Arrested international development: A certificate program on the brink

October 14, 2010

Zara Khan (SFS ’07) has had enough. During her 18 months as the program coordinator of the International Development certificate—the most popular certificate in the School of Foreign Service—the SFS deans have repeatedly slashed the certificate’s budget, eliminating student services despite a meteoric rise in enrollment in the certificate. So yesterday, citing the SFS’ disheartening lack of commitment to the certificate, she resigned.

Enrollment in the International Development, or IDEV, certificate has increased substantially each year since its establishment in 2006. Currently, more than 80 seniors plan to graduate with the certificate at the end of this year, nearly three times the number of students who plan to graduate with the next most popular certificate, Asian Studies.

But despite its persistent growth, the IDEV certificate’s budget has continually suffered massive cuts. While the deans are not allowed to disclose exact figures, the SFS cut the program’s budget in half in 2009, even after a 300 percent increase in enrollment over the previous two years. For the current academic year, the budget was sliced another 10 percent.

Since she took the helm of the program, no one has been more important in managing and running the certificate program than Khan. She fulfilled the duties of program coordinator even though the University only paid her as an hourly, temporary worker. This summer and for the first five weeks of the school year, she worked as an unpaid volunteer while the certificate director, Professor Maria Luise Wagner, unsuccessfully attempted to secure a full-time position for her. Since it is clear that no such position is going to materialize, Khan has decided to accept a post with a non-governmental organization in Rwanda that focuses on food security and strengthening agricultural value chains.

“My departure from Georgetown is not related to salary or budget cuts,” Khan wrote in her resignation letter. “I am leaving because the support from SFS which I had asked for did not materialize.”

Khan’s resignation will only increase the doubt surrounding the future of International Development at Georgetown. Student enthusiasm for the program may be high, but with a meager budget, and the departure of one of the two core administrators, the IDEV certificate is facing serious challenges. And unless the University increases its financial commitment to the certificate, it may be headed for failure.

The history of International Development at Georgetown is a short one.  Upon returning to Georgetown in 2001 after a six-year stint at the World Bank, Wagner noticed that international development was absent from the undergraduate curriculum.

“I typed development into the Georgetown search engine,” she said, “and there wasn’t really anything worthwhile that was happening here.”

She first proposed an undergraduate certificate in international development to the SFS Curriculum Committee in 2002. Two years later, President John DeGioia became interested in increasing Georgetown’s focus on global poverty after attending the 2004 World Economic Forum. In the spring of 2005, DeGioia established a flagship course with then-Professor Carol Lancaster entitled “Ethics and Global Development,” for which over 100 students registered. Energized by the course’s popularity, Georgetown invited leaders in the field of development as guest lecturers.

As DeGioia initiated Georgetown’s first forays into development, student support for an undergraduate program in international development began to appear.

“This had the potential to be something more than just a student organization,” Jonathan Kirschner (SFS ’05), co-founder of Students for Development Studies at Georgetown, said. “[It was] something that could have a broader impact on the University community.”

In the fall of 2005, to demonstrate to the University that SFS students were interested in an IDEV program, members of a student organization called Our Moment took impromptu surveys of undergraduates on the appeal of a development studies program and held an international development conference at Georgetown to promote awareness of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

During that time, the President’s Office actively engaged with students who were interested in an undergraduate program in development.

“They used to bring us for pizza,” Khan said. “They used to get five or ten of us, sit down with pizza, and have a talk about what we wanted to do about development.” The SFS officially approved the certificate in spring 2006.

In Fall 2007, the SFS, under then-Dean Robert Gallucci, increased the budget of the certificate to the level of a program in light of the increased student interest. In November of that year, DeGioia declared in a speech at the State Department, “Helping to promote human development is one of the most important functions for Universities in this new century. … I’d argue it’s also our most important moral responsibility.”

Since 2007, however, the program’s budget has gone nowhere but down. The latest budget cuts, combined with Khan’s departure, mean that many of the services previously offered to students are no longer feasible. Unless more funding is allocated by the SFS, the program’s networking meet-ups, on-campus events, student résumé evaluation services, weekend skills workshops, career services, and internship placement program—offerings that helped make the certificate as popular as it is today—will all be eliminated for the next academic year.

The program’s budget problems partly stem from its unique status within the SFS. Every other certificate is associated with a larger program, which can help provide institutional support, manpower, and funding. The Arab Studies certificate, for example, is a part of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. But there is no larger program or center for international development at Georgetown.

IDEV’s isolation leaves it more vulnerable to shifts in SFS leadership and financial conditions. Unlike other certificates, the IDEV Certificate receives its funding directly from the SFS, which means its budget is overseen by academic deans who have many other responsibilities.

“We are living in constrained times in terms of budgets and have lots of priorities,” SFS Dean Carol Lancaster wrote in an email. “We are planning to do a review of the program in the next year and will consider all relevant issues, including budgetary ones.”

The budget cuts have been disappointing to students who were initially attracted to the program’s impressive offering of services.

“I decided to be an IDEV Certificate candidate because it was the most robust certificate in terms of support and programming,” Josh Mogil (SFS ’09), the president of the SFS Academic Council, said. “I liked those requirements because they ensured that while I had a rigorous academic experience, I also had the support of the program and its mentors.”

Student organizations have also been affected by the budget reduction, since the certificate used to sponsor many campus events.

“The cuts to the IDEV budget are having significant effects on the quality of programming put on by student groups related to international development,” said Bridget O’Loughlin (SFS ’11), former President of STAND and an IDEV certificate candidate. Last year, STAND could not hold DarfurFEAST, an annual fundraising event that showcased Sudanese culture and food, in part because IDEV could not sponsor the event.

Sponsored alumni networking events—hugely important for students starting careers in international development—were central to the program. But Wagner has been forced to begin hosting these events informally at her house because there is no space in the budget for them. Courtney Ivins (SFS ’10), an IDEV certificate graduate, had to host an alumni event in her Burleith townhouse last year for the same reason.

“It’s almost getting ridiculous,” Ivins said.

Last summer’s internship placement program was heavily competitive and highly popular because it placed certificate students in fieldwork positions with organizations like the World Bank.

“They were just incredible because of the fact that they were in-country,” certificate candidate Katalyn Voss (SFS ’11) said. “That experience is so valuable for any development work.”

But that program has suffered, too. Because of the budget cuts, Brett Nadrich (SFS ’12) was the only certificate candidate who was able to do a program-sponsored internship last summer. He called the internship, work with a World Bank project in Columbia last summer, “the single best career opportunity I’ve had.” But he may be the last intern IDEV places. There are currently no plans to continue the program in 2011.

“The certificate is going to keep growing even after I graduate, and I don’t want to see people losing the opportunities that I had,” Nadrich said.

In addition, the one-credit course designed to give school credit to students with internships related to development, INAF-303, will no longer be available. All internship assistance, personalized career services, and close student supervision will end next semester.

The certificate’s financial woes will only be compounded by Khan’s departure. Her energetic, engaging personality and over-the-top dedication to helping certificate candidates with everything from their studies to their post-graduation career prospects was a big factor in the program’s expanding popularity.

When he established the certificate in 2006, Gallucci was concerned that the SFS would not be able to provide the institutional support necessary to maintain the program’s staff. With budget cuts, he feared, administrators could be overworked, which would endanger the vitality of the certificate.

“One way to do something interesting in the curriculum at Georgetown or anywhere else is to have people just work harder and do more,” Gallucci said. “That’s not adding resources, it’s adding missions without adding resources, and that is not a good long-term strategy. It takes advantage of people, it exhausts people, and ultimately it doesn’t institutionalize the addition.”

It is unclear whether the university will hire a replacement for Khan, but it is certain that the certificate program will miss her.

“I think that her leaving will drastically shape the direction of the program and its potential for impact,” said Nate Barker (SFS ’12), a certificate candidate and Vice President of UNICEF Georgetown. “Without Zara, all the features of the program that exist beyond just the classes are essentially eliminated or reduced to the point of not being effective. I really have serious doubts about whether the certificate will be able to exist beyond just a collection of classes in her absence.”

Wagner, too, will certainly miss the contributions of her former partner.

“[Khan] has been the soul of the certificate,” she said. “We have been the most wonderful team that I could imagine.

Although Khan meant a great deal to the program, students and faculty expressed confidence in Wagner’s ability to run the program in her absence.

“Professor Wagner is one of the most incredible professors in the SFS today,” Mogil wrote in an email, “She is not just an intellectual powerhouse with the experience to back it up, but also a wonderful teacher, as well as a mentor and a friend.”

Wagner admits that it will be difficult to manage the certificate by herself. She has requested to meet with Dean Lancaster about the program’s financial and administrative future, but no such meeting has occurred yet.

Between continuously increasing enrollment, financial constraints, and the departure of Khan, Wagner said the program will have to undergo a process of “reorientation” to stay afloat.

Khan, however believes the program will survive in her absence. She attributes a large part of the certificate’s success to students themselves.

“The driving force behind the certificate’s growth and success has been the tremendous student interest in international development,” she said. “The certificate is merely a mechanism for students to channel their passion. … So long as the interest is there, the certificate will continue.”

students in a STAND meeting picture of prof Wagner

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Comments 23

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    This is Exhibit A as to why Georgetown Administration is the worst. Let’s give no money to the most popular certificate in the SFS. While we’re at it, why don’t we eliminate the IPOL and Government majors from Georgetown; they don’t seem very important either.

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    As someone in the College who has envied the IDEV certificate (hilariously, I’ve taken just about all of the courses needed to get the certificate, but can’t be awarded it), I would hate for the SFS to consider taking the program away — in fact, I’d rather see it expanded to other schools, since business & international development are so intrinsically linked, as well as College majors like Government, Political Econ, etc. Georgetown is a school with such a huge emphasis on international relations to begin with (thanks, SFS), and to put in jeopardy one of the most specialized, intriguing programs we offer is, in a word, atrocious.

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    Georgetown, and the SFS in particular, are all awesome, but as a student you pick up very early on that the administration absolutely sucks. It’s impossible to understand how, considering the astronomical cost of a Georgetown education in comparison to other schools, there isn’t enough money to sustain the most popular certificate program in the SFS by far, IDEV. Only one word, that isn’t a swear word, can describe this kind of situation, folks, and that’s “incompetence.”

    I’m tired of more and more money being squeezed out of burdened students, parents, and alums, and the sole result of that squeezing being cuts to programs, departments, and the like. The administration always tosses out excuses. It’s time to say, No more excuses. What in the world have you been doing with our money?

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    On the bright side, we’ll have a shiny new science building at some point in the (very) distant future.

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    As an alum who has worked his entire career in international development I am deeply disappointed that SFS is de-emphasizing the certificate in international development. Most leading school of international affairs offer more in the field of international development than GU/SFS. I was hoping that in view of her background in foreign aid Dean Lancaster would actually beef up the programs in international development. I interview students applying to GU, and many applicants are interested in learning more about global development and poverty alleviation. Even applicants to the College are disapointed when they learn that they cannot participate in the Certificate in International Development. I understand SFS has budgetary problems, which may be due to the fact that they have hired many “name” former American and Foreign officials at high salaries, the latest being the former President of Colombia. Perhaps as part of the upcoming capital campaign Georgetown should try to raise serious money for the support of international development programs, not only at the graduate level but also at the undergraduate level.

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    maybe the school should spend less on bs campus ministry programs that no one goes to, and actually spend money on fields that help students actually live out the jesuit ideals.

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    Thank you very much for this informative article and for highlighting the plight of the program. As a NHS student and IDEV cert candidate, I have found the program indispensable to my education as a whole. It has supplemented and focused my studies in ways that has redefined my academic experiences. I hope that Georgetown students will not allow the administration to get away with such blatant disregard for such a huge proportion of their students’ academic endeavors. Isn’t that the whole point of a university? Helping us learn, and giving us the resources to do it?

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    I’ve heard about this problem coming. It’s so sad, and I really hope this certificate can continue with more support. This certificate should be expanded, not cut. Not only do we students love it- but the University should too since it seems to tie in closely with ideals they try to instill: men and women for others, global citizenship, etc.
    Not only that, but I think Georgetown may be a little behind in this. You’d think that the SFS would be trail blazing in this area but we are lagging. My friends at a public state university back home can minor in International Development, a program their university cares about. Not to say that the program has been cut yet, but with this little support it will be. It’s just a shame, since Georgetown could easily be the best at this with minimal effort because of our location.
    Cut programs that have a surplus and are just trying to think of ways to spend money- like Whats After Dark.
    Hey, maybe theres an idea- host some development speakers and events during the evening to get funding that way…

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    @ sfs12
    Have you ever bothered to actually attend a Campus Ministry event? Just because you don’t like the concept of Campus Ministry doesn’t mean that other students here should not be given access to these events.

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    But in all seriousness, I’d love to hear your argument as to how a Jesuit institution can uphold its ideals for Jesuit education by slashing its ability to foster in the faith, Catholic or not, of its students. Please, tell me how cutting a retreat program, or a lecture on prayer or relationships or the sacraments, or a worship service, or a reflection on the relationship between faith and service and social justice for the sake of this (admittedly unfortunately) underfunded program would foster in cura personalis, or contemplation in action, or in creating men and women for others, or in doing everything Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

    And “no one?” I’m pretty sure more than 80 people benefit from campus ministry programs on campus, even though you seem to imply that this certificate arouses far more interest when that’s plainly not the case.

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    I do agree that perhaps Campus Ministry events are not from where the funding should be funneled. However, arguing for the importance of their events is completely besides the point. I believe the commenter was simply implying that there is much funding going towards other programs that have not attracted as much interest as the IDev program, which has over 200 students (I’m not 100% sure on this figure). It is downright irrational and irresponsible for the university to show a complete lack of support and commitment towards an existing program for which an overwhelming number of students show interest. How does the university expect alumni to donate in the future when their administration makes decisions that render the certificates–that the students have worked hard for fair and square–irrelevant? No one wants to pay as much as we do for a Georgetown education that could include a certificate that may not even exist in the near future. This is outrageous.

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    Is it outrageous? Is it clear what Ms. Khan was asking for when she decided to resign? An office space? An increased salary? More staff? There isn’t a program on campus that wouldn’t love to double the staff or housing, but it can’t be done. The certificate program hasn’t been cut at all, and with the student demand as high as it is, it’s unclear why additional resources would be needed, since it’s not a program in danger. Do we really want university resources going toward pizza parties and redundant services (internships, resume-help, alumni networking….these services are available elsewhere)?

    Ms. Khan was clearly a beloved part of the IDEV program, and her presence and energy will be missed. But a factual report on the actual health of the certificate is needed before we simply interpret Ms. Khan’s unspecific parting shot as gospel that the SFS administration has abandoned all support and interest in this hugely successful program. She just said she didn’t get what she asked for. Let’s hope that MANY programs, faculty, and administrators don’t simply get whatever they “ask for”. We can’t want our tuition to go down AND want all funding requests across the university to be granted. IDEV people should know that as well as anyone.

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    @Really, while I’m sure you’re some administrative person at Georgetown trying to do damage control, I refuse to accept hiding under the general banner of “everyone has to make sacrifices.” Especially when what she is “asking for” is simply the ability to be a full time staff. If the services being offered elsewhere were actually anything of value, that’d be one thing, but the Career Service only pays lip service to paying any attention to International Development. There is a full time staff at the career center whose sole focus is government, nonprofits and international development. Yet in the two years I have been on the listserve, I have received exactly 3 emails specifically from this person. Events that relate in any way way to develop consistently come out of the international development program, and if they aren’t, it’s through a student-run organization. The services provided by IDEV could be redundant if other parts of the University made it a priority, but the plain and simple truth is that they don’t making IDEV and Khan’s work very valuable.

    And furthermore, don’t make it sound like it is just some program asking for more than it deserves. It is the most popular certificate and has the smallest budget. I would love to hear the logic behind that. And it’s just angry, uninformed students holding this opinion. Look at the quote by Dean Gallucci: “One way to do something interesting in the curriculum at Georgetown or anywhere else is to have people just work harder and do more. That’s not adding resources, it’s adding missions without adding resources, and that is not a good long-term strategy. It takes advantage of people, it exhausts people, and ultimately it doesn’t institutionalize the addition.” That sounds an awful lot to me like the former Dean of the SFS thinks that the current administration is taking advantage of a dedicated few. And he is absolutely right — there is no way the most popular certificate in the SFS, with a focus that our own President said is our most important responsibility should have the smallest budget.

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    This is absurd-with such high student demand for a certificate, how can the administration just stand to one side? Shows how much they actually care about what students want… Also I’m shocked and upset by how badly Zara has been treated-I’m an idevcertie and she’s been so helpful to me and others, the way she and wagner have been treated is disrespectful.

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    Let me just go against the grain here a little bit and say that certificates don’t mean that much. I am an SFS graduate and didn’t get a certificate. It hasn’t affected me one bit. No one cares.

    I took a lot of development courses while at Georgetown and was engaged in learning about development inside and outside the classroom. Georgetown has some really great development experts and practitioners on the faculty. You should consider taking their classes whether you will get a piece of paper and a scarf when you graduate.

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    @Yes, Really. Some administrative person, yes. Damage control, no. I don’t know what Ms. Khan asked for in her departure, and I have no stake in whether she should have received it. I also completely agree with Dean Gallucci’s point, and believe in the value of the IDEV program. I just don’t see any evidence here that the SFS is gleefully strangling this certificate and its overall health. It’s a foreign notion to me that every certificate, minor, and major program in the university should have its own tailored career-planning, internship-seeking, pepsi-providing branch.

    But for the sake of argument, let’s say all she was asking for was a full-time position. Think of what each full-time administrative professional is asked to do at Georgetown; in general, it’s much much more than just oversight of a single program. As a full-time administrator, I’d be surprised to learn that one person’s job is just a single certificate’s maintenance, no matter how popular. Program oversight of this sort is often handed to administrators who already have (more than) full-time work of their own. It’s not crazy to this administrator that the university would believe that this work can be done, and done well (as Ms. Khan so ably proved, according to this article), with less than full-time attention.

    As for the Career Center, I’d argue that its effectiveness should be assessed on more than simply how many listserv emails you’ve received from them.

    As for the proportion of the IDEV budget to IDEV’s popularity, I don’t know the numbers, but if it’s truly messed up, you may have a point. Budgets are messy, and there is no such thing as an uncontroversial budget line.

    So call it damage control if you must (although I’m one who shares many complaints about our money matters, and have myself been in shoes similar to Ms. Khan’s….so damage control isn’t generally a care of mine), but this episode alone doesn’t illustrate, for me, administrative incompetence, nor suckiness, or atrocity. It’s disappointing for Ms. Khan, most importantly, but she has made a principled decision with a beautiful opportunity in front of her. I am optimistic for the future of the certificate, and Georgetown’s administration, despite this setback.

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    @Really, I think that many of the points you raise are fair. In isolation, I probably wouldn’t have any objection to there just being a set of classes in development. However, I do object when I see what other, less popular certificates have in terms of resources. When I see other certificates that have extravagantly catered events SFS Programming Funds that are thrown around, I get very frustrated knowing that the same funds could be directed towards something far more worthwhile in my estimation. I agree with you that not every certificate deserves extensive career services, but when nearly a quarter of the SFS is involved with it, I think does deserve some sort of attention.

    I’ll concede that argument about the career center was rather incomplete, so I’ll expand on it. When I began the process of applying for an internship in the field of development,
    I looked at both the career center and IDEV. I received little to no help from the Career Center, while IDEV, and especially, went out of their way to help me. My quip about the newsletters was in reference to the fact that while IDEV has done an exceptional job of keeping in contact with me, the career center cannot even maintain a baseline level of periodically sending out updates to people who have demonstrated interest in careers in the field, despite it being their specialization. This may suggest that my concerns ought to be brought up about the effectiveness of the career center, but as long as international development is underserved by the career center, and as long as a quarter of the SFS is pursuing the certificate, I think there is reason to believe that having someone work with those students is hardly a superfluous expense.

    Again, I would accept the premise of budget cuts, but not when taken in light of the other programs. Of all the certificates, as the article mentions, none were cut more than the International Development Certificate, in spite of the fact it is the fastest growing one, and in spite of the fact that President DeGioia emphasized its importance to the mission of our school. While I certainly hope it’s not someone in the SFS gleefully strangling its largest program, I am at a loss as to why it has been cut more than any other certificate, and it certainly makes me question the School of Foreign Service’s legitimate commitment to the field.

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    Budget is a statement of priorities, and as the SFS has cut the budget towards idev or neglected to hire full-time staff then clearly the program ranks low on the totem pole. Idev doesn’t have a program coordinator employed on salary like every other certificate, which is hard to believe considering it is the largest certificate program in enrollment. Funding and administrative support ought to follow increasing student interest, but it seems that the exact opposite has happened. “Really?” – this might help to explain student disappointment with the SFS administration.

    To respond to the “tailored career-planning, internship-seeking, pepsi-providing branch” of idev… What attracted me to the idev certificate is not just its curriculum but the emphasis that Ms. Khan and Professor Wagner placed on applying academic tools to real world experience and problem solving. Helping students find specific international internships is something that the career center cannot provide the way that idev has done. The program has excelled and attracted more students with its superior organization and unity as one certificate program, not just a variety of classes. I’m unaware of our “pepsi-provider” but would the administration cut funding for its own dinners and luncheons? Probably not.

    Georgetown is less than 15 minutes away from the IMF and World Bank, but we cannot seem to support a program in international development at a world class foreign service institution? Someone please help me to better understand our priorities.

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    This is such a disappointment. As a student in the College fighting for the right to the IDEV certificate when 3 other schools (NHS, SFS, and MSB) can earn it, I am disgusted that the SFS is further cutting the budget. Professor Wagner and Zara are innovators who put sustained effort into keeping us excited and curious about development despite budget constraints. Even though I was not formally enrolled in the program being an “ineligible” student in the College, I was taken under the wing of Zara and Professor Wagner, given resume and career advice, and even invited to stimulating discussions over dinner at Professor Wagner’s house.

    It is a shame that such a popular program is being downsized, when it should be expanded. Studying abroad in India this semester only came to fruition through the advice and encouragement from professors in the IDEV certificate. I wish more students could engage in development studies without a crunch of resources burdening the program’s expansion.