Message from Professor Matt Sparke
Director of the Global Health Minor
As a professor of Geography and International Studies it is a special honor for me to serve as the director of the UW Global Health Department’s undergraduate Minor. Along with the honor there also comes special responsibility, including a responsibility to go beyond my social science background to understand the full range of interdisciplinary work on global health at the university. As most students already know, this is a daunting challenge because UW boasts so many teachers and researchers from across the whole spectrum of the field. From the molecular biology of infectious disease and vaccine development to environmental science on the health implications of global climate change; from the sophisticated math of health metrics estimations to the ethnographic evidence of anthropological and geographical studies into suffering and care in different global contexts; and from public health work on the epidemiology of inequality to international, legal and political-economic research into the impact of war, trade law and global financial crises on health systems and health rights, the scope of global health work at UW is extraordinarily wide. Yet the challenges of coming to terms with this breadth simultaneously presents terrific opportunities, and a chief goal of the Global Health Minor is to help students make the best of these. We provide a broad-based curriculum, an intellectually engaged support staff, and an ongoing commitment to identifying both great classes and special lecture opportunities for all our students whatever their Major field of study.
Part of learning from all the interdisciplinary offerings also involves forging new forms of cross-campus student community too. Since the creation of the Global Health Minor in January 2011 we have already seen exciting signs of such community beginning to form. Increasing numbers of students are signing on to our listserve and Facebook and coming to our ‘Minor Mixers.’ We are also seeing more and more undergraduate regulars at the big talks sponsored by the Global Health Department, listed in our newsletter. And we are meanwhile witnessing growing student interest in opportunities for global health service such as the recent creation of a UW GlobeMed chapter.
Our hope is to go on facilitating such community development, including the important work of building links with the wider research and philanthropic community in Seattle and the state. At the same time, we also want to offer undergraduates guidance and opportunities for evaluating what might be the best links to build. For example, in response to the tremendous student interest in global health service learning we want to develop some ethically accountable programs of our own, and, while we are doing this, we are also seeking to highlight the most appropriate study abroad opportunities at UW while providing students with key questions they can use themselves to evaluate global service programs more generally.
The twinned goals of providing both learning and community-building opportunities are clearly related in turn to the still wider and bigger goal of making a positive difference in the world at large. Global health in this sense should be more than a cross-campus program and credential. Ultimately it should describe a real world achievement: the outcome of global health for all. Today we are still too far away from achieving such a goal, but we want the Global Health Minor to help UW students to contribute to the collective effort of getting there. For the same reason, we need to hear from you about how we can improve the program and make it work more effectively. So please feel free to share your ideas with me at any time (firstname.lastname@example.org), and meanwhile consider joining us at an upcoming mixer event. I look forward to meeting you soon.
Matt Sparke, Ph.D
Box 353550, UW