Global Themes

As you create your path through the Franke GLI program, you will explore one or more of the global themes. These global themes represent big ideas and provide broad contexts in which to consider global challenges. Choosing a theme that interests you is critical, because that theme will help to define which classes you take, how you frame your beyond-the-classroom experience in your junior year, and what your capstone project will look like in your senior year. In addition, the global theme you choose will offer a context for your interactions with other Franke GLI fellows, including your online discussions and for the in-person events you attend.

Each theme encompasses challenges relevant in Montana, around the country, and across the globe. These challenges are complex and can be approached from many angles. Students from the fine arts through the sciences all have a place in the program and all perspectives are needed to tackle these challenges. The challenges listed for each theme are meant to be examples rather than exhaustive lists. In other words, you should think well beyond the examples listed and tailor your theme to your interests.

Culture and Politics

Although shared beliefs, languages, and traditions can unite us, differences among groups can result in unforeseen conflicts. As travel, communication, and consumption become globalized, diverse groups of people interact and collaborate more frequently. These interactions in a global system pose challenges and opportunities as people encounter unfamiliar or different cultural and political practices and beliefs.

Key challenges include:

how to address ideologically-driven conflicts; how to move beyond political polarization and gridlock; how to balance positive and negative effects of globalization; how to assess the impact of national and cultural variations in trade and regulation practices; and how to preserve local and indigenous cultural identities in the face of globalization.

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Sustainability lies at the intersection of limited natural resources and a vast set of human needs and desires. To satisfy these needs and desires, humans depend—directly and indirectly—on the natural environment, resulting in complex sustainability challenges. As populations grow and economies expand, demand for resources increases, sometimes at rates that may not be sustainable. Resolving these conflicts will require the perspectives of varied thinkers, from scientists to philosophers and economists to artists.

Key challenges include:

how to provide power to growing populations; how to avoid, combat, or adapt to climate change; how to balance growing the economy with going green; how to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity; how can businesses strategically approach sustainable practices; and how to address water shortages.

Public and Global Health

We hear about global health challenges every day- Ebola in West African nations, alarming rates of suicide, and challenges to mandatory immunization policies. At the core of these challenges are access to health care, research on new approaches, rising health care costs, and education.

Key challenges include:

how to combat infectious diseases; how to turn the tide on debilitating conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease; how to ensure access to quality healthcare; how to give babies and kids a good start physically and mentally; how to promote an understanding of mental health; and how to create successful funding models for health systems.

Social Inequality and Human Rights

Our society, and others around the world, are strongly shaped by inequalities—imbalances in wealth, political power, and cultural status. What can or should be done about this? What factors and actions contribute to or reduce these inequalities? What are the consequences of these imbalances for the long-term functioning of societies?

Key challenges include:

how to reverse the trend toward increasing economic inequality; how to address discrimination and racism; how to support the rights of historically oppressed groups; and how to balance order and safety with freedom of expression and self-determination.

Technology and Society

In the past two decades, the web has become ubiquitous and indispensable. We are now hyper-connected. These connections bring us together, and they blur the lines between local and global communities. But they also divide us into groups that have little contact with others sharing different styles, values, politics, and beliefs.  The collection and sharing of data brings ethical dilemmas.

Key challenges include:

how to balance access with privacy and security; how to provide digital access for low-income people; how to integrate digital devices and access into one’s life in a healthy way; how can organizations harness technology and data; and how to understand the effects of the web on public and political discourse.


If you want to pursue a Global Challenge that doesn’t fit into one of the defined Global Themes, then you have the option of determining your own path. Students in this category will still be expected to find common ground with other Franke GLI fellows in order to work together on a group capstone project.

Previous Themes