Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Transcript: Introducing GSD - Joe

Hi guys, welcome. My name is Joe, I’m a second-year undergraduate student here at the University of Warwick studying Global Sustainable Development (GSD) and I’m here today to introduce you to the GSD degrees available at Warwick.

You probably have seen the term ‘sustainability’ being thrown around in the media and on the internet. But, what does it really mean to study sustainability? Well sustainability as a topic is all encompassing – it covers environmental climate change, plastic pollution, social and gender and income inequality, urban planning, and even finding solutions to things like preventing pandemics - like the one we find ourselves in right now. Really, to me at least, sustainability is about building a better world for ourselves and for those that come after us – our kids and grandkids.

What is GSD? Warwick offers this really cool degree and for lack of better words, it’ll help you save the planet. I’m doing the GSD bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences, or just GSD for short. First thing to say is that yes, you did hear me right – it’s a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences because GSD is a cross-faculty degree in the School for Cross-faculty Studies. That means that not only you get to wear a really special graduation gown (which to GSD students is a big deal, trust me!), you also get to study a wide range of topics all with a sustainability twist. This broad approach is important because all the issues that our generation will need to fix - from climate change to income inequality, to the elimination of poverty - don’t have a single solution. They’re what we call complex problems and they’ll need people from every walk of life to step up in order to reach solutions. So a GSD degree will train you to look at problems from many different angles and make you understand other people’s motivations and priorities, and to help you pinpoint the solutions or test the solutions that will a) solve the problem, but will more importantly b) be acceptable to everyone that they affect, which is a really important part of sustainability.

How does a GSD degree work? The GSD Department currently offers two pathways: a single honours or a joint honours degree. A single honours degree means that you spend the majority of your time learning within the GSD Department. At the end of your degree you’ll graduate with a GSD single honours degree, and that’s what I’m currently doing right now.

Alternatively, you can combine your GSD degree with classes from another department to create a joint honours degree where you’ll spend half your time with the GSD Department and the other half of your time with the partner department. So a full list of joint degrees that are available to you can be found on the GSD website, which hopefully the link will be in the description below. In the past, they’ve included things like Economics, Life Sciences and Sociology, to name a few. I understand we also have a brand new degree called GSD and Education Studies this year, and from what I’ve been told this sounds really exciting and you should definitely check it out if you’re interested in that type of stuff.

Personally, I think GSD (single honours) is one of the most flexible degrees on offer at Warwick and that’s what makes it the best (a bit bias!). In my first year I only had to take four core modules that every GSD student has to take. Apart from that, everything else you study is what you decide to study, what you’re most interested in. There are modules that look at water sustainability and there are ones that look at Latin America and languages, and there’s ones that look at inequalities, and food and sustainability. One of my favourite modules I studied in first year was Ecological Principles (it’s got a different name now I believe). Nearly every lesson was conducted outside, we got to do experiments, and climb in the river and learn some really useful skills while also just having a ton of fun.

There’s also a wide range of assessments available on GSD modules, there are hardly any exams. There are very few traditional essays unlike other departments. GSD wants to make learning as engaging as possible, and give you the skills that will allow you to excel in any work environment that you find yourself in. That makes you really employable when you graduate.

I’ll note here that the flexibility of your degree is more limited if you do a joint degree because of the requirements of the partner department vary, and they might require you to do certain core modules within your three years. Make sure you check out the GSD website for the most up to date information about that.

The GSD Department is also one of the smallest departments at Warwick. It’s not the smallest, but it’s certainly smaller than Engineering or Maths, for example. That means you get to know both your classmates and lecturers really well. It’s kind of like having extra family I guess, or at least a tight knit community that you can turn to whenever you need help. You can get help with assignments from lecturers or your classmates, you can work together on projects, or you can just grab coffee, meet someone new, and have a chat (with a lecturer or a classmate).

How do you know if a GSD degree is right for you? GSD is perfect for those looking to make the world a better place to live and those that believe that an interdisciplinary background is more suited to them. You’ll be perfect for GSD because of the wide range of topics you’ll cover. GSD students come from all sorts of backgrounds aswell, so if you’re interested in sciences like me (I’m interested in Chemistry, Ecology and Computing) and I have friends who are interested in very broad topics like Economics and Social Sciences, and I also have friends who are only interested in very niche things like languages and social rights. There’s all those opportunities around that type of stuff in the GSD degree. At the end of the day, a GSD degree will be whatever you make it – that’s probably one of the best things about GSD.

Apart from the academic benefits, there are also many opportunities available to GSD students. For example, I have friends who want to take a year abroad to another university, or a year in business to gain a year in the work place and GSD offers that. They also offer opportunities for students to attend an integrated semester abroad to Monash University campuses in Malaysia or Australia. That’s something I started this year. In February I flew out to Kuala Lumpur and travelled around Malaysia for about a month. I met some really great people. I was about ready to start term and then I had to come home because COVID-19 is going on and we weren’t sure what was going on. Although I only got to spend a month out there, I got to experience living on the other side of the world, a different time zone, I met fantastic people, and learnt about the culture and content in a very different context which was a bit alien to me, really. On top of that it’s great because [your time at] Monash counts towards your degree, so you don’t need to take an extra year out, so you don’t have to take an extra year to get those experiences.

There are also chances to have your work published on the GSD website, which is great if you want to show employers. If anyone’s interested you can find some of my first-year work on the GSD website and I’ll leave a link in the description hopefully. Also, if you have the right skill-set there are opportunities for paid work with the Department, as a GSD ambassador (which I do) where you can help the Department with things like this. There’s also opportunities to represent other GSD students on the Student-Staff Liaison Committee and you can work hands-on with lecturers to improve their modules. If that’s not your cup of tea there’s also the GSD Society and the GSD online publication called GLOBUS, which you can also be a part of. Here there’s loads of social elements like trips and parties and fun events like pub quizzes and stand-up. There are lots of other things that revolve around sustainability.

That’s the GSD degree in a nutshell. I’m sure you have lots of questions and I really look forward to answering some of those in a few minutes. Until then, thanks for listening! Bye.