A New Model of Learning: Environmental Health in a Global World

William N. Rom, Aishwarya Rao, Lori Hoepner, Chris Dickey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Environmental Health in a Global World at New York University was re-designed as a class participatory effort, challenging undergraduate students to understand environmental hazards and the resultant adverse health outcomes by embracing the inherent complexity of environmental risks and proposing solutions. Methods. Following introductory lectures, students are placed into teams and assigned a specific perspective, or avatar, which includes learning to see the challenge from the perspective of a technical expert such as a biologist, an engineer, or an anthropologist. The teams then design specific systems maps to visualize the complex interactions that lead to adverse health outcomes after a given environmental exposure. The maps highlight potential leverage points where relatively minor interventions can provide a disproportionate benefit in health outcomes. The teams then explore potential interventions and identify the potential unintended consequences of those actions, develop and advocate for innovative new strategies to mitigate risk and improve outcomes. Results and Discussion. Over the past 5 years, we have taught this methodology to over 680 students with strong, student-oriented results. The teams created and presented more than 100 strategies, addressing a diverse set of environmental challenges that include water contamination, gun violence, air pollution, environmental justice, health security, and climate change. Developing the strategies helped the students understand environmental threats in a more holistic way, provided them with some agency in finding solutions, and offered an opportunity for them to improve their presentation skills. The responses in course evaluations have been enthusiastic, with many students reporting a deep impact on their college experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6146
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Environmental Health
  • global
  • student learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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