Advice on choosing a grad program
October 29, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

My friend is interested in graduate programs on humanitarian work and development related issues. What schools have good programs in these areas? She is interested open to studying anywhere, but currently resident in the US/East Coast.

(I'm asking this question on behalf of my friend)

I'm looking for recommendations on graduate programs to apply to. My aim, through my studies, is to gain a better understanding of design thinking and systems thinking, coupled with a history in humanitarian efforts. I liken this to IDEO/Frog Design meets Partners in Health/Oxfam/UN.

I'm keen to explore the design of the systems that much of the world depends on to live. My thought is many of the systems - disaster relief strategies, refugee relief, education, international aid - are designed for efficiencies. Yet, in their systems' approach, they sometimes lose their focus on how to design structures for the intended beneficiaries - usually a person or community.

Ideally I'd like to find a program where studies are combined with project work with a variety of communities. A program that combines studies in two or more countries would be ideal. I have been looking into programs that fall under Urban Planning and Business schools. Recommendations on other academic areas are most welcome.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth to Education (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The UK > US for development studies MA programs. The academic tradition is already there. There are far fewer development studies MAs in the U.S.

But all-in-all, friend needs to think about if it is worthwhile to pay ~$40k, lose 1-2 years of work (and retirement savings and all that) to learn this.
posted by k8t at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's a pretty broad platform, but I would probably steer you toward something like SIPA.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:21 PM on October 29, 2012

Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts) has the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, which offers PhD programs and several Masters programs. Of interest to your friend might be their programs on Sustainable International Development and Conflict and Coexistence.
posted by skye.dancer at 2:03 PM on October 29, 2012

Clark University's Master's program in International Development, Community, and Environment is a good Master's program in Worcester, MA. Also, there's a big focus on International Development within many Geography programs in the US, including Clark University's Graduate School of Geography . [Full disclosure: I did my PhD in Geography at Clark University.]
posted by stinker at 2:42 PM on October 29, 2012

JHU's SAIS, in DC, has a strong international development program.
posted by emkelley at 3:11 PM on October 29, 2012

There are indeed plenty of relevant courses in the UK; the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester may offer courses of the very practically-focused sort you're looking for. In Oxford they teach a range of suitable courses at Queen Elizabeth House. At Sussex there's the Institute for Development Studies. These names come to mind because I know a couple of people who teach at the first two places (though only as professional acquaintances) and have a friend at the third (but no professional links with it)--there are definitely others, too. Whether any of these involve study in two countries, though, rather than study in one and fieldwork in another, I don't know.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:36 PM on October 29, 2012

Has your friend plugged her interest areas into google to see who's doing work she's interested in? Because I don't know if I've got the right terms, but a search on "systems thinking complexity international development client-focus" is turning up academics at institutions in South Africa, Canada, and Australia that probably don't have as high a profile as the ones listed above, but working with someone who understands where she's trying to get with her degree might be very helpful.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:57 PM on October 29, 2012

I went to the Fletcher School, which does offer concentrations in a Humanitarian Studies and Development Economics. I also have several friends who did joint degrees between Fletcher and Tufts' urban planning school, which seems like kind of a neat combination. Most of the other major international relations programs (SAIS and SIPA as mentioned above, similar programs at Princeton, Georgetown, GW, American, etc.) are going to be strong on international development coursework, but from what I know about them, most of them aren't going to be quite as hands-on than what you're looking for - they may support a relevant internship, but it probably won't be that integrated into the coursework, and multi-country studying seems unlikely. Without knowing anything at all about the specific Clark program mentioned above, the general philosophy of the school seems like it might be inclined more toward that sort of thing? (Plus they've got Cynthia Enloe - love). It might help, as EvaDestruction suggested, to find some particular scholars doing work related to your interests and getting in touch with them. Not every traditional development program is going to have quite what you're looking for.
posted by naoko at 10:26 PM on October 31, 2012

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