Global Connections

Online and in Person

Great universities constantly search for solutions to fundamental global challenges. Within the social sciences, investigators are moving away from the abstract theorizing that previously dominated scholarship toward a hands-on approach involving field experimentation and interdisciplinary problem solving. UC San Diego is at the forefront of this movement.

A groundbreaking policy research lab, launched at UC San Diego in 2013, combines advanced social science methods with the power of information technology to develop policies and programs that alleviate poverty; promote health, welfare, and security; and enhance accountability. The multidisciplinary Policy Design and Evaluation Lab (PDEL), located at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), is headed by faculty from IR/PS and the Division of Social Sciences.

A $1.5 million US Agency for International Development grant awarded to PDEL is earmarked for developing information and communication technology solutions to societal problems. The research lab deploys UC San Diego's unique collection of intellectual talents in applied social science, information and communication technology, health sciences, and environmental sciences, as well as the collaborative strengths of other institutions to combat global poverty. Faculty and students from seven US and foreign research universities, including UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, are pooling their ingenuity.

The lab has created a comprehensive research program to improve delivery of basic services. In Kenya, for example, a multidisciplinary PDEL team utilized mobile phones to monitor election fraud in the March 2013 election.

Connecting people who are disconnected is the goal of KA Lite, a free web app developed by UC San Diego social sciences students. Project volunteers aim to bring free online education to the 65 percent of the world that currently lacks Internet access.

Participating students have made online videos and exercises of the Khan Academy available offline, established the nonprofit Foundation for Learning Equality, and plan to provide additional educational content.

Connection is also the focus of VirBELA, a business simulation platform that garnered start-up funding from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Housed at the Rady School of Management, VirBELA is a 3-D virtual world created to increase international collaboration among business students and empower them to work on multinational teams. Rady launched VirBELA in 2013 with a Global Business Simulation Competition and a $50,000 prize for the winning team. GMAC’s $7.1 million implementation award went to VirBELA in collaboration with the Rady School and Rembisz & Associates.