in teams, students will drive and direct the learning process, seeking to deeply explore the global challenge by considering as many of these perspectives as possible.

UNIV 203
UNIV 203: Global Challenges Inquiry II builds on the skills and content introduced in UNIV 201: Global Challenges Inquiry I. Students have the full semester to develop an innovation idea initiated in UNIV 201. Workshops held early in the course are designed to build teamwork skills, prototype and develop ideas and write business and communication plans. Students continue to use ePortfolio to document your learning and progress. Greater emphasis is placed on making partnerships with individuals in the community and government that culminates with a public showcase at the end of the semester. 

UNIV 401.91: Leading Through Design Practice

UNIV 401.91: Leading Through Design Practice builds on the discovery and innovation skills developed in UNIV 201 and 203 and allows students to take a new approach to solving a global challenge by design. Students will work in an intensive block week course to engage the framework of design thinking as they learn to lead teams towards social change using design thinking. Together with team members, community participants and expert guides, students will use the design thinking process to develop, ideate, prototype and test an innovative and creative solution to a specific design problem. Students will cultivate their creative problem-solving skills through real-life experiences while learning from a community engineers, social scientists, designers, and researchers about design practice and designing social change. Throughout this block week course, students will learn to lead through design as they create a better food system for the future.

Block-week at a glance:

  • Day 1: Develop your skills in problem definition by selecting a design mission, and then working to define a specific area of inquiry that we’ll tackle in teams using a design mindset.
  • Day 2: Work on empathy by learning to do field research from a design perspective.
  • Day 3: Work on ideation, or the generation of multiple and iterative problem solutions.
  • Day 4: Prototype their designs using ‘hack’ tools in a one-day design sprit.
  • Day 5: Close our design sprint work by testing our responses to the challenge with real-life users, designers and experts.

  • By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Synthesize evidence to support innovative ideas
  • Communicate ideas and evidence succinctly
  • Leverage design practice skills to enhance personal leadership capacity
  • Model, guide, and lead group processes
  • Identify emerging design challenges
  • Work as part of an effective team to solve emerging problems and design challenges
  • Collaboratively ideate innovative ideas to solve a design challenge
  • Integrate interdisciplinary perspectives, disciplines, and approaches into the creative process
  • Design, prototype, and test an innovation

  • Course Information

    Class code: 76307

    Course hours: 3 units

    Instructor: AnneMarie Dorland

    Section: 02 (Block Week)

    Monday August 27 - Friday, August 31, 8:30 - 4:30 PM, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

    Prerequisite(s): UNIV 201, or permission of the course coordinator.


    "Global Challenges is interesting because it is an inquiry-based — rather than lecture-based — course. It allows me to cultivate my knowledge and take responsibility for my career through my own resources and research projects. The conversations I had illuminated certain aspects of food security that I was unaware of, so I think that events and conversations addressing a global challenge should be held regularly, at schools and at home, for youth and for groups of all ages, casually and professionally, because they do more than bring awareness — they inspire people to join the movement for sustainability." 

    Ivan Savytskyy, first-year astrophysics student

    What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

    Inquiry, as we understand it, is a form of learning in and of itself. This approach to learning is characterized by student-driven design, where students shape their experience by developing a series of questions around a basic framework and then conducting research to answer those questions. Learn More

    See our Global Challenges Photo Gallery

    When we consider the challenges facing humanity, our thoughts frequently turn to holes in the ozone layer, ocean dumping grounds or nuclear contamination, not what we ate for breakfast. However by 2050, we will need to feed nine billion people — a complex challenge of global scope that will need to be faced by considering varied environmental, social, cultural, economic and political perspectives. And we need to nurture a new generation of creators, designers, builders, innovators, drivers and thinkers capable of solving this problem on multiple levels. 

    "One could understand this challenge as saying our population in 2017 is seven billion people, so the challenge is how to feed two billion more. For example, if you think about our community in Calgary, the availability and quality of food is affected by socioeconomic status, poverty, the state of the economy, mental illness and other things. We want our students and faculty to be engaged in conversations that are global in nature, while broadening their understanding of the issue in a local context."

    Jay Cross, Director of the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation 

    Introductory readings

    Foley, J. (n.d.). Where will we find enough food for 9 billion? A five step plan to feed the world. National Geographic. Retrieved from (scroll down the page)

    Video Credit: Michael Do, Global Challenges Student Ambassador