A Gateway Course for Our Program

September 9 will be a special day for me and our program. We will launch our new gateway course on energy, resources, and environment. Together with my capable colleagues, Professors Simone Tagliapietra and Roger Raufer, we will teach the same materials to our new students across the three SAIS campuses: Washington DC, Bologna, and Nanjing.


I have taught all kinds of classes in the past, but the new gateway is probably the most challenging so far. Consider these issues:


  • Create a coherent structure for students on three campuses, with very different backgrounds and experiences
  • Condense a complex interdisciplinary field into one introductory class with 13 modules
  • Receive and combine materials from six faculty members in our program
  • Learn from experience to improve the class over time


But the benefits outweigh the costs by a wide margin. While preparing this class has been a major challenge for our program, we can now offer a common foundation for all our students, regardless of where they start their SAIS journey. We can also start community building from the very first semester, as all students in our program on any given campus enroll in a common class.


For this kind of intercontinental education, online teaching offers excellent opportunities. One of the challenges we face is that although each campus cohort will work through the course together, students have only limited opportunities to connect across the campuses. In virtual classrooms, students could exchange ideas with each other and also benefit from the other professors’ expertise.


I am really looking forward to this challenge. Graduate education is so important for solving our global energy and environment problems, and it is a real honor to contribute.



About the Author

Johannes Urpelainen is the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor and Director of Energy, Resources and Environment at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (Washington DC, USA). He is the Founding Director of the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP). He serves as a senior advisor for ViaX Online Education, a Beijing-based learning and education company.


This blog is financially sponsored by ViaX Online Education. The views presented in this blog are the author’s alone.