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Roots of Contemporary Issues RCI

Structure and Approach

The Roots of Contemporary Issues is the foundational course for WSU’s UCORE general education requirements. Nearly every student at WSU will take it in their first two semesters.

The course helps students begin to achieve five of the Washington State University’s learning goals. That means that, regardless of a student’s intended major, this class provides essential introductions to critical thinking, communication, and research skills.

While content varies by section, all courses introduce five themes in World History: Humans & the Environment; Globalization; Roots of Inequality; Diverse Ways of Thinking; Roots of Contemporary Conflicts.

Instructors choose one issue under each theme on which to focus. Issues begin with an introduction to a contemporary issue facing the world today. The lessons help students understand how knowledge of the deep historical and global roots of that issue helps us better understand the world around us. The list to the right offers the current menu of issues that a student might encounter in History 105/305.

While all faculty are professional historians, the lessons also highlight how history draws on other disciplines and how historical approaches aid other disciplines.

Find a contemporary issue of interest to you! – Over the course of the semester, students in History 105 and 305 will also research the roots of a contemporary issue that is of interest to them. Students will apply the skills they are learning in class to their own research project. The History Department and WSU Libraries have developed a web-based guide (using Blackboard Learn) that helps students use library resources to identify primary and secondary sources, develop a research question and later a thesis statement, and build their own independent historical argument supported by historical evidence.

Issues Taught:


  • Humans & the Environment
    • Global Climate Change
    • Global Water Crisis
    • Historical Politics of Carbon Energy
    • Politics of Resource Consumption and Conservation
  • Globalization
    • Cultural Globalization
    • Global Pandemics
    • Colonialism and Capitalism
    • Global Drug Trade
    • Borders, Espionage, and Enemies of the State
  • The Roots of Inequality
    • History of Race and Racism
    • Gender Inequality
    • Peoples and Public Health: Epidemiology and Disease in Society
  • Diverse Ways of Thinking
    • A Clash of Civilizations?: The Politics of Orientalism
    • Economic Ideologies: Capitalism and Socialism
    • Modern Violence: War and Terror
  • Roots of Contemporary Conflicts
    • Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
    • Commodities of Conflict in the Congo
    • War in Afghanistan