Graduate Admissions - Accelerated Degrees More

International Development and Social Change


The master's degree in International Development and Social Change (IDSC) emphasizes the connection between critical thinking and effective action. It is designed for scholars of international development, as well as for present and future practitioners of grassroots, community-based development.

Offering alternatives to centralized planning and implementation, the IDSC MA program has been a pioneer in participatory development and a leading force in creating tools for social change. A major challenge for twenty-first-century development is to promote development and sustain environmental resources through local planning and action. The IDCE participatory approach creates ownership of development initiatives on local levels and fosters partnerships between local institutions and external agencies.

The IDSC MA program helps students to reach innovative solutions to development problems by building understanding of the complex causes, influences, and implications of poverty, social injustice, and conflict. Rooted in the belief that effective approaches draw on many disciplines, the IDSC MA employs a cross-disciplinary focus, with faculty from anthropology, economics, environmental sciences, gender studies, geography, history, political science, and management. Links with collaborating institutions in countries such as Kenya, Nepal, Ghana, India, Senegal, Somaliland, and Mexico provide important real-world perspectives and fieldwork opportunities.

Through action-oriented and critical studies linking theory and practice, the IDSC MA offers opportunities to specialize in such topics as political economy, conflict and development, culture and development, resource management, community-based development, or gender and development.

The IDSC MA Program has three key elements:

  • Challenging conventional ideas about development and seeking innovative alternatives.
  • Understanding how the interplay of power relationships gives rise to social injustice and economic inequity.
  • Exploring the linkages between critical thinking and effective development at the community, regional, national, and global levels.

Course work introduces both alternative and traditional theories and provides practical skills to advance professional goals in development.

The unique blend of theory and practice enables students to link local planning and action to policy making at different levels. The program also focuses on cultural, gender, and social justice issues and addresses these issues in development as well as in relief and conflict/postconflict contexts. Courses and research identify ways of building alliances among institutions and making room for the voices of marginalized people.

More information about the International Development & Social Change program.

Departmental eligibility requirements

ID majors who have successfully completed an honors thesis in international development may earn a combined bachelor's and master's degree, with the fifth year tuition free, provided that they meet departmental and University guidelines. The BA/MA degree in International Development allows students to build their analytical skills and pursue a specific area in international development in depth.

Students who wish to be admitted to the Accelerated BA/Master's Program in ID but who do not meet the above eligibility criteria may petition the Director of the IDCE Department to participate as a paying student.

The Honors Thesis gives students the opportunity to carry out independent research during their senior year. Students must have a 3.5 grade point average in the ID major to qualify for an invitation to undertake an honors thesis. To graduate with honors qualified seniors must successfully complete a two-semester independent honors project conducted under the supervision of a core ID faculty member. A student must declare her/his intention to register for honors work no later than the end of spring semester of the junior year.


Program Fees

Students entering the fifth year are required to pay a one-time Program Fee of $1,000. This fee is assessed on the student's bill in the first semester of graduate study.

In addition, all graduate students pay a $15.00 activity fee from the Graduate School and a $25.00 activity fee in IDCE in the fall and spring semesters and a one-time Enrollment Fee of $100 in the first semester of graduate study.

Program of Study

The ID master's degree requires 12 course credits. Students enter the fifth year with two graduate credits that transfer from the undergraduate degree into the graduate year—these are the two upper-level courses required for the major. In the graduate year, five credits are required core courses, and the remaining three are electives reflecting the student's special interest. Two course credits are earned in internships after the senior year.

BA/MA timetable

A typical program for an Accelerated BA/Master's Degree Program student includes:

In the senior year, students take two upper-level courses (cross-listed as graduate courses) related to their interests in international development to be credited toward the MA. These must include 300-level courses or an approved 200-level course. Seniors must also complete an Honors Thesis.

Two credits are earned for internships (post-BA), usually taken in the summer before and the summer after the spring semester of the fifth year.

A year-long academic internship after the senior year can be undertaken and counted as two course credits toward the master's if that internship is part of a funded academic fellowship through Clark, such as year-long Fulbright, a Compton Mentor, or Boren Fellowships. This year-long internship must have prior approval from the University's Graduate School for the returning student to remain eligible for the fifth year free scholarship.

In the graduate year, students take eight additional courses, including the five required courses: IDCE 314: Research Design and Methods; IDCE 360: Development Theory; IDCE 361: Program and Project Management; IDCE 30217: Economic Fundamentals for International Development; and IDCE 30213: MA Research Paper Workshop.

The remaining three elective courses become the student's focus or “area of specialization.” These might include Principles of Conflict Negotiation and Mediation; Humanitarian Assistance in Conflict/Postconflict Contexts; Participatory Research Methods; Third World Women and Gender in Economic Development; Qualitative Research Design and Methods; Religion, Identity and Violence in a Globalizing World; or Famine and Food Security. [Please note: The fifth-year scholarship requires students to complete all requirements within the prescribed year. However, students can extend their MA studies into subsequent semesters--at their own cost.]

Program Advisor

Professor David Bell

Advice for prospective students

Students in the MA program benefit from field experience in international development. Students are encouraged to field work abroad. Students can identify appropriate internships, work abroad, and other opportunities through Career Services or consult with their major advisors and the Accelerated BA/Master's Degree Program advisor in ID. Students are also welcome to view the IDCE Career Development files, Room 24 at 10 Hawthorne Street to explore various internships.

Student Profiles

  • Sara Connarley (ID/BA'04/MA'06) was awarded a Compton Mentor Fellowship ($35,000) to work with Catholic AIDS Action in Katutura, Namibia to develop outreach programs for HIV/AIDS prevention and education in partnership with AIDS Project Worcester.

  • Robyn Long (ID/BA'02/MA'06) received a Compton Mentor Fellowship to examine the connections among Palestinian human rights, gender equity, and the environment.

  • Jessica Jimenez (ID/BA/MA'02) received a Fulbright Fellowship to research in Oaxaca, Mexico, the effects that men's migration has on women's attitudes and perceptions about their health. She also served as an intern with Refugees International to assist in staff training and program development to create a program to evaluate the condition of refugees in Colombia.

  • Heather Cowenhoven (ID/BA/MA '01) is the Middle East Program Coordinator at the Quebec Laborador Foundation, which promotes participatory conservation and stewardship in rural communities.