SFS Centennial Labs

What is a “Centennial Lab”?

Centennial Labs are SFS classes built around an issue, idea, problem, or challenge in a real community. They are both cross-curricular and experiential at the core. Students work with one or more professors across disciplines to learn the theory critical to understanding the situation. They develop practical approaches or solutions within the “lab”; and share it with the community beyond the classroom.

SFS began a series of pilot Centennial Labs in the last year. Currently, there are three functioning Labs, but SFS will be expanding the program with seven additional Centennial Labs in spring of 2018, with more offerings planned for the future.

Pilot Centennial Labs

 

The India Innovation Lab: Drought (Professors Irfan Nooruddin and Mark Giordano, Fall 2016/Spring 2017)

This year-long class that challenged students to explore the politics, hydrology, and infrastructure elements required to solve the problem of drought in Maharashtra, India. The spring semester focused on the policy, economic, and ethical dimensions of potential solutions, with students designing solutions in collaboration with experts in the field, stakeholders, and the Maharashtra government. Selected students traveled to Bombay, Maharashtra, during the summer of 2017 to present policy recommendations to high-level officials in the Maharashtra government.

TradeLab (Professor Marc Busch, Fall 2016)

“Trade Lab” is an NGO which offers legal advice through pro bono clinics to public officials, especially in developing countries, small and medium-sized enterprises. Professor Busch leads a group of undergraduates and a graduate student to present a case for a piece of complex litigation before the World Trade Organization on behalf of a real client, requiring students to think like lawyers but understand substantive trade policy and procedures as they immerse themselves in the details of an actual trade dispute.

Diplomacy Lab (various professors, Fall 2017)

Diplomacy Lab” is a State Department partnership with Georgetown and other US universities that allows small student teams — guided by faculty members — to conduct policy relevant research on issues that State Department offices or embassies would like to understand better. The SFS Institute for the Study of Diplomacy is the “Diplomacy Lab” coordinator for Georgetown. Fall 2017 projects relate to the “Business Case for Climate Change Adaptation” (Professor Joanna Lewis) and “Security Assistance and Human Rights” (Professor Nicole Bibbins-Sedaca). The student teams engage directly with State Department officials at least twice during the semester and final products will be policy memos with supporting research and data attached.

Global Governance Lab (Professors Abraham Newman and Erik Voeten, Spring and Fall 2017)

This lab included two research groups. Professor Erik Voeten worked with 15 students from the Krogh Seminar on the Multilateral Moneyball project initiated by the State Department’s International Organization Bureau (IOB). In January 2017, the class received instructions from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erin Barkley and Director of Regional Policy and Coordination Andrew Hyde to find useful insights from data for the conduct of multilateral diplomacy. This group will be presenting their findings to the IOB. Professor Abraham Newman worked with a PhD student from the Government Department, an MA student in SFS, and four SFS undergraduate students to investigate the global governors of financial governance. The team collected membership data on all of the organizations that develop standards and regulations related to global financial governance. It is now writing an academic manuscript explaining the dataset and offering insights into the participants and gaps in financial governance. The goal is to publish the work in a peer-reviewed journal and for the dataset to be the go to reference for researchers on the topic.

Centennial Labs, Spring 2018

 

India Innovation Lab: Designing for Public Health (INAF 312-13, Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, Professors Irfan Nooruddin and Mark Giordano)

In its second year, this lab will ask students to design interventions to improve the quality of public health and sanitation governance in the state of Bihar, India. In the fall, students will explore modules teaching the political, economic, and sociological dimensions of public health in India. The spring semester will focus on the development and implementation of potential solutions, which students will design working in close collaboration with experts in the field and government and civil society stakeholders. Selected students will be offered the opportunity to travel to India during the summer.

Development and Displacement in the Arab World (ARST 367, Professors Rochelle Davis and Fida Adely)

This lab will focus on different types of development (such as community-based development, state-driven, NGOs, international bodies) as solutions to emergency crises and protracted displacements in the Arab world. The disciplinary focus is anthropological, addressing issues related to economics, politics, society, heritage, and law. During spring break, students will have the option of traveling to the West Bank to learn about community-based development projects and the impact of displacement on communities. Students will then develop a final project related to community-based development in the West Bank, or prepare a proposal for such a project in Iraq or Syria or for Syrian refugees.

Politics and Performance: Confronting the Past, Shaping the Future (CULP 290, Professors Derek Goldman and Cynthia Schneider)

This lab will examine how cultural products such as performances, memorials, films, music, and literature narrate and shape how people understand and remember the complex and fraught histories of their culture. Students will look at the intersection of politics and performance from the past and the present, from Cambodia to post World War II Europe, to Australia, West Africa, South Africa, and the United States.

Over spring break, the class will travel to Cambodia as guests of Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) along with current Lab Fellow Chankethya Chey, Artistic Director of Amrita Performing Arts in Cambodia, visiting key sites of memory of the Cambodian genocide and a circus and arts school. Back on campus, students will share their experiences intellectually and creatively as part of relevant public events on World Theatre Day and/or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Applied Biotechnology (STIA 310, Professor Libbie Prescott)

This lab will examine how environmental change, both gradual and abrupt, has impacted cultures from around the world at various times before recorded history using archaeology, geology, and paleoecology to learn how people adapt to changes in their environment. Through the analysis of selected case studies, the course will examine the impact of climate change, sea-level rise, and land use on human settlements, subsistence, and social organization. The course will explore physical evidence for environmental change and archaeological evidence for cultural response from various ancient cultures, including those of Mexico, Greece, and California. Student will then apply cross-curricular understanding of past events to future environmental problems and solutions.

Python for Policy (STIA 312, Professor Vivek Srinivasan)

In this lab, students will get a basic introduction to programming using versatile programming language Python and then examine how programming could be helpful in day-to-day work and non-engineering careers. They will also learn how to set up a webserver to share their work with the world.

Civic Technology Lab (STIA 321, Professor Vivek Srinivasan)

In this Lab, students will convert civic tech ideas into working prototypes using design thinking and Python programming. After surveying civic tech experiments from around the world in domains such as collective decision making, mobilization, transparency, and government-citizen engagement, students (who will be taught the basics of Python programming and come from a variety of backgrounds) will work in multidisciplinary teams to develop ideas and a working prototype.

International Air Quality Lab (STIA 315, Professor Colin McCormick)

In this class, students will study the current status of measurements of air quality, with a particular focus on outdoor urban environments in developing countries where air pollution is a significant public health problem. Working in teams at the Georgetown Maker Hub, students will design and build a complete, low-cost air quality measurement device based on Arduino microcontrollers. They will then deploy it in an urban environment (either in the DC area, or other locations), and collect and analyze the resulting data, placing it in a global context. Students will additionally study how poor air quality impacts human health, the sources of air pollution, and policies enacted or or under consideration to reduce air pollution in various countries. At the end of the semester, students will present their results from measurements and policy analysis to relevant policy makers and will develop a proposal and business case for installing a professional-grade air quality sensor on the Georgetown campus.

Centennial Labs, Coming Academic Years

India Innovation Lab: Data (Professors Irfan Nooruddin and Joel Simmons)
Combatting Terrorism Lab (Professor Daniel Byman)
Sri Lanka Conflict Resolution Lab (Professor Christine Fair)
Refugee Lab (Professor Lahra Smith)
Political Economy of Development in Africa (Professor Ken Opalo)
Migration and Borders: Mexico, Central America, and the United States (Professor Katherine Donato)

SFS students meeting with officials in India