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U of T's Munk One program teaches students how to tackle global issues

Teresa Kramarz is the director of Munk One, an interdisciplinary seminar program that gives first-year students in the Faculty of Arts & Science the opportunity to brainstorm real solutions to global problems (photo by Riley Stewart)

When third-year English student Sayeh Yousefi was deciding where to attend university, one factor made the University of Toronto stand out from her other choices. When researching Munk One, the first-year foundation program at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, Yousefi saw a perfect fit.

 “Munk One really focuses on critical thinking and how to apply theory to real life. The focus isn’t just on textbooks,” says Yousefi, a Victoria College student who is a Munk One alumna and one of U of T’s four Loran scholars in 2016. “It’s based on innovation and thinking outside of the box, which I thought was really interesting. Munk One is one of the reasons I chose U of T.”

The smallest of U of T’s eight first-year foundation programs, Munk One is an interdisciplinary seminar program that gives first-year students in the Faculty of Arts & Science the opportunity to brainstorm real solutions to global problems in a hands-on, interactive learning model.

With guidance from Munk School faculty like Teresa Kramarz, associate professor and director of the Munk One program, and Joseph Wong, Ralph and Roz Halbert professor of innovation, students split into lab groups that focus on themes like environment, digital governance and global health. Their goal is to find answers to a big question within their given theme, guided by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Once each group identifies a solution to their problem, they prepare a proposal to present in front of a panel of experts, Dragons' Den-style.

“Munk One is one of the few truly interdisciplinary programs that forces students to consider challenges from a variety of points of view,” says Wong.

“Students are encouraged to engage in real-world problems in real-world ways. In these regards, the Munk One program equips future leaders with not only the intellectual heft, but also the empowerment to tackle our most pressing challenges.”

Equipped with the empowerment Wong describes, Adam Sheikh, a Munk One alumnus, went on to start a student-run non-profit that helped launch a safety intervention for migrant workers in the Middle East. Sheikh also helps to run the Munk Social Incubator (MunkSI), a resource that teaches students how to take their global solutions from concept to implementation.

“In Munk One, we looked at how to break down an issue, how to look at its causes. We learned the research process and that we can’t just jump to conclusions quickly,” says Sheikh.

“Munk One helped me realize that I could pursue anything. I can try to address any issue in the world and feel confident that regardless of whether I succeed or fail, I tried. I learned to be audacious.” 

Sheikh and Yousefi are just some of Munk One’s impressive list of students and alumni. Others include Edil Ga’al, a Munk One alumna who graduated from U of T with high distinction in 2018 and is on her way to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship; Nika Asgari, a 2018 Loran Scholar, University College student and activist; and Jonah Toth, a third-year peace, conflict and justice student at Victoria College who went on to start a youth empowerment organization called passion2action after his time in the Munk One program.

“Munk One students come from many different places around the world, with diverse experiences, skills, and disciplinary interests but what stands out is their shared passion to be engaged hands-on with issues that matter to them,” says Kramarz.

“These issues mobilize them to take deep dives into academic research and action. This creates the basis for an immensely energizing first year of university.”

To learn more about the Munk One program and how to apply, visit munkschool.utoronto.ca/one.


 

 

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