Lynette Ong and Wilson Prichard
Munk School, Master of Global Affairs, Asian Institute

New Munk School Course Looks At The COVID-19 Pandemic From All Angles

As the world grapples with the continued effects of COVID-19, it has become essential to think critically about the global policy response to the pandemic. This fall, the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy will offer a new course called The Global Impact of COVID-19, to do just that. The course, open to Munk School graduate students as well as some fourth-year undergrads, will offer a look at the pandemic, its resulting policies and societal effects through the work of 12 faculty members, all offering their specialized expertise. It will serve as the first time that multiple Munk School faculty members will be teaching the same course, and the first course ever to be offered across all Munk School disciplines.

“The course reviews how different countries reacted to COVID-19, examining their policies and implications,” says Shiri Breznitz, director of Munk School’s Master of Global Affairs program. Each week, students will watch a pre-recorded lecture from a faculty member on their own time, followed by a class discussion to contextualize the content.“You read so much in the news and I don’t think you grasp the difference in how each country handled it, and how countries in the same region can have such different responses,” says Breznitz. “It’s important to consider how much policy matters in treating something we were not prepared for.”

In the first week, Lynette Ong, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and the Munk School’s Asian Institute, will look at China, both as the starting point for the virus and also the location of the earliest and most effective social distancing measures. From there, professors from a variety of disciplines within Munk School will effectively take students from Denmark to the United States, Taiwan, and select countries in Africa. Beyond the responses of specific nations, the course will also include discussions around the pandemic’s effects on public health, social and economic inequalities; and education.

“There’s a lecture by Arjumand Siddiqi about inequalities in the time of COVID, specifically in a Canadian context,” says Breznitz. “Ito Peng will be discussing long-term health care systems, and Anita McGahan will be talking about global challenges.” Breznitz’s own lecture, Higher Education in the Time of COVID, arrives in week 12 of the course.

Breznitz notes that learning about what will undoubtedly be an important historic shift while living through it offers its own unique challenges, as well as advantages. “There are a few faculty members who are waiting until the last minute to record because they want to have the latest information,” she says, noting that the evolving response to the pandemic in Africa will influence associate professor Wilson Prichard’s lecture in week 10. “We have 12 weeks, so things will change over time. But that’s what makes it interesting.”

While most courses are developed by a single professor, The Global Impact of COVID-19 allows multiple faculty members to bring new information, teaching and discussion styles to the course on a weekly basis. According to Breznitz, it gives the professors a chance to finally work together. “You have faculty from the Asian Institute, the Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Master of Public Policy among others,” says Breznitz. “Very few faculty members could have done this course by themselves, so I appreciate the time they took to consider how their work fits into this topic.”