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Innovative International Development Studies program celebrates its 30th anniversary

For the last three decades, one of UTSC’s distinguishing strengths has been its groundbreaking International Development Studies (IDS) program. On Nov. 7, alumni, students and faculty celebrated the program’s 30th anniversary at a reception and lecture in the Instructional Centre.

Founded in 1984 by an interdisciplinary group of faculty, IDS was the first development studies program in Canada to require a co-op segment, in which students would spend a fifth year working and researching in a development placement overseas.

“This experiential element was innovative,” says Paul Kingston, director of the Centre for Critical Development Studies, where IDS is based. “It provided a mechanism by which students could gain experience in the field, and there was a sense that this approach to training would be crucial to improving the professional field of development."

Today, he says, a few other institutions offer co-op elements, but none are as intensive as IDS. “Our program remains at the forefront.”

An external review of IDS conducted by two U.S. experts last year “couldn’t have been more positive,” says Kingston. “They said it is unique in North America. Their conclusion was that after 30 years it remains very innovative.”

Since the outset, more than 300 students have completed the co-op program, which accepts about 20 applicants per year. Many of those graduates have moved into top leadership roles in such organizations as Care Canada, World University Service of Canada, and the United Nations, or are carrying out work in postings all over the world.

The program has also expanded to include four-year major and specialist options that currently have about 200 students enrolled.

IDS students have done co-op placements in some 75 countries, almost all in the Global South, says Finbar Hefferon, special projects manager at the Centre. Their passions tend to shift with the times. “We now have more students interested in the environment, in climate change and climate justice, than we’ve ever had before,” he says.

After the 30th anniversary reception, guests and current students heard the second annual Al Berry Lecture, delivered by Uma Kothari, professor of migration and postcolonial studies at the University of Manchester in the UK, who spoke on “Popular Representations of Development: Creating Global Alliances or Reproducing Hierarchies?”

To read about three fascinating alumni who attended the event, click here.




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