Of all the shortages we’re facing in the world today, a shortage of problems isn’t one.
First published in jobpostings magazine
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Whether we’re talking about the struggles of the developing world or inequality in the west, there’s a shift in paradigms happening all over the globe, as we slowly realize our ways of looking at these issues is outdated. Development Studies is a relatively new field of study that’s gaining traction, and this master’s program offers a fresh approach that’s sorely needed.
Tackling large-scale, multi-faceted problems can be a daunting task, and it can be difficult knowing where to start. “The focus of the program is mainly on understanding the challenges of development facing the world today, looking at it from a critical, inter-disciplinary perspective,” explains Dr. Fahim Quadir, Graduate Program Director in Development Studies at York University. “We look at issues such as poverty, sustainability and social justice at the national and international levels. It’s about improving the human condition.”
The old solution of throwing money around without careful consideration is naive at best and dangerously counter-productive at worst. “There are a lot of clever people out there, and there’s a lot of money being poured into development by various agencies, and you might say it’s made things worse,” agrees Marc Epprecht, Graduate Chair ofGlobal Development Studies at Queen’s University. “We have to understand why just giving money to a country like Bolivia doesn’t work, and in fact often makes things more unequal. ”
In order to effect change, it’s important to have the right tools at your disposal.
“We teach a logical framework to make the whole process of development more coherent,” says Quadir. “We want the issues we discuss and debate in class to be applied in a practical context.”
No program could possibly teach a magic formula for solving problems, but that’s hardly the point. “We hope our students will be able to think outside the box that’s been constructed over the last fifty years of aid and trade, and take into account factors like religion and gender relations, for example” says Epprecht. “There’s no cookie-cutter solution that will work in Botswana as well as it works in Indonesia. We hope our people will be able to change the course we’re on.”
Looking at these issues requires a variety of lenses. “At Queen’s we don’t have a single faculty member who has a degree in Development Studies,” laughs Epprecht. “They come from the social sciences and humanities: history, geography, anthropology, political science, sociology and environmental studies.” This amalgam reflects the forward-thinking nature of the field, and the effort that goes into providing new problem-solving strategies. “We have a course here which is half engineering students and half development studies students,” continues Epprecht. “They plan a project together, such as the construction of a bridge, and then make it work. The engineers come from the technical side of things and our students from a more holistic approach.”
When it comes to jobs, this multi-faceted discipline also has a variety of branching career paths.
“Some students find it interesting to work in the voluntary sector, while others work in governmental organizations, both nationally and internationally,” offers Quadir. “Some have accepted Canadian public sector jobs with organizations like Health Canada, Environment Canada or in social services.”
Developmental problems aren’t limited to any one type of organization or geographical area however, and opportunities are cropping up in the private sector. “A lot of big corporations are struggling to understand their role in the world, and to act in a corporately responsible and socially conscious manner,” says Epprecht. “They’re specifically looking for grad students who understand development in the big picture, and that’s what our students bring to the table.”
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