A History of Global Health Studies at Northwestern University

The Program in Global Health Studies (GHS) owes its start to a National Security Education Program grant, awarded in 2000 to support interdisciplinary training in international (global) health through collaboration between Northwestern’s Evanston and Chicago campuses. Thanks to these new resources for course development, NU’s first global health course, Introduction to International Public Health, was offered in fall 2001 to students on both campuses. The class filled quickly, an early signal for what has remained strong student enthusiasm for GHS curriculum. The introductory class was soon followed by study abroad programs in China, Mexico, and South Africa. In 2004, a formal GHS minor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) was approved.

From 2004-2009, the GHS curriculum was assembled from a range of existing courses across the university; but given the strong student interest, it quickly became clear that the program needed its own dedicated teaching faculty. GHS hired its first full time faculty member in 2009, and donor support allowed GHS to hire an additional faculty member to teach half time in 2010. An additional full-time faculty member was hired in 2014. Additional innovative GHS study abroad programs were subsequently developed for France, Uganda, Israel, Cuba, Chile, Tanzania, Serbia & Bosnia-Herzegovina, and by 2017, London.

In 2017, GHS added an Adjunct Major, which quickly became a popular choice and drove enrollment growth. The same year, GHS faculty and staff worked with the Graduate School and the Feinberg School of Medicine to launch the Accelerated Public Health Program, allowing students to complete both their bachelor’s degree and the Master of Public Health (MPH) in 5 years. In fall 2024, GHS will offer a PhD Certificate in Global Health to eligible doctoral students across the university.

To meet the growing demand for classes, in 2021 GHS began to hire additional full-time faculty members. As as of 2024, the program includes seven full-time faculty and three faculty members based in other departments who teach regularly for GHS. Our faculty are a rich and dynamic mix of interdisciplinary scholars from diverse backgrounds, including anthropology, history, nutritional science and global health, public health, and sociology, offering dedicated GHS courses on a broad range of topics. The Global Health Studies Program has been recognized with multiple prizes for curricular innovation and expanding global education, and individual faculty have received prestigious grants, fellowships, and teaching awards.

With over 400 students, GHS is one of the largest and most academically diverse programs in WCAS. To date, the program attracts undergraduate students from across most Northwestern colleges, and boasts over 1300 alumni. Global Health Studies is regarded as one of the premier programs of its kind. Our growth and success would not have been possible without the strong commitment of WCAS and Northwestern University as well as generous and visionary support from our alumni and donors. As we celebrate our first twenty years, we look forward to the program’s continued growth and success for many decades to come.

A more comprehensive version of the history of GHS can be downloaded here.