Regents Approve New Georgia Tech Master’s in Global Development

Posted April 25, 2022

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has approved the new Master of Science in Global Development at Georgia Tech. The one-year collaborative degree will combine courses in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, the School of City and Regional Planning, and the School of Economics. 

“The world needs more global development professionals to tackle the problems such as those outlined in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accords,” said Anjali Thomas, associate professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and director of the new degree program. “This new degree will provide students with the multi-disciplinary knowledge and training they need to help address challenges in anything from infrastructure provision to emerging market investment opportunities.” 

Addressing the Need for a Global Development Workforce 

Global development professionals work to reduce poverty and inequality for people worldwide. This means battling the challenging dual forces of climate change and rapid urbanization in developing countries. Several international development organizations, including the United Nations Human Settlement Programme, the United States Agency for International Development, and the World Bank supported the proposal for the M.S. in Global Development alongside private companies such as Google. 

“Given the likely growth in demand for professionals with domain expertise in global development, we would be well-served by additional strong programs training the next generation of policy professionals in this field,” wrote Karan Bhatia, vice president of government relations and public policy at Google. “Georgia Tech, with its well-regarded programs in city and regional planning, economics, and international affairs, and its global reach, is well-positioned to contribute usefully to addressing this need.” 

Alexious Butler, development diplomat in residence at USAID and recruiter for the organization, wrote, “the availability of graduate educational opportunities in global development in the USA is far from adequate to address the need. Additionally, the lack of global development graduate programs outside of the Washington, DC, and New York areas significantly limits the diversity of the students attending the programs. Therefore, I strongly support Georgia Tech’s initiative to create a Master of Science in Global Development.” 

The 30-hour graduate program will take one calendar-year to complete for full-time students, which is unusual for degrees that prepare students for development work, said Bruce Stiftel, Professor Emeritus in the School of City and Regional Planning. In this case, he believes it’s necessary to make the program as accessible as possible to mid-career and overseas students who often can’t get away for longer.  

The new Master of Science in Global Development “responds to the dire shortage of development professionals in the world’s fastest-growing regions,” Stiftel said, citing data from the Survey of the Built Environment Professions in the Commonwealth

An Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree 

The degree will require 15 hours of core courses and 15 hours of electives. Students also will complete a three-hour graduate capstone or planning studio course. 

Required courses will include INTA/ECON/CP 6704: Introduction to Global Development, INTA 6603: Empirical Research Methods, and CP 6514: Introduction to GIS. The School of Economics will offer core methods courses and a joint capstone course with INTA, along with electives such as Development Economics and mentoring and advising for master’s students focused on the economics of global development.  

“The Covid-19 pandemic made us all realize how closely countries are connected,” said School of Economics Associate Professor Shatakshee Dhongde. She worked with Stiftel and Thomas for more than four years to turn the degree proposal into reality. “The new M.S. in Global Development at Georgia Tech provides a unique opportunity for students to use insights from different disciplines to deep dive into some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Studying global development has become more important now than ever before.” 

Gulsah Akar, chair of the School of City and Regional Planning, is looking forward to the collaboration.

“Our School has always had a strong international focus. The new degree will shape development professionals that can plan sustainable futures for cities and regions across the globe, ones that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially just,” Akar said. 

Applications to join the program in Fall 2022 are closed. Applications for Fall 2023 will close on Jan. 15, 2023; more information about how to apply will be on the participating schools' websites as it becomes available. For students interested in the topic but not ready to pursue a master’s degree, Georgia Tech also offers a minor and a graduate certificate in global development. 

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Di Minardi and Grace Wyner