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Interdisciplinary minor explores global development

Mel Flanagan | Thursday, February 21, 2013

 

The University’s International Development Studies (IDS) minor not only affords students the opportunity to study the challenges facing developing countries in the classroom, but it also allows them to go out and research these difficulties for themselves.

Senior IDS minor Kristen Kelly spent the past two summers in rural Uganda conducting research on participatory development initiatives and the importance of women in these community-driven projects.

“Issues, challenges and ideas regarding the struggle for this development have wholly and completely enthralled me,” Kelly said. “I love anything and everything related to development.”

The Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, which is housed at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, created the IDS minor four years ago.

Economics and political science professor Amitava Dutt, who is also a fellow at the Kellogg Institute, said the minor requires five courses, including a gateway and a capstone course and a summer research project.

“The main focus is to allow students to develop a deep understanding of international development by taking courses from a range of disciplines, given the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, conduct field research in a developing country and write an essay related to their research,” he said.

The interdisciplinary nature of the minor attracts students from a wide variety of backgrounds, Dutt said, such as the social sciences, philosophy, business and history.

Part of the program’s popularity stems from its duality as a field of study that is both practically important and intellectually interesting, he said.

“Students in the program share, with the faculty, a deep commitment to the issue of development in the poorer countries of the world, arguably one of the most important and difficult problems faced by the world today,” Dutt said.

Kelly, one such student committed to alleviating these issues, said she decided to minor in IDS as soon as she learned of the program.

“The ability to grapple with some of the most pressing development challenges of our time, for some of the most vulnerable people in the world, with some of the most passionate students and professors on campus was an opportunity I could not miss out on,” she said.

In addition to her two summers in Uganda, Kelly said the minor has provided her with a wide range of opportunities at Notre Dame.

“I have focused my entire course of study, as well as the extracurricular activities I participate in here at Notre Dame, around issues of international development,” she said. “I have also presented my research at a couple of different conferences, allowing me to share my passion and research findings with other interested students and academic professionals.”

As a senior, Kelly said her background in IDS is instrumental in pursuing her chosen career path. She hopes to join an organization that is committed to fighting for human rights of the most vulnerable world citizens.

In particular, Kelly said she wishes to continue working on development problems both in the United States and in the countries that require assistance.

“As the IDS minor has taught me, we can’t hope to fix any of the world’s problems by sitting in a classroom or office reading about them,” she said. “If we hope to make any difference at all, we must engage in meaningful conversations with the people afflicted by these development challenges.”