About Us

Structure of the program

Global Development Studies is a major track or concentration within the College’s interdisciplinary Global Studies major.  Students apply to the major in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Development Studies (GDS) in the spring of their second year and complete the major in their third and fourth years.  The GDS program asks them to think about what “development” means in social, political and economic terms, both in the United States and around the globe.  Our program is engaged in building a curriculum for the 21st century, an interdisciplinary intellectual experience bringing together perspectives on the theory and process of development from anthropology, the arts, economics, environmental science, history, philosophy, politics, religious studies, sociology, and other relevant disciplines.   We are particularly interested in expanding opportunities for experiential learning within a liberal arts framework.   


Students interested in Global Development Studies see themselves carrying their intellectual interests beyond their undergraduate years, working on the central social and political issues of their times in a variety of institutional settings, in government agencies, the nonprofit sector, and private enterprise.  We actively engage our alumni to help us shape the program and to provide advice and networking opportunities to current students.  
Combining theory, methods, case studies, and experiential learning, the GDS major will equip students to be constructively critical of development projects from a variety of perspectives. We will ask both what kinds of development projects work, and what kinds of understandings people in different places have about development in relation to their own needs and aspirations. 


GDS faculty are dedicated to providing our students with an education that is more than merely practical. The current preoccupation with development is a manifestation of a much older tradition of thought, concerning the great transformation from traditional to modern societies. In GDS, we ask about the relationship of local cultures to global economic and political trends, and consider the future of worldwide cultural diversity on an increasingly interconnected planet. See People to find out about our faculty.

Core curriculum

The GDS core curriculum includes a two-semester seminar analyzing theories of global development illustrated by relevant case studies, a course in methods and ethics associated with community engagement, and a fourth-year seminar, during which students will write a research paper on a topic of their choice.   Beyond the core courses, students choose electives and language study based on their particular interests.  

Study Abroad Possibilities

GDS students are encouraged to study abroad in the second semester of their third year. The International Studies Office has compiled a listing of programs especially suitable for GDS students. 


The GDS major began as an initiative of a UVA student group, the Global Development Organization (GDO). Beginning in 2006, GDO students researched similar programs at other universities, created a curricular plan, and recruited a faculty advisory group. The major was approved by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in May 2009 and the first group of GDS students began their studies in the fall 2009 semester, graduating in 2011.   See people for a list of all the students in each GDS class.  
In 2014, GDS became part of a larger Global Studies major, which has four tracks or concentrations:  global public health, security and justice, environments and sustainability, and global development studies.  GDS students now major in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Development Studies.  
GDS has been generously supported by students and their families and other University donors interested in developing global curricular opportunities for our students.