Google Search
International Development Studies co-op program to celebrate 25th anniversary

INTERNATIONAL PLACEMENT: UTSC student Tiana Rodrigue is pictured in her co-op placement in Burkina Faso, Africa, where she worked with WUSC/Uniterra Burkina Faso. (Photo courtesy of Tiana Rodrigue.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

The International Development Studies Co-op Program at UTSC is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the campus community is invited to attend the celebrations.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, the alumni, faculty, students and administrators of the unique program will gather to celebrate this milestone anniversary. Everyone in the campus community is invited to attend this free event, but an RSVP is required.

The event begins with a panel discussion at 4:30 p.m., and IDS showcase and mingle time at 5:30 p.m., and a 7:00 p.m. dinner featuring keynote speaker Chris Eaton, Executive Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a member of the first IDS graduating class in 1984. Eaton’s talk will be titled, “The Emperor Does Have Clothes: Notes from Here and the Field.” Speakers on the panel will include alumni, faculty and others working in the field of international development. (Watch the web site for more details. Full schedule TBA.)

“We want to celebrate the successes of our students and graduates through this event,” said Professor Leslie Chan, program supervisor. “Many of our alumni from this program have gone on to play key roles in international development, and this event aims to showcase their achievements.”

Guy Smagghe (BA 1991) is both an alumnus of the program and an employer of co-op student interns. Now senior program coordinator of Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D), Smagghe notes that hiring co-op interns is an investment in the future for organizations in the development field. “Placements really open students’ eyes to the tremendous challenges that partner organizations have in the field,” he said. “They realize how much you can accomplish with very little, but they also see how big and complex the challenges and issues are in this field.”

Smagghe said the co-op IDS program at UTSC provides good training and is well respected in the field, with a number of classmates and earlier alumni now in key positions in development organizations in Canada and worldwide. He did his own UTSC student placement in Ecuador working with a local agency. “I always had a pretty strong sense of social justice from the time I was a teenager,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in making the world a better place, one way or another.”

The appeal of international development as a career comes down to a passion for justice, he said. “We can’t live in a bubble. Once you open your eyes to what is going on around the world, it’s hard to close them again to injustices at the human rights level or the social injustice level, or to serious poverty issues. You see these things and you are triggered into action.”

Fifth-year student Sarah Klassen did her placement in the east African country of Tanzania, where she learned the Swahili language and worked with World Vision on a project involving community groups. She describes the 11-month experience as “really, really valuable. It was great to see first-hand some of the situations and issues that I had been studying and debating in lectures for so long. When you’re sitting in a lecture hall and talking about the developing world, things seem clear cut, but being out there in the actual context makes you take a second look at things and question assumptions.”

International Development Studies co-op at UTSC was definitely right for Klassen, she said. “The program is so holistic and so multi-dimensional that students can come at it with many different strengths and perspectives, and still incorporate those somehow. It really taps into those different and individual skills that each of us possess, and it stretches and challenges you along the way.”

A passion to fight for justice was what drew Klassen to international development, she said. “When I see injustice, I want to respond, and I recognize that just one person is not the whole answer, but I feel that I’m one of the pieces, and all of the pieces need to come together to be part of the bigger response.”

Fifth-year student Leslie Campbell, who spent last year on an international placement working with a Burmese-run organization in Thailand, said enrolling in the IDS program was “one of the best decisions I ever made. My placement was fantastic, and I made such good friends during the years of the program. I was surrounded by students who are really driven and passionate, and the bar is set so high, collectively. I’ve often thought that I wouldn’t have done nearly as well in university if I hadn’t been in this program with these peers.”

The IDS program is the only one of its kind in Canada, featuring a built-in extended international placement and a thesis component. A flagship program for our campus, it is one of the longest running and best recognized programs in Canada. The program has placed almost 300 students in 67 countries, where they have worked in partnership with more than 75 different organizations. The IDS program combines interdisciplinary academic study in the social and environmental sciences with practical work experience in an international development setting.

To attend the event, please RSVP no later than Monday, November 2 to: Nancy Bradshaw, Arts & Science Co-op, at (416) 287-7310 or Please indicate panel only, panel and dinner, or dinner only. You may also register online by clicking here.


© University of Toronto Scarborough