The Department of International Development Studies (IDS) at Dalhousie University was formally established in 2000 after operating as an interdisciplinary program since the mid-1980s. It manages a BA program with approximately 200 students, and a smaller MA program with 6-10 students per year. The central mission of the IDS Department is to foster greater understanding between the global North and South through teaching, research and cross-cultural learning experiences.
Two key features distinguish IDS from many other academic programs: interdisciplinarity and experiential learning. Interdisciplinarity means that students in IDS programs learn about issues of global development and justice from the perspective of many different academic disciplines – including anthropology, economics, environmental science, history, political science and many others. Core IDS classes engage students with key issues from the perspective of many different disciplines while students can also customize their programs through IDS-approved courses in specific disciplines or with a focus on particular regions or issues (such as gender or health).
Experiential learning is based on the understanding that students need to learn through hands on experience as well as more formal research, writing and class-room experiences. The focus of experiential learning in IDS is on engaged and active citizenship – at home and overseas. In the first year IDS course “Halifax and the World” (co-delivered with Canadian Studies), students physically explore and map Halifax and make connections to global justice issues in our city – such as Mi’kmaq-Settler relations – and connections between daily life in Halifax with issues of global justice elsewhere through our roles as consumers and citizens (learn more here). Students also create ‘Public Engagement Projects’ designed to engage the general public in thinking more deeply about global justice issues in Halifax (click here to see the 2014 winners of the People’s Choice Award ). In the third year IDS Class “Development Activism,” students learn through hands-on experience the skills associated with effective advocacy and active citizenship – ranging from media relations to influencing politicians to organizing legal protests (click here to see the Globe and Mail’s feature video on the course in its ‘Time to Lead’ series). For the past three years the course has focused on human rights in North Korea – and students in the class successfully nominated human rights activist Shin Dong-Hyuk for a Honorary Doctorate at Dalhousie’s Spring 2014 convocation (click here for story in Dalhousie's Alumni Magazine). Experiential learning also involves also both volunteer internships with development organizations in the Maritimes and the global South, as well as learning about development issues on the ground in the global South. The IDS Department operates two programs in Cuba: a two-week intensive program every spring and a semester-long program every winter. IDS students also take part in study-abroad programs offered through other universities to study and learn in numerous diverse regions of the world (including Ecuador, Ghana, India, South Africa and Uganda) and have held ACIC-hosted internships.
One of the big questions that many people ask about IDS is: what kind of jobs will students find after they graduate? In the current context of the development sector in Canada, this is a serious question. Some IDS students do go on to work in the development industry, but most pursue careers in broad-ranging fields from community services, education, health, journalism, law, and media to self-employment in fields from conflict management to video production. The background of an IDS degree, with its inter-disciplinary focus on understanding global issues and cultures from a critical, justice-oriented and experiential perspective is in many ways the ideal starting point for 21st century careers. IDS students themselves are highly engaged as active citizens on and off campus (click here to learn more about the IDS student society) – and eager potential volunteers for the ACIC and its other member organizations.
To learn more about the IDS Department at Dalhousie check out our web page and Facebook page: