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By Matt Hayes
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A new undergraduate major in global development opens pathways for Cornell students to engage in critical scholarship and global field training while exploring some of the most urgent challenges facing people and the planet.

Starting in fall 2022, the major will emphasize field experiences and engaged learning as students study complex issues related to socioeconomic development, agriculture and food systems, and environmental sustainability. Students will receive comprehensive training in the key ideas, issues and debates central to development while being prepared to advance equitable and sustainable solutions to global challenges.

All global development majors will complete eight core courses offering a holistic perspective of global development. Students then specialize in one of three thematic concentrations of their choosing: social and economic development; food and agricultural systems; or environment and development.

Based in the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the major’s multidisciplinary nature draws from faculty expertise in areas including sociology, food security, community development, climate change, environmental justice, nutrition and economics.

As part of the major, students are required to participate in an eight-week field-based learning experience. Experiential learning opportunities will be available through a diverse network of global partners on six continents to provide field training.

The program will accept applications starting this year in anticipation of the first matriculated class in fall 2022.

“The global development major is designed for students who are passionate about understanding and engaging with interconnected global challenges,” said Lori Leonard, chair and professor of global development.

“We are committed to education with impact, and our new major fuses critical theory and real-life field practice to prepare students for next-generation leadership in the global arenas that are central to the well-being of people and the environment.”

The major goes beyond a typical degree in international development – the global focus encourages students to understand and advance equitable solutions to issues not only on an international scale, but also in New York state and across the United States. The engaged field training places students directly in communities for real-life learning.

“Global problems are becoming more interconnected every day,” said Sarah Giroux, director of undergraduate studies and professor of the practice in the Department of Global Development. “Global development majors will be exposed to profound and intricate relationships on major issues – everything from food justice in New York City to food security in sub-Saharan Africa; climate change risks in New York state to environmental crises across Asia; inequalities in U.S. communities to social movements in Latin America and beyond.”

Giroux added: “This bold new approach to development studies encourages students to confront the world’s most significant challenges through cutting-edge strategies, deep analyses and collaborative partnerships.”

Rising juniors and seniors will continue in the existing international agriculture and rural development (IARD) and development sociology majors, while rising sophomores will have the choice to remain in their current majors or switch to global development when the program officially launches. Development sociology and IARD majors will no longer be offered to new students starting in fall 2022; the final classes of those two majors are expected to graduate in 2025.

“The new global development major draws out the best elements of the long-running programs while innovating in development training and improving the student learning experience,” Giroux said. “We are excited to engage students in critical theory and hands-on learning experiences with real world issues and communities.”

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Thematic concentrations

Social & Economic Development

The social and economic development concentration provides students an opportunity to explore global development issues, theories, policies and practices in greater depth using the theories, approaches and analytical frameworks of multiple social science disciplines. Students can develop individualized pathways through the concentration in consultation with their academic advisors. In addition, this concentration provides students planning to pursue graduate study in economics or sociology an opportunity to take advanced undergraduate coursework in those disciplines.

Agriculture & Food Systems

This concentration is built on an integrative systems perspective that melds the biophysical, socio-economic and nutritional sciences towards the sustainable development of inclusive agriculture and food systems. Students will learn about how food is produced, significant trends and drivers of change and how to assess systems from an interdisciplinary perspective across cultural contexts. Critical contemporary debates about the future of food systems, such as sustainability, social justice and resilience, will be examined from various perspectives. Students will also gain foundational skills in agriculture and food systems, including analytics for decision-making, monitoring and evaluation and project management. This major is designed to support a range of career paths, including development practice, food policy, agricultural extension and academia.

Environment & Development

Students in this concentration will build their capacity to analyze how development affects the environment and how the environment shapes development. Through a range of courses, students will explore how society makes difficult choices concerning the control, use and long-term management of land, freshwater and marine resources. In engaging with these ethically complex and politically laden issues, students also examine how these topics are inextricably intertwined with issues of global food security and health, culture and identity, livelihood security and intergenerational environmental justice.

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