In-Person & Synchronous Online, Fall, T/Th 1-2:15pm, SEEC N125
Instructor Permission Required

*Distance section of CVEN 5919 is reserved for Online Certificate students only. 

Instructor: Rita Klees

Course Description

Standards of living have increased dramatically worldwide over the past 100 years, yet poverty and inequality remain features of our world. Global development is defined as continued improvement in human well-being for all. It involves economic growth, reducing poverty, peace building and addressing inequities and issues of social justice for example in wealth, political freedom, education, health care, and access to basic services. Global development, also known, in this context as international development, requires the insight and integration of numerous disciplines including economics, gender, religion, philanthropy, anthropology, and engineering. This course (i) introduces engineers to the basic theory, institutional architecture, and practice of global development, (ii) studies key issues in, and barriers to, sustainable global development, and (iii) identifies key strategies and systems-based approaches to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges. We will:

  • Acknowledge and analyze the colonial history that shapes the development field and identify colonial legacies in global engineering and in individual mindsets and behaviors.
  • Examine various theories, approaches, and debates relative to both poverty and global development, from both historical and contemporary perspectives

  • Study the social, economic, environmental and policy issues, as well as the major contemporary analytical and policy debates, shaping the direction of global development today

  • Identify the core principles and practices that ensure global development is sustainable

  • Discuss the roles of a variety of stakeholders – communities, institutions, governments, civil society, donors, NGOs, and recipients – in shaping the development agenda and solving global development challenges

  • Explore promising opportunities and innovative approaches for transformative and sustainable global development

  • Discuss career paths for engineers who want to work in global development

In this course, global development addresses both human development, the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well-being, and also sustainable development, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The goal of the course is to enable you to view global development problems from a number of viewpoints, and to create sustainable strategies for change. Different perspectives are studied and encouraged. We will explore opposing views on hot topics such as the legacy of colonization, social justice, trade, debt, aid effectiveness, and “business at the bottom of the pyramid.” Emerging trends, e.g. globalization, migration, conflict, urbanization, energy, climate change, food security, social justice, and the impact of COVID-19 will be woven into the class sections. The guest lectures, readings, class discussion, and assignments will teach you to think as an engineer operating within the global development arena. In keeping with the multidisciplinary nature of global development, the readings will reflect a wide range of fields.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the legacy of colonization and the history of global development

  • Become familiar with the variety of stakeholders – critics, activists, institutions, academics, funders and recipients – that shape the global development agenda

  • Explore selected development sectors, e.g. environment, health, infrastructure, as well as cross-cutting themes, e.g. gender, religion, ethics, climate change, ethics

  • Increase cultural and social awareness regarding social justice and global development problems and solutions

  • Improve students’ critical thinking about global development so that they can produce policy memos, technical briefs, etc., summarizing key information and presenting a critical, evidence- based analysis

This is a graduate level course and is a required course for students in the Mortenson Center for Global Engineering & Resilience Certificate Program.

Course Organization 

The course is seminar in format and is based on assigned readings, interactive lectures, and student-led discussions. It will include small group discussions, lectures, guest presentations, team presentations, and debates. Topics to be discussed, include: poverty and development theory,  development actors and institutions,  aid mechanisms, aid effectiveness, governance and corruption, reaching the poor, dealing with fragile states, impacts of conflict/terrorism and disaster,  balancing the environment and development,  citizen empowerment and activism, sustainable community development,  Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) and development, social entrepreneurship, youth, religion, and innovation and technology. 


Enrollment in the Mortenson Center Graduate Certificate or the ATLAS ICT for Development Program. This course is open to undergraduates with permission of the instructor. 

Course Materials

There is no text for this reading intensive class. Rather we will read a mix of academic, popular, and theoretical articles which you can expect to take a minimum of 2 hours per class. You are expected to keep up with weekly readings and participate in class discussion in order to fully realize the potential of this class. Participation in class is a central part of your grade. The course syllabus provides the required reading assignments for each class. Most readings are posted on the course web-site on Canvas; web-site links for others are provided. Invited speakers may provide additional readings. The course syllabus is large in order to provide you with key materials and resources – it includes “required” and “recommended” readings as well as “resource” materials. The readings marked “required” must be read carefully prior to class and these will be the subject of discussion. The readings marked “recommended” are suggested to supplement, deepen and expand the issues raised by the required readings. While you don’t have to read any or all of the “recommended” readings, they are intended to be helpful if you are interested in a particular topic and would like to explore it in more depth, as an initial starting point for assignments, or simply as a reference for things you should get around to reading in your career. Relevant journal, blog and web-sites and links to global development organizations will be provided. Check regularly on email and Canvas for updates to readings and assignments. This course is responsive to current events and course material may be adapted to reflect such.

Course Requirements

The knowledge and skills you will gain in this course highly depend on your participation in class learning activities. The course depends on active and ongoing participation by all students. This is a conversation class, which means a major part of the work of the class comes from our discussions. Because of that, I expect you to attend all class sessions unless you are ill or have a valid reason for missing. If you are ill or have another valid reason for missing, please contact me by email in advance of the absence.

Class participants are expected to analyze readings and come prepared to discuss the readings. You will be expected to have completed all the required readings before class to the point where you can be called on to critique or discuss any reading. On a weekly basis you will submit and be prepared to present a short critique of a blog of your choice, relevant to the course. 10-15 minutes in class will be devoted to discussing student blog findings. Additional written assignments include one “reaction paper,” a policy memo, and a book review. In addition, students will each have a low or middle income country assigned to them for which they will examine course-related topics throughout the semester with findings presented in “country reports.” Attendance at two “outside” events related to the class is required. Announcements about such events will be provided in class and students are encouraged to find their own events as well.


Evaluations will be based on the following:

  • Participation in class discussions and activities (includes attendance, comments/questions on readings) 30%
  • Weekly blog reports 10%
  • Reaction Paper 10%
  • Policy Memo 10%
  • Book Review & Presentation 10%
  • Country Reports/Final Report 10%
  • “What Works in Development” Essay 10%
  • Completion of two outside events: community/web-based 10%