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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Humanitarianism and Global Health

As we have seen in recent months, the Ebola crisis in West Africa has become a global issue, not just for the treatment and containment of the disease, but for the questions it raises about the ways in which the international community should most appropriately and effectively respond. This seminar will examine the politics and paradoxes of humanitarian intervention in global health crises over recent decades.  What determines when humanitarian intervention is needed? How is intervention mobilized, measured, and evaluated?  Relief efforts to address these crises can be positive, but in many cases the results can be negative, causing more problems than they solve. The West’s response to famine, disease, natural disasters and civil war, by providing emergency food, medicine, and security may be a “band aid” approach, without addressing the underlying social and political factors that enable these crises to develop in the first place. How do we understand these paradoxes and how can such understanding guide our response to these crises around the world?

Students will delve into these topics, by intensively researching, discussing and debating the state of humanitarian intervention as it relates to global health.  Famine in Ethiopia, civil war in Syria, Ebola in Liberia, and HIV/AIDS around the world will be used as case studies for this seminar. 

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  • Dates:  July 17–28, 2017
  • Instructor: Jeff Rice, Senior Lecturer, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Weinberg College Adviser
  • Enrollment capacity: 24


Through reading background material, first person narratives and watching documentary film footage, students will be introduced to the various humanitarian responses to particular global health crises. Lectures, group discussions, invited speakers, and journal writing assignments will be mixed together to develop a deeper understanding of humanitarian crisis and relief.


  • Provide an historical understanding of particular recent health crises.
  • Investigate the complexity of international intervention: can it work, what are the long term problems, does it violate norms of sovereignty, when is it necessary?


This seminar is appropriate for high school students who are interested in humanitarian issues, comparative history, Africa, or trans-national justice. No previous knowledge of any of these issues is required — just passion.

A Typical Classroom Session

Each day there will be a mix of lectures, films, discussions, and quiet time for writing. While this session would be a half day held on the Evanston campus, some days will be full days with field trips offsite or on-campus activities. On full days, there will be field trips or other seminar activities that will require attendance beyond the typical classroom schedule.


Lecture and discussion on the topic for the day


View documentary or discuss film/activities from previous afternoon




Small group discussion based on talking points offered by the instructor


Class-wide presentations based on small group discussions

12:15–12:45 pm:

Introduction of next day’s themes/topic

Field trips/afternoon activities

Films to be shown during the classroom sessions will be Frontline documentaries and videos.