Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Apply Now to SIS
SIS Top 10 Ranking Infographic


Candace Gibson
Program Coordinator
(202) 885-1657

MA International Development Core Courses

SIS-637: International Development

Alternative theories and definitions of development as expressed in the major international institutions (aid agencies, cartels, multinational corporations) concerned with the transfer of resources. Considers the problems of the "change-agent" in working for development and examines the major development issues.

SIS-636: Micropolitics of Development

This course introduces key social categories that affect politics and development at the local/micro/project level. These include class; status (including the operation of elites; bureaucrats, and development professionals); ethnicity; caste; gender, and differences based on culture and religion; and abilities/disabilities. It also emphasizes that these categories are fluid; time- and location-specific; and open to contestation. From an applied perspective; the material in this course provides a conceptual background for; and useful pointers towards; competent and informed social assessment. Reference is made to a number of practical tools including gender analysis; stakeholder analysis; social (impact) assessment; and participatory rural appraisal. The course also provides an opportunity to observe a number of case studies.

ECON-603: Intro to Economic Theory

An introduction to the major analytical tools of micro and macro economics, including models of employment, inflation, economic growth and development, international trade, the derivation of supply and demand, the operation of firms under perfect and imperfect competition, and the role of government in society.

ECON-661: Survey of Economic Development OR SIS-635: Intro to Economic Development

Why are some countries rich and some countries poor? This course introduces students to the leading issues in development economics at both the macro and micro levels. It weaves a historical overview of the last century with economic theory and empirical investigations, beginning with a discussion of developing country macro growth policies, the role of the state, debt, and the recent liberalization of foreign trade and financial policies. The focus then shifts to more micro-development topics such as poverty, inequality, education, health, gender, corruption, and crime. Prerequisite: ECON-603.


Choose one of the following:

SIS-624: Children in International Development

This course focuses on the predicament of children in various situations around the world in which they are exploited, abused, or disadvantaged. Includes street children, child soldiers, child labor, AIDS orphans, handicapped children, and trafficking in children. Constructive alternatives to deal with these problems are also discussed.

SIS-635: Population, Migration and Development

This course provides the necessary analytical skills to understand contemporary population dynamics, especially in the developing world. It examines fundamental components of current trends in population dynamics; theoretical bases of the population debate; fertility issues; the relationship among population, development, and human migration flows; and population policy and sustainable development in developing and developed countries.

SIS-635: Health in Developing Countries

This course is based on the assumption that health is a necessary component of development. Students will explore current health problems in developing countries, how they are drawn along intersecting social categories of geography, gender, race, and class, and innovative solutions to these health inequalities. The course will take a public health approach to global health problems, which involves reducing preventable morbidity and premature mortality and promoting a higher quality of life in populations and groups through health intervention. Emphasis is placed on primary prevention, rather than secondary or tertiary prevention. Students will also be exposed to a variety of public health approaches to interventions in developing countries. Although biological, physical, and medical care factors contribute to population health outcomes, this course emphasizes the relationship of behaviors as well as social and political structures to health outcomes

SIS-635: Rural Development

This course provides a background to the problems of rural development theory and practice today. Readings explore specific rural dynamics and present the complexities of culture, environment, production, and social change in different settings. The course looks at how rural development has re-emerged as a focal point for development organizations and assesses whether much has changed.

SIS-635: Urban Development

This course focuses on how to make cities function better, rather than on how to reverse urban growth. The first part of the course reviews the literature on the origins and growth of cities and identifies contrasting views as to the role of cities in national development. The second part of the course takes up six major issues: emergency approaches to urban governance and politics; local economic development (LED) strategies; employment generation and entrepreneurship; slum and squatter upgrading; planning efficient and affordable water and sanitation systems; and urban environmental management with a focus on waste management, air pollution, and innovative transport planning.

SIS-635: Community Development

This course provides an overview of issues that affect development practices at the grassroots level. Its overall focus is based on a people-to-people approach. Instead of treating communities as target populations and passive beneficiaries in need of external help, it recognizes peoples' own initiatives, skills, and particular histories. Rather than a technical package for dealing with community development issues, the course nurtures analytic skills and learning abilities that can help would-be practitioners reach a critical, empathetic, and practical discernment of the problems faced in the field. The issues covered by the course enhance awareness of multiple aspects and levels of analysis involved in community development.

SIS-635 Social Accountability

This course addresses the challenges involved in promoting pro-poor institutional change. Despite the proliferation of elected governments around the world, accountable governance remains elusive for many. Governance refers to how public, civil society and private sector organizations make decisions, while accountability refers to the processes through which actors are held responsible for their decisions. The study of the relationship between governance and accountability sheds light on the classic question of "who gets what, how and why." This course focuses on institutional innovations that attempt to make development policy more publicly accountable, across a wide range of countries, actors, issue areas and institutions. The course analyzes who is, or should be, accountable to whom, as clients become citizens and bureaucrats become public servants. Cases include both state and society-led change initiatives, including experiences with state-society partnerships. The course's core concepts draw from interdisciplinary institutional analysis, and research strategies studied include the comparative method, institutional ethnography and semi-experimental approaches.

SIS-635 Development Policies

This course is divided into three modules: in the first module, students learn to understand policies as tools of governance at different levels of political systems. Different purposes that policies are supposed to address are contextualized, and how public spending and taxation, public management, and public information can be used to achieve specific objectives is examined. In the second module, the class studies rational, institutional, and process models of policy formulation in order to comprehend current debates on how policies emerge and to identify opportunities for influence and change, and also investigates specific policies and their economic, social, political and environmental effects in developing countries. In the third module, which is based on recent scholarship published in academic journals, the focus is on analyzing successful policies in and for developing countries in order to understand the concrete processes, approaches, and conditions under which these policies have produced their intended outcomes. Prerequisite: SIS-637.

SIS-649 Environment and Development

An overview of the multidisciplinary field of environment and development. This course focuses on debates concerning various human-made or development-related root causes of natural-resource degradation in the Third World. Special attention is paid to the relationship between the rural poor and the environment. The course also looks critically at recent innovative policy responses attempting to link environment and development. Students learn "root-cause analysis" to assess both the debates and the policy responses.

Standing substitution approvals for "Choose One" courses:

SIS-635: Introduction to Global Health

This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to the emerging field of global health, drawing on literature from the disciplines of public health, epidemiology, nutrition, anthropology, history, and development studies. Students gain an understanding of the scientific concepts, major debates, and recent innovations in global health, as well as gain a critical perspective on popular global health campaigns and global health disparities. 

SIS-635: Program Planning in Global Health

This course is designed to introduce development practitioners to the field of global public health. The course has two major aims. The first aim is to provide students with a survey of the major global health problems and solutions. The second aim is have students gain skills for addressing a global health problem at a micro level through intervention planning. Program planning is a necessary skill for any practitioner working with communities or organizations, and for those who want to have an understanding of how to evaluate programs from a policy perspective. Emphasis is placed on writing in a manner acceptable for grant proposals, an essential skill. Several skills are taught during course sessions, including: conducting a literature search on determinants of health for an identified target population; reviewing the evidence base for effective programs; designing a program using a planning model; creating SMART measurable objectives to evaluate your program; and developing a program budget.

SIS-635: Globalization, Human Trafficking, and Development

This course helps students gain a better understanding of contemporary human trafficking and modern day slavery. The main focus is on cross-border trafficking and includes trafficking for the purpose of exploitation and other slave-like practices, including forced labor, prostitution, transnational marriage, and trafficking for organ harvest. The class discusses the root causes of human trafficking in a globalized world, which includes an analysis of the complex North/South issues of supply and demand, the links to global inequality and poverty, irregular migration, conflict, and refugee issues. Components of anti-trafficking frameworks adopted by the UN, regional bodies, and states are identified and the challenges in combatting human trafficking in a global society are evaluated.  

SIS-647: Governance, Democracy, and Development

Reviews classical and contemporary perspectives on democratic transition, consolidation, and the development of good governance, with special attention to the role of foreign aid. Analyses the role of civil society and social capital, considers the design of institutions such as constitutions, electoral systems, parties, and agencies of restraint, and also examines accountability, rule of law, and corruption.

SIS-648: Women and Development

Provides the student with a critical evaluation of the main theoretical structures of feminism as applied to an analysis of the multiple facets of women's lives in the developing world. Explores the diverse socioeconomic, cultural, religious and political factors that affect women including the impact of development itself.

Skills Institutes

Students in classroom.

Intensive three-day courses, training students in state-of-the-art international development techniques

find out more

Tinker-Walker Fellowship

Acacia Tree

 Through the Irene Tinker-Millidge Walker Fellowship, students can receive financial support to offset the costs of including overseas field experience in their research, internship, or practicum.

Find out more