Make a difference while you learn

Here at global development, we work to build a more sustainable, equitable world - at home and abroad. Our students are at the forefront of those efforts through their involvement on campus, in the local community and across the globe. Students in Global Development are encouraged to make the world their classroom and engage with the community.

What is engaged learning?


Real-world environment


In and with communities

Anchored in reflection

Finding our purpose

Breadth & depth of engaged learning in Global Development

Throughout the Global Development major, students have opportunities to engage with a variety of communities in structured, faculty-led settings as well as to carve out their own path for engaging with and positively impacting communities in more independent, self-directed ways.

The most structured of the engaged learning opportunities offered by the department, many GDEV courses incorporate community engagement, ranging from case studies that draw on community-level data or issues defined by community members, to collaboration with community stakeholders within the context of the course itself, to site visits to community spaces that provide context to real-world problems. We encourage students to enroll in an engaged course in their first year, to best understand what engaged-learning-in-action looks like, and how to best incorporate breadth and depth of engagement across a four-year plan. 

Explore engaged courses across Cornell.

Some fall and spring semester courses that are based on-campus at Cornell have short-term field study opportunities attached to them in the off-term (Winter or Summer). In these instances, students typically travel with a faculty member to a community field site, where they can contextualize their classroom-based learning through dialogue and collaboration with community members.

Faculty in the department are dedicated to providing each GDEV major with a mentored research experience. These can range from working in a lab to data collection in a field site. Each experience offers students the opportunity to address a specific problem of public concern, and integrate the research experience with educational content through the guidance of a faculty member.

While not all study abroad programs are ‘engaged,’ there are many opportunities for study at a partner university or study abroad center that incorporate meaningful collaboration with host communities and opportunities for reflection on that work. Students are encouraged to consider semester-long study abroad options that incorporate an internship in order to meet the department’s internship requirement. Studying abroad directly preceding the required 8+ week internship can facilitate immersion in the language and culture of the internship site for an extended period of time. This is a preferred option if available.  

Explore study abroad opportunities.

Typically undertaken in the summer between a student's second and third, or third and fourth years in the program, students are required to apply their global development training in an off-campus, project-based context. In some cases, students choose to incorporate their internship as part of a semester-long study abroad experience. While many students complete their internships with local, national, and international development organizations, agencies, and businesses, others work with faculty to conduct field-based research.

From Ithaca to India: Students unite to learn from experts in agricultural development

Engage with real world challenges

Students in Global Development step out of the classroom and into local communities. Hear the stories of students who have travelled the world to apply their education.

Costa Rica, Malaysia & Malawi

Alice Sullivan ’22: an advocating for equity in global supply chains

With a passion for sustainability and social equity, Alice Sullivan ’22 is blazing a path towards a better world. Guided by Engaged Learning experiences in Global Development, she has engaged in the struggle for farmworkers’ rights in New York State and the restoration of Malaysian rainforests with indigenous place-based knowledge. As an incoming supply chain analyst for a global company, she is using her Cornell CALS education to prioritize climate justice and sustainability in the development of products used by billions.


Veronika Vogel '21: The future of sustainable agriculture

Veronika's studies on rural development took her to intern in Ecuador with the International Potato Center where she worked with Andean communities to understand their challenges, preferences and impact on sustainable agriculture. 


Ben Fields ’20: Big heart, bigger hopes to change the world

"My experiences abroad were all eye-opening experiences that pushed the boundaries of what I considered possible in terms of knowledge and experiences."


Keelin Kelly '20: Tackling climate change alongside farmers in Armenia

"My interactions with Armenian farmers reminded me of why I love research. Making connections with people, sharing resources and knowledge and working together towards a better solution is truly irreplaceable."

Costa Rica

Mary Beth Dale '21: Creating sustainable paths forward

"One of the most lasting impacts of this experience was my newfound ability to be a more sustainable individual. At the center, we worked hard to mitigate our footprint on the world."

Woman holds basket on coffee farm
Group of farmers conducts dialogue
Ben Fields_Malaysia
A woman in a red jacket smiles as she is photographed in front of water
A student on a bridge in a forest