Cover Image for Universities and the Sustainable Development Future: Evaluating Higher-Education Contributions to the 2030 Agenda

Universities and the Sustainable Development Future: Evaluating Higher-Education Contributions to the 2030 Agenda

Author: Peter Koehn

Additional Authors: Juha I. Uitto

Since the mid-1970s, a series of international declarations that link environment and sustainable development to all aspects of higher learning have been endorsed and signed by universities around the world. Although university involvement in sustainable-development research and outreach has increased substantially, systematic learning from higher-education engagements has been limited.

Publisher: Routledge

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Image of Peter Koehn

Peter Koehn

Phone: (406) 243-5294


Office: LA 348

Office Hours:

Schedule and Office Hours

Spring 2009Days, Time, Location

PSc 120 Introduction to Comparative Government

MWF at 1:10 p.m. in GBB 106

PSc 326 Politics of AfricaMWF at 11:10 a.m. in LA 337

PSc 382 Sustainable Climate Policies: China and U.S.Online Class

PSc 524 Management SkillsM at 4:10 p.m. in LA 344

Office Hours



Introduction to Comparative Government (PSc 120)

Politics of Africa (PSc 326)

Public Administration (PSc 361)

Politics of Global Migration (PSc 431)

Development Administration (PSc 463)

Management Skills (PSc 524)



Professor, Comparative Government and Politics and Public Administration
Ph.D., University of Colorado, 1973

Research Interests

My current research is focused on transnational competence in health-care encounters, on professional education for transnational careers, and on the role of civil-society actors in mitigating greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.

The outcomes of transnational physician-patient consultations are critical for individual and public health in our era of mobility upheaval. As a Fulbright New Century Scholar in the inaugural Challenges to Health in a Borderless World program (2001-2002), my research project explored the role of transnational competence in medical encounters among clinicians and asylum seekers/resettled migrants in Finland. This project grew out of collaborative development with James N. Rosenau on the transnational competence framework. The framework was published in 2002 as a “Visions of International Studies” piece in International Studies Perspectives. Scholarly publications in the area of global health and forced migration include an inaugural-issue article on “Global Politics and Multinational Health-care Encounters: Assessing the Role of Transnational Competence,” EcoHealth (2004);

“Medical Encounters in Finnish Reception Centres: Asylum-seeker and Clinician Perspectives,” Journal of Refugee Studies (2005);

“Clinician/Patient Connections in Ethnoculturally Nonconcordant Encounters with Political-asylum Seekers: A Comparison of Physicians and Nurses,” Journal of Transcultural Nursing (2005); and “Transnational Migration, State Policy, and Local Clinician Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Resettled Migrants: Comparative Perspectives on Reception-centre and Community Health-care Practice in Finland,” Global Social Policy (2006);

“Globalization, Migration Health, and Educational Preparation for Transnational Medical Encounters,” Globalization and Health 2 (30 January 2006):1-43;

“Clinician/Patient Connections in Ethnoculturally Nonconcordant Encounters with Political-asylum Seekers: A Comparison of Physicians and Nurses.” Journal of Transcultural Nursing 16 (Oct. 2005):298-311;

“Health-care Outcomes in Ethnoculturally Discordant Medical Encounters: The Role of Physician Transnational Competence in Consultations with Asylum Seekers,” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 8 (April 2006):137-147;

“Medical Education for a Changing World: Moving Beyond Cultural Competence into Transnational Competence.” Academic Medicine 81 (June 2006):548-556 (co-authored with Herbert Swick); and “Migration and Transnational Health Care: Connecting Finland and Somaliland,” Siirtolaisuus – Migration 34, No. 1 (2007):2-9 ( co-authored with Marja Tiilikainen). In summer 2004, I co-directed an Arnold P. Gold Foundation-supported workshop for faculty and administrators from four U.S. medical schools on ways to pilot the transnational-competence framework in the clinical curriculum. The Trillium Health Centre in Toronto invited a presentation at their September 2005 Back-to-School Conference on “Transnational Competence: What is it and Why is it Needed at Trillium?” and, in November 2005, I participated in a Continuing Medical Education workshop on “Moving Beyond Cultural Competence: Transnational Competence in Undergraduate Medical Education” at the annual Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) conference. In spring 2006, I lectured and consulted with scholars and students in five cities across Finland through the Fulbright senior specialist program. The presentations delivered to Finnish physicians, nurses, scholars, students, local government officials, social workers, and hospital staff build upon the results of my 2002 Fulbright New Century Scholar research project on migrant-health care in Finland and on my recent work on transnational competence in medical education. Presentation topics included “Migrant-friendly Health Care for Somalis in Finland,” “Transnational Competence and Migrant
Health Care: Promoting Equity in Health,” “Patient-health-care Outcomes Research: Contributions of and Challenges to the Intersubjective-assessments Approach,” “Transnational Competence and Citizenship in an Era of Global Mobility,” “Improving Transnational Health-care Encounters and Outcomes in Finland,” “Transnational-competence Education for Physicians, Nurses, and Public-health Specialists,” and (at Savonia Polytechnic’s International Day celebration) “Global Health, Human Rights, and Transnational Competence.” Sponsors for these talks included the universities of Helsinki, Tampere, Joensuu, Kuopio, and the Savonia Polytechnic; the Finland-Somali Association and the Family Federation; the International Organization for Migration and the Finnish Observatory on Discrimination; the Society for the Study of Ethnic Relations and International Migration; the Health Services Research Programme of the Academy of Finland; the TYKS Hospital in Turku; and Kuopio University Hospital and Kuopio Social and Health Care Center. The principal host for these late March/early April engagements is the Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki. See cv and publication list.

In our globally networked society, professionally trained faculty, students, and administrative staff in all fields of preparation – whether located abroad or at home -- need to move beyond international awareness into transnational competence (TC). Developing transnational competence is a life-long-learning challenge. The role of higher-education institutions is to inspire student commitment to this undertaking through cross-disciplinary, issue-informed, and multi-regional diversity offerings in general education, through language preparation, and through area studies as well as by embedding TC preparation in contemporary professional education. With support from a spring 2008 sabbatical, I intend to continue to develop the TC framework. In this connection, Professor Rosenau and I will be co-authoring a book on applications of TC in advanced professional curriculums. A book that specifically demonstrates the utility of transnational competence in the context of the helping professions is likely to be of value in preparing career-oriented students who increasingly appreciate that they must work cooperatively with persons of diverse backgrounds both domestically and abroad, for employers that are buffeted by transnational influences, and for educational visionaries in the United States and other countries.

Together, the United States and China are responsible for nearly 40 per cent of total annual greenhouse-gas emissions. The central role of the PRC and the USA in global-warming trajectories coupled with political paralysis at the national level mean that prospects for effective actions that will address the Twenty-first Century interdependence challenge of climatic stabilization rest on nongovernmental actions and collaborations. My work devotes special attention to the strategic importance of Chinese overseas, particularly Chinese Americans, in transnational projects and in changes affecting consumption values and behavior that promise to reduce GHG emissions. Publications include “Sustainable-development Frontiers and Divides: Transnational Actors and U.S./China Greenhouse-gas Emissions” International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology (2004);

“Global Climatic Stabilization: Challenges for Public Administration in China and the United States,” in Handbook of Globalization, Governance, and Public Administration, edited by Ali Farazmand and Jack Pinkowski (Taylor & Francis, forthcoming);

“Global Health and Human Rights: Challenges for Public-health Administrators in an Era of Interdependence and Mobility.” in Handbook of Globalization, Governance, and Public Administration, edited by Ali Farazmand and Jack Pinkowski (Taylor & Francis, forthcoming);

“Fitting a Vital Linkage Piece into the Multidimensional Emissions-reduction Puzzle: Nongovernmental Pathways to Consumption Changes in the PRC and the
USA.” Climatic Change 77 (2006):377-413;

“Underneath Kyoto: Emerging Subnational Government Initiatives and Incipient Issue-bundling Opportunities in China and the United States.” Global Environmental Politics (forthcoming first 2008 issue); and “Back to the Future: Bicycles, Human Health, and GHG Emissions in China.” China Environment Series 9 (forthcoming 2007). See publication list.

Selected Publications


New Century Scholar

UM Distinguished Scholar


Professional Experience

Academic Coordinator, International Development Studies
Professor Peter Koehn currently serves as academic coordinator for the University’s minor in International Development Studies. Economics Professor Jeff Bookwalter will fill in as academic coordinator while he is on leave during the 2007/08 academic year.