International Development, Community and Environment More
 - Clark University

About the International Development, Community, and Environment Department

The International Development, Community and Environment Department has built its degree programs on more than 35 years of collective field experience in North America, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a place of intellectual rigor and creative thinking, where students acquire the professional skills they need to advance in their careers.

At IDCE students learn how to address complex problems and build community while managing resources wisely. In the classroom and in the field, IDCE students develop critical analytical skills, explore linkages between local and global perspectives, and focus on the human and ecological dimensions of sustainability.

Our community of scholars and practitioners is dedicated to fostering environmental sustainability, social justice, and economic well-being in both the developing and developed world. The major forces of social change — grass roots initiatives, social movements, government policy, market approaches, entrepreneurship, technological innovation, individual action, and education — form the core of our transdisciplinary studies. The programs approach complex problems by crossing conventional disciplinary boundaries. Each of IDCE's programs is flexible, encouraging students to take courses across programs representing a diversity of perspectives. The breadth of opportunities for integrated coursework makes IDCE unique among similar traditional programs. IDCE maintains close links with other academic centers at Clark, including the Graduate School of Geography and the Graduate School of Management, providing even more opportunities for students to gain the skills they will need to cross nonprofit, private, government, NGO, and research sectors.

Health, Communities, and the Environment

Health, communities and the environment signature - Clark University

In this signature we explore the complex interplay between environmental conditions, social processes, and human health. We ask:

  • What are the social and environmental causes of disease?
  • What are the causes of environmental exposures?
  • What accounts for disparities in the distribution of disease?
  • What makes a city, community, or region healthy?
  • Why do some people have access to health-enabling resources while others do not?
  • And what is the role of academia in promoting an alternative narrative of health as defined by communities and not by institutions?

This signature offers students an opportunity to gain expertise in the intersection of public health, social sciences, environmental and spatial analysis, health policy, and international and community development. Courses in this signature offer students the opportunity to

  • explore the social and environmental dimensions of global and domestic health challenges
  • engage in thoughtful and critical analysis of domestic and international health policy
  • prepare for careers in health in the US and abroad.

Current IDCE projects in this signature address access to HIV prevention and treatment for marginalized populations; the emergence of non-communicable diseases worldwide; the health/developmental impacts of pollution on vulnerable people in Massachusetts; the relationship between the built environment, early childhood trauma and gun violence; the spatial distribution and impact of environmental health hazards, and health disparities among immigrants and refugees in American cities.


People on the Move

Signature: People on the move - Clark University

This signature connects migration, forced migration and refugee studies to key debates about development and environmental change. We explore why people choose to move alongside the socio-political and environmental processes producing these choices, and how the boundaries and borders that shape movement emerge, are maintained, controlled, and transformed. We consider the role of ethnic, racial, and religious identities in spurring movement and in shaping the reception of newcomers by societies.

We are especially interested in how policies and organizations designed to manage or assist migrants, refugees, and displaced people intersect with ideas about citizenship, integration, sustainability, gender, development, and belonging, as well as how those policies can be improved, and the capacity of institutions strengthened.

Our work is historically informed, examining how scholars, policymakers, and activists have constructed displacement as a problem either for analysis or action, and how different legal and policy frameworks created to manage human movement have changed over recent decades. Thus, this signature strives to understand and positively impact the complex political economy of the current global distribution, circulation, management and regulation of people on the move in the context of increasing social and environmental instability.

Our grounded approach incorporates people on the move as participants in action research and practice. Current projects in this signature involve:

  • workforce development and immigration
  • refugee resettlement and integration
  • refugee and immigrant health and wellbeing
  • transnationalism, diaspora, and social networks
  • human smuggling and trafficking
  • humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction
  • refugee narratives


Education, Youth, and Social Change

Signature: Education, youth and social change

In this signature we work at the nexus of four core IDCE fields of research and practice: education, youth work, community development, and social change. This signature provides intellectual and practical engagement with these interrelated areas by asking questions such as:

  • How does formal and informal education impact youth and community development?
  • How do changing youth interests and circumstances shape educational and youth development approaches?
  • In what ways do particular visions for social change and justice drive educational and youth-focused initiatives at community, national and international levels?

We look at the politics of decision making in relation to these areas by examining how certain conceptions of youth shape public policy in ways that both control and facilitate young peoples' social conduct, educational outcomes, and civic involvement. We engage these topics by critically examining themes such as:

  • the purpose of schooling and the values embedded in modern education
  • conceptions of youth as potential and threat
  • he role of out-of-school time organizations as contexts for youth socio-political development
  • the implications of youth bulges and shrinkages across different global regions
  • the role of youth in shaping physical and social communities
  • the role of international initiatives such as Education for All (EFA), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • and others, in framing policy in education and youth for social change.

Current projects in this signature are committed to the study and practice of social justice and they examine systems that frame access, equity, power and power relations in education, youth, community development and social change.


Land, Food, and Natural Resource Governance

Signature: Land, food and natural resources - Clark University

In this signature we explore the practices and policies associated with the governance and management of common pool resources, state-owned, and privately-held land and resources including but not limited to forests, agricultural land, nature conservation areas, mineral extraction, and water. We pursue questions such as:

  • Why can't market approaches to resource management and development single-handedly address human development needs and environmental sustainability?
  • What methodologies, skills and practical tools are required for professionals to engage in this signature area?
  • Why are institutions and communities critical actors in land, food, and natural resource management?
  • What role does collective action plays in land, food and natural resource management?
  • Are rights-based approaches more effective at incorporating non-economic variables into the policy analysis of land, food and natural resource governance?
  • What are the causes of disparity in the distribution of land, food and natural resources at various geographic scales: local, regional, national, global?

This signature offers students the opportunity to examine and gain expertise in a number of themes such as environmental sustainability, community and economic development, food justice and security, global climate change, the gendered dimensions of resource ownership and use, and international trade and agreements. Such themes are approached from various disciplines (agricultural sociology, urban and regional planning, anthropology, etc.) and using a variety of mixed-methods, GIS, and participatory action-research. Students participating in this signature have the opportunity to work with and learn from affected communities, NGOs and non-profits, governments, the private sector, and donors. Students often participate in applied projects with faculty who have active practice and research in this signature area. Current IDCE projects in this signature include the development of collaborative practices to improve economic development in urban and rural areas of Worcester County, the expansion of partnerships and networks between universities, community development organizations and policy making bodies to promote food-driven economic development in distressed neighborhoods, the development of urban food markets; and projects involving land tenure and property rights in a number countries.


Labor, Livelihoods and Development

Signature: Labor Livelihoods and Development - Clark University

This signature engages students with the complexities of human development. Whereas the functioning of labor markets can be understood from a neoclassical perspective (supply/demand), labor market opportunities and outcomes for large classes of workers and households (women, racial/ethnic workers, and immigrants) cannot be satisfactorily explained within such a framework. We pursue questions such as:

  • Why and how do competing explanations of the functioning of labor markets differ?
  • What changes in the organization of work have been caused by globalization?
  • What methodologies, skills and practical tools are required for professionals to engage in this signature area?
  • Are "people-based" and "place-based" approaches and policies to social and economic development complementary or contradictory?
  • How do labor and other social and political variables interact to affect the socioeconomic livelihood of individuals, households and communities in various urban and rural settings?
  • What are the causes of poverty and inequality across different communities, societies and countries?
  • Are workforce development policies enough to improve the productivity and wages of workers?

Labor markets and livelihoods are not just simply influenced by macroeconomic forces and shaped by individual choices, but by the political economy and social history of markets, the socio-demographic characteristics of workers, and increasingly by a wide range of destabilizing factors such as war, migration, natural disasters, environmental depletion, and technological change. Through coursework students will gain expertise on the interaction of labor markets with other socio-demographic factors, at various geographic scales (local, regional, national, global), within multiple social, political and structural settings (urban, rural, industrial, factories), and with a long-term view on individual and household well-being, workforce development, human capital growth, and equity. Such themes are approached from various disciplines ranging from political economy and urban and regional planning to sociology, and using a variety of mixed-methods, GIS, and statistical research. Current IDCE projects in this signature area include:

  • the development of workforce development strategies to improve the livelihood of people in small and mid-size industrial cities of New England
  • the development of policies to jointly improve job opportunities and health outcomes
  • the role of anchor institutions (hospitals, universities, non-profits) and multi-stakeholders partnerships in urban revitalization.


Social, Environmental, and Economic Sustainability

Signature: Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability - Clark University

This signature offers students the opportunity to gain a multi-dimensional perspective on sustainability, one that draws on social science, natural science, and technological aspects of engineering. We pursue questions such as:

  • How do different social actors work together to vision a more sustainable future?
  • How can different ways of knowing and diverse data types and methods be mobilized to understand existing conditions, and vision alternative development pathways?
  • What does a more sustainable water supply and wastewater sanitation system look like?
  • What does a more sustainable food and agriculture system look like?
  • What does a more sustainable energy system look like?
  • How do we transition to a more sustainable economy with alternative production and consumption systems?

These are provocative, far-reaching questions that students need to engage with, and try to answer. The Worcester City and Worcester County contexts provide local and regional contexts for research, practice and teaching, while international cases – especially in so-called ‘developing countries’ – bring a more diverse set of contexts into the analytical frame.

In this signature we encompass all three primary dimensions of sustainable development: social (including political and cultural), environmental, and economic, and consider the US setting as well as international settings. As we enter the second generation of sustainable development challenges and opportunities, and the launch of the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015, there is a pressing need to define and implement sustainability projects and programs in ways that are both practical and meaningful to a full range of stakeholders: civil society; the public sector; the private sector; the non-profit sector; and academic institutions. The UN recently recognized that sustainability is "inherently political"S, that civil society needs to play a major role, and that approaches need to integrate across sectors.