Gender equality is a hot topic in the development sector, but opportunities to learn about complexities within gender and development are hard to come by in higher education. A fresh take on a course in Cornell Global Development seeks to change just that.
Gender and Development is a cutting-edge course that deconstructs differing and competing definitions of empowerment and gender inequality present in development practices. This semester, the course was co-taught by Aubryn Sidle, Ph.D. ‘22, lecturer in Global Development, and Kendra Kintzi, Ph.D. candidate in Development Studies.
Both Sidle and Kintzi explain how their respective professional experiences have driven their passion for teaching gender and development. Sidle, a recent graduate from Cornell’s Ph.D. program in Development Studies, specializes in education and adolescent girls’ empowerment.
Sidle spent the early part of her career working in the NGO sector. There she quickly realized that the dominant discourse policymakers used in gender development emphasized economic motivations. She also noticed that as the movement for empowerment was garnering momentum through prominent figures like Michelle Obama, for example, women were still some of the only ones truly interested and participating in this conversation. Sidle then recognized that more people must talk.
“Gender inequality has many faces, still alive and well everywhere in our world. It struck me as a young person; I was unprepared for that,” says Sidle.
“As a teacher, I am driven to help students understand and reverse a world of gender inequality, and one of the best tools to support that work is intersectional and decolonial feminist theory.”
Kintzi, currently in the final year of her Ph.D. program, credits her interest in this discipline to her graduate fieldwork in Jordan. Through a partnership with a community-based refugee assistance center, she taught courses to female refugees. The experience reshaped how she views the classroom and women’s education.
“I am passionate about creating spaces for marginalized voices in mainstream education practices,” Kintzi shares. “Now more than ever there’s a need for gender-sensitive approaches to education and development alike, both here in New York and on the international scale.”
The instructors revealed that they were struck by how few offerings there are on campus about gender in development studies. This course is cross-listed with Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.
“Together we developed this iteration of the course in hopes of beginning to fill crucial gaps in development studies,” Sidle shares.
As academics and professionals in the development space, they sought to find the right balance between theory and practice. The course considers historical lineages of feminism and development theory that led to women and girls as an important part of society. Students then examine the programs and policies associated with these lineages and consider how women's and girls' intersectional experiences of gender shape the outcomes of the interventions designed to improve their lives.
By blending practice and theory, students are encouraged to evaluate the material effects of diverse approaches to reducing gender inequality through case studies, writing, and readings.
“We must equip our students with theory and practice so that they can navigate the world and tackle urgent challenges that we see in gender and development,” Kintzi says. “Students should not just be consumers of knowledge but actively construct the world they wish to see.”
Sidle admitted concerns early on about the dense, complex material presented in class, but as the class unfolded, she was blown away by students’ ability to critically analyze and synthesize what they learned
“I feel honored, privileged, and fulfilled to have taught this course that targeted justice-based perspectives and approaches,” Sidle says. “Teaching this course has been the joy of my year.”
Sushmi Majumder ’25 is a communications assistant in the Department of Global Development with a double major in Development Sociology and Communication.
Degrees in Global Development
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