J-Term 2023: Exciting Sustainability-Driven Courses

NYUAD students work with BIPOC farmers in Maryland, USA for the “Food Security in Communities of Color” course.

J-Term Classes 2023 see students engage in highly immersive learning experiences on sustainability in the UAE and around the world.

From exploring an experimental farm on the island of Gozo in Malta to engaging in farming practices with BIPOC farmers in Maryland, students from NYU Abu Dhabi are taking a variety of courses that explore a multitude of climate crisis challenges.

J-term this summer will see students learn from NYU Abu Dhabi’s vast network of educators, industry leaders, and thought pioneers in the field of sustainability around the world.

Intellectually linked to their locations, the courses tap into local resources; explore the history, culture, economy, and society of the host communities, and involve collaborative activities with local students and faculty. The courses illuminate the interdependence of local knowledge and global awareness while fostering cross-cultural research and insights into complex global issues.

Here is a selection of some of the sustainability driven classes taking place during summer J-Term, which is taking place in May and June, this year.

“Food Security in Communities of Color”

Washington DC, USA

In the course titled “Food Security in Communities of Color” Clinical Assistant Professor Kaia Niambi Shivers prompts students to explore food justice and the complex landscape of food accessibility.

Two central questions will help guide students as they investigate the topic in this three-week course in Washington DC: What is food security? And how are social justice and food security linked?

“In a post-pandemic world experiencing increased conflicts and environmental stressors, this course examines the conditions creating food insecurity. In recent years, governments have ended food subsidies for vulnerable communities and ordered growers to destroy crops and even terminate livestock,” Shivers said.

The course blends seminars, tutorials, fieldwork, and sessions with farmers in Maryland to better understand concepts of global food systems. The students will also visit farmers markets, local food-activists, and trade organizations to gain a holistic view of the challenges of equitable access to food.

“Such questions have long been debated, yet climate change, political instabilities and structural racism raised the stakes for finding new models to address a rapidly changing food system,” said Shivers.

In this class, students will work on analyzing how global food systems fail certain populations, but also how communities negotiate inequities and injustices. Additionally, students will be challenged to develop their own models of equitable and successful global food systems.

“Mediterranean Foodways: Cuisine, Culture, Sustainability”

Florence, Italy

In Professor of Anthropology Jonathan Shannon’s “Mediterranean Foodways: Cuisine, Culture, Sustainability,” students will explore attitudes, beliefs and behaviors associated with food production, preparation, and consumption.

Students will explore the intersections of food, culture, and politics through analysis of the Mediterranean diet, food markets, the Slow Food movement, and the challenges of global food production, including sustainability and the problem of food waste.

Case studies from around the Mediterranean as well as film viewings and field excursions will enable students to appreciate the multiple and contradictory ways traditions are created and recreated in a globalized Mediterranean.

As part of the class, students will explore Florence’s eclectic markets to better understand the concepts of the class.

“Students will research the food markets and stalls of Florence using ArcGIS story mapping software. The Story Map will include geolocations of food stalls and markets, photos and videos of foods, and short text describing these public food entities,” said Shannon.

One of the central questions of the course is to explore sustainability in the context of foodways in the Mediterranean, and how that influences forms of social difference. 


Berlin, Germany

Assistant Professor of Political Science Johnathan Andrew Harris challenges students to view climate change from a variety of angles in his course titled “Climate/Change.”

In this course, he will task students to engage with the climate crisis on various levels.

“On one level, the unfolding climate crisis is a story of graphs, charts, and scientific evidence. On another level, it is a chorus of present and future narratives of those victimized by their predecessors' short-sighted choices,” said Harris.

The class, which takes place in Berlin, will focus on works of “climate fiction” that exhibit the human costs of climate change through narrative and illuminate humanity's impact on the climate crisis.

The class will draw from the sciences and humanities to illustrate important themes: geo-engineering; the human cost of climate change, the science of prediction, climate-induced conflict, interdependence, and accountability and governance.

“Hot World: Climate and Design”

Abu Dhabi and Malta

In the course titled “Hot World: Climate and Design” Associate Professor of Practice at NYU Mitchell Joachim challenges students to look at how climate crises can inform design and architecture in the built environment.

A central question to this J-term course is “How do we understand the challenges for design and living in historically arid regions like the Arabian Peninsula as well as other regions rapidly becoming hotter and dryer?”

Using both the UAE and the island state of Malta as case studies, students will explore traditional and contemporary solutions to designing for high temperatures and water scarcity. During the course, students will debate the economic, political, social, and ethical issues surrounding the inhabitants of areas increasingly under threat from the climate crisis.

“The global history of climate and ecological debates informs us how we came to address past environmental issues. The class will include lectures, seminars, group debates and field trips, with a focus on discussions of historical material and writing,” said Joachim.

Students will read texts by the American naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy, and other environmentalists and urban planners.  They will also practice design and develop an ecologically driven and conceptual final design project.

“Scarcity, Inequality, and Ethics”

New York City, USA 

In “Scarcity, Inequality, and Ethics,” Assistant Professor of Bioethics Daniel Fogal draws students to ponder the question: Is scarcity inevitable?

In the New York-based course, students will explore practical questions concerning how to prioritize health care, distribution of wealth, and humanity’s obligation to each other.

“Given the limited and unevenly distributed amounts of time, energy, money, and resources in our world, how should we live our lives and how should we structure society? Why does inequality matter? Are there practical solutions to global problems?” said Fogal.

In the course, students will explore complex political questions concerning how to create a more just and equitable society given the ubiquity and inevitability of scarcity.