Fall, 3 Credits, 16-week Session, Tu/Thu 4:25-5:40pm, In Person

Instructor: Rita Klees

Course Description

This course  (i) introduces engineers to the basic theory, institutional architecture, and practice of international development, (ii) studies key issues in, and barriers to, sustainable development, and (iii) identifies key strategies and approaches to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges.   We take an applied, interdisciplinary approach to some “big questions” including: What does development mean? Why are some countries persistently poorer than others? How have different stakeholders sought to address the challenges of development in the past, and how are they approaching these challenges now?  What are the career opportunities for engineers in the global development field? To answer these, and other questions, we will:

  • Examine various theories, approaches, and debates relative to  both poverty and international development, from both historical and contemporary perspectives
  • Study the social, economic, environmental and policy issues shaping the direction of international development today
  • Identify the core principles and practices that ensure development is sustainable with a focus on community-based, bottom-up solutions
  • 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 sustainable development
  • Discuss career paths for engineers who want to work in international development

The goal of the course is to enable you to view international development problems from a number of viewpoints, and to create sustainable strategies for change.  Using a systems approach, different perspectives are studied and encouraged.  We will explore opposing views on hot topics such as trade and development, aid effectiveness, business at the bottom of the pyramid,  and microfinance.    Emerging trends, e.g. globalization, migration, conflict, urbanization, energy, climate change, food security, 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 international development arena.  The course makes extensive use of case studies from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.  In keeping with the multidisciplinary nature of international development, the readings will reflect a wide range of fields including economics, health, gender, communication, religion, philanthropy, ethics, social science, business,  anthropology, and engineering.   

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the history and legacy of International Development – where it came from, the directions it has taken over the decades, the current socioeconomic issues that are driving the development industry , and emerging trends
  • Become familiar with the variety of stakeholders – critics, activists, institutions, academics, funders and recipients – that shape the development agenda
  • Explore selected development sectors and cross-cutting themes in development
  • Increase cultural and social awareness regarding development problems and solutions
  • Improve students’ critical thinking about 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 earning the Graduate Certificate in Global Engineering.

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