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Global Development Studies


The Global Studies Development program asks students to think about what “development” means in social, political, and economic terms, both in the United States and around the globe.  Our program is engaged in building a curriculum for the 21st century, an interdisciplinary intellectual experience bringing together perspectives on the theory and process of development from anthropology, the arts, economics, environmental science, history, philosophy, politics, religious studies, sociology, and other relevant disciplines.  We are particularly interested in expanding opportunities for experiential learning within a liberal arts framework. 


The GDS core curriculum includes a two-semester seminar analyzing theories of global development illustrated by relevant case studies, a course in methods and ethics associated with community engagement, and a fourth-year seminar, during which students will write a research paper on a topic of their choice. Beyond the core courses, students choose electives and language study based on their particular interests.


The GDS major began as an initiative of a UVA student group, the Global Development Organization (GDO). Beginning in 2006, GDO students researched similar programs at other universities, created a curricular plan, and recruited a faculty advisory group. The major was approved by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in May 2009 and the first group of GDS students began their studies in the fall 2009 semester, graduating in 2011.  

In 2014, GDS became part of a larger Global Studies major. GDS students now major in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Development Studies.  

GDS has been generously supported by students and their families and other University donors interested in developing global curricular opportunities for our students. 


Students interested in Global Development Studies see themselves carrying their intellectual interests beyond their undergraduate years, working on the central social and political issues of their times in a variety of institutional settings, in government agencies, the nonprofit sector, and private enterprise.  We actively engage our alumni to help us shape the program and to provide advice and networking opportunities to current students.  

Combining theory, methods, case studies, and experiential learning, the GDS major will equip students to be constructively critical of development projects from a variety of perspectives. We will ask both what kinds of development projects work, and what kinds of understandings people in different places have about development in relation to their own needs and aspirations. 

Contact the Director

Global Development Studies (GDS) Track Director; Associate Professor, Global Studies