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Canada’s most distinctive program in international development celebrates 25 years

International Development Studies student David Librado experienced the front lines of community work in Bolivia on a co-op placement with Canadian University Students Overseas (CUSO).

In 2010, the Co-op International Development Studies (IDS) Program at UTSC celebrates 25 years of operation, making it one of the longest-running and best-recognized programs in Canada. 

Launched in 1985, the UTSC program was first in Canada to combine extensive coursework in international development with on-site experience in a developing region of the world. IDS draws upon many disciplines such as such as political science, history, environmental science, and human geography in order to properly analyze vital issues, including social justice in developing countries. 

More than 400 students are currently enrolled in an IDS program (both Co-op and non Co-op options), with the Co-op option attracting exceptional students from across Canada and the world. Currently 25 percent of Co-op IDS students originate from outside Canada, including China and India. 

The Co-op option is unique for its requirement that students must complete an 8-12 month field placement in their fourth year and return to complete their fifth and final year of studies. Placements are done in partnership with highly-respected aid agencies such as CARE Canada, World University Service of Canada and Médecins Sans Frontières. Students typically head off to developing regions overseas and engage at the grassroots level in rural communities or in head offices in regional capitals. Both types of placements let students grapple first-hand with diverse social, political, health and cultural issues, ranging from orphans in AIDS-afflicted communities to soil management for improving agriculture. While working abroad, students devote a percentage of their placement time to their own primary research. 

Sonya Silva, for example, was placed in the Shinyanga region in Tanzania, working with the Presbyterian World Service & Development and a local partner, the Africa Inland Church. Silva lived in a small rural town, helping the local church to monitor and evaluate its community programs in food security and water supply. Her work included field visits and writing reports and proposals. Silva is currently finishing a specialist program in IDS, with a focus on socio-cultural anthropology. 

IDS graduates are actively sought out as employees by organizations such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and CUSO.  A 2004 report documented our IDS alumni in 18 countries on 5 continents, with more than half of them pursuing further degrees.

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