A global look at development

Global studies course presents range of perspectives on international development

Since being introduced at the University of South Carolina in 2016, the global studies major has become the fastest-growing undergraduate major on campus, with 158 students and almost as many different combinations of coursework. It’s also a veritable melting pot of interdisciplinary approaches — with the viewpoints to prove it.

Witness the new course Best Practices in International Development. Team taught by faculty from across the university, the class is both an exploration of how economies around the world can be developed through sound investment and smart advice, and also a critique of development policy and practice.

It’s a complex subject but the classroom approach is simple. Each Tuesday, a different faculty member presents a lecture in a specific area of international development. On Thursdays, clinical associate professor of history and global studies David Snyder, who is leading the course, follows up with a discussion focused on the topic discussed earlier in the week.

Caroline Nagel, for example, will dive into the relationship between migration and economic growth and global development. A professor and chair of the geography department, Nagel will lecture on migration and development, exploring both positive and negative effects and touching on a range of related topics.

“Environment, health, migration, development, global inequalities, energy consumption – all of those things are tied together,” says Nagel. “When you learn about them in an interdisciplinary major, students will understand holistically about some of these issues and problems.”

The economics of international development will also inform a lecture by Hildy Teegen, an international business professor and former dean of the Moore School of Business. An adviser for business sustainability to the International Finance Corp., the private sector partner of the World Bank, Teegen studies large scale infrastructure projects around the world to help ensure that the needs of the investors, local governments and the community are all met.

“This generation of students is very empathetic and very eager to be socially impactful,” Teegen says. “A course like this one really plays into that interest and desire to make a difference in the world and be able to understand better modern practice in development so they might be able to shape their own careers in ways that are developmentally important.”

Just ask Ariella Izzo, a global studies major considering career options in international development. Izzo has studied abroad in Spain, spent summers in France, lived in Italy, traveled to Tanzania and worked with a nonprofit to raise money for water filtration systems in developing countries. She also understands that even projects with good intentions can be fraught with unanticipated consequence.

“We get a lot of questions and some backlash,” says Izzo, whose concentrations as a global studies major are sustainability and development as well as conflict and security. “Are we helping people and doing it in a sustainable, ethical way? I want to see the best ways to go in international development.”

The semester-long conversation will even delve into gender dynamics. Drucilla Barker, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, will discuss the crucial link between what has historically been called “women’s work” – housework, child rearing, emotional, physical and intellectual labor – and the development of any society. She also will examine how the historical exploitation of countries in the global South continues in the form of international debt.

“The economic development of Europe and America required the enslaved labor and expropriation of the natural resources of the new world,” Barker says. “By any reasonable moral calculus, the global North owes a debt to the global South. Today, however, the South is a net creditor to the North through payments on debts that were incurred to finance economic development.”  

Offering a forum for competing viewpoints is exactly what Snyder had in mind as he was creating the course in the College of Arts and Sciences, and it’s a big draw for faculty like Teegen, Barker and Nagel, whose input helped shape Snyder’s syllabus. It’s also a custom fit for students who may have studied abroad or traveled internationally but who may not have considered the vast complexities of international development.

“A lot of students have more exposure than students did 30 or 40 years ago,” Nagel says. “They’ve traveled more, they’ve seen more, but they don’t necessarily understand it until they start taking courses in it, put two and two together and see the relationships between things going on in the world today.”

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