About the Think-A-Thon

Join the USC Global Policy Institute’s 2023 Think-a-Thon. This year, our theme is “Navigating Refugee Crises in the 21st Century.” Our problem-based learning competition will focus on how the mass migration of refugees has affected lives, nations, and global affairs.

From national security to human security, climate change to racial and gender disparities, and NGOs to activists, we are looking to examine the myriad factors that shape the response to humanitarian crises and the refugee experience.

What is a “Think-a-Thon?”

In this case competition, teams of students will work together to create innovative solutions to tackle refugee crises worldwide.

These challenges can be anything from immigration reform to refugee camps.

In teams, your job will be to select a problem and develop a solution that could be implemented to alleviate a global ill — however broad or narrow you seek to define the issue and its solutions. 

The case competition will take place on Saturday, April 8 in TCC 227, where students will work throughout the day to pitch their solutions to a panel of judges. 1st place, 2nd place and 3rd place winners may be eligible to receive a cash award up to $500.

As part of our competition, we will focus on a series of sub-topics including:

  • The role of climate change in refugee crises
  • Global health and refugees
  • National security and refugees
  • Racial and gender disparities within treatment of refugees
  • The process of claiming asylum in the United States and other wealthy countries
  • Difficulties of assimilation/integration of refugees

2023 Registration

Competition Timeline

Wednesday, February 15

Competition sign-ups open

Wednesday, April 7

Competition sign-ups close

Saturday, April 8

Competition begins at 9am in TCC 227

Event Series

February 22
Gender and Racial Disparities in Global Displacement Crises RSVP Here

March 27
The Role of International Organizations in Refugee Crises

March 30
Navigating the US Refugee Experience

Keynote Speaker

Roberto A. Suro

Professor of Journalism and Public Policy
University of Southern California

Roberto Suro holds a joint appointment as a professor at USC Annenberg and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. He was awarded a Berlin Prize for his scholarship on immigration and was the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at the American Academy in Berlin in the Fall of 2019. He was a recipient of a 2018 USC Mentoring Award for his work with undergraduate students.

Prior to joining the USC faculty in August 2007, he was director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington D.C. that he founded in 2001, and in 2004 he was part of the management team that launched the Pew Research Center.

Suro’s journalistic career began in 1974 at the City News Bureau of Chicago, and after tours at the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune he joined TIME Magazine, where he worked as a correspondent in the Chicago, Washington, Beirut and Rome bureaus. In 1985 he started at The New York Times with postings as bureau chief in Rome and Houston. After a year as an Alicia Patterson Fellow, Suro was hired at The Washington Post as a staff writer on the national desk, eventually covering a variety of beats including the Justice Department and the Pentagon and serving as deputy national editor.

Background Guides

GPI has published a series of background guides to assist PBL participants in researching the topic of migration for their projects. We invite you to explore these guides to learn more about the theme of the 2023 competition.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I form a team?

You are welcome to form a team with 3 to 4 other students. If you are interested in forming a team but are not sure with whom, we encourage you to attend GPI’s event series with our panelists and experts to meet like-minded USC students.

Can I join without a team?

Yes, you can join the competition individually and GPI will place you on a team looking for more members.

What is problem-based learning?

Problem-based learning is a learning challenge that encourages students to problem solve an issue by tackling it head-on in groups. While the technique was initially developed for use at medical schools, it has since been recognized by the academic community as a valuable way to inspire learning across disciplines.

Thus, we welcome USC students from any academic background to participate in the GPI Think-a-Thon and share their expertise to problem-solve together on this complex global challenge. 

What exactly does the PBL process entail?

The PBL process is inherently group-centric, so working well in groups and leveraging each member’s strengths will be crucial. There are several ways you can do this, such as splitting up work according to each member’s strengths, having each member handle a different perspective on the issue, or another creative idea that you come up with.  

Generally, the steps in problem-based learning consist of the following: 

  1. Examine and define the problem
  2. Explore what you already know about underlying issues related to the problem
  3. Determine what you need to learn and where you can acquire the information and tools necessary to solve the problem
  4. Evaluate possible ways to solve the problem
  5. Solve the problem
  6. Report on your findings
Why should I sign up? What skills will I gain?

The 2023 Think-a-thon will be a unique opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and network with innovative professionals working in the migration arena. Furthermore, you will be able to develop the following skills: working in teams, managing projects and holding leadership roles, oral and written communication, self-awareness and evaluation of group processes, working independently, critical thinking and analysis, explaining concepts, self-directed learning, applying course content to real-world examples, researching and information literacy, and problem-solving across disciplines.

We hope you find this process to be rewarding as you practice the art of thinking creatively with other like-minded teammates. 

Is there a prize for the winning team?

Yes, the 1st place team is eligible to win $500, spit evenly among members. 2nd and 3rd place teams are also eligible to win smaller cash prizes.