Global Development

With an ever-increasing international focus and a service-minded culture, the University of Virginia is creating future global development leaders. Our students are able to use their academic backgrounds, extracurricular passions, critical thinking skills and knowledge of global trends to prepare for their careers. 

Driven from students' self-initiative and desire to improve the world around them, the students come from a variety of academic disciplines and global perspectives to help students tackle complex international issues. Students learn to think critically and approach real-world problems with a strong liberal arts education, supported by faculty from departments across the University. These programs include our renowned Frank Batten School of Public Policy, Economics Department, International Relations, Foreign Affairs and the new Global Studies Major. Since the start of the program in Fall 2009, the Global Studies major at UVA has also expanded from Global Development Studies to also include several other concentrations, including Global Public Health and Security & Justice.

In addition, UVA houses its Center for Global Health. The Center promotes health in resource-limited settings by fostering the commitment of students, faculty and partners from many disciplines to address the diseases of poverty. Here students from all disciplines can conduct research with faculty, work with nonprofits and participate in global health leadership opportunities. ​

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Student Demographics

Undergraduate Enrollment by Major (2015)

  • Public Policy - 144
  • Foreign Affairs - 443
  • Economics - 597

Program Size by Class

With the additions of Global Public Health in 2011 and Security & Justice in 2014, the Global Studies applicant pool and student body have been increasing in number each year. From its inaugural class of 20 students graduated in 2011, the program now has over 200 students.

Class of 2015

  • Global Development Studies- 31
  • Global Public Health- 17

Class of 2016

  • Global Development Studies- 41
  • Global Public Health- 25
  • Securities & Justice (Inaugural Class)- 17

Class of 2017

  • Global Development Studies- 32
  • Global Public Health- 23
  • Securities & Justice- 19

Class of 2018

  • Global Development Studies- 32
  • Global Public Health- 38
  • Securities & Justice- 28

Rankings and Data Points

The University of Virginia prides itself for being among the nation's most elite colleges and universities. Both the university and its schools are nationally ranked, and students in our schools related to the tecnology and innovation industries achieve 3.0 GPAs or higher. 

U.S. News and World Report Rankings

  • No. 2 public university in the country
  • No. 24 among the 310 "national universities"
  • No. 5 public university best value
  • No. 1 among public universities in first-year retention and 2015 graduation rate 

School Rankings

  • The McIntire School of Commerce ranks No. 3 among public institutions and No. 6 overall
  • The School of Engineering and Applied Science ranks No. 21 among public schools that offer a doctoral degree and ties for No. 32 overall
  • The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy is now ranked No. 31 out of nearly 300 schools of public policy, public administration and public affairs programs 

Average GPA by School (2015)

  • Arts and Sciences- 3.296 (10,291 students) 
  • Commerce- 3.64 (696 students)
  • Engineering- 3.285 (2,577 students) 


Global Studies

Students within the Global Studies major draw from interdisciplinary perspectives to find solutions for global development, global public health, and modern international conflicts. They learn from faculty members with a wide variety of academic specialties, including Politics, Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology, Government and Foreign Affairs, English, History, Religious Studies, International Relations, and Women, Gender, & Sexuality. Global Public Health majors also take coursework with professors associated with the School of Medicine.

Students are highly encouraged to study abroad and can even do so through specific courses, allowing them to work hands-on with global development in the Dominican Republic, South Africa, or St. Kitts and Nevis, just to name a few.

All Global Studies students are also required to take one language course beyond the 2020 level, or a second language until the 1020 level.

In their final year of study, all students complete a capstone seminar and research paper.

Other required courses include:

  • Global Development Studies

    • Introduction to Microeconomics/Introduction to Macroeconomics

    • Global Development, Theories and Case Studies

    • Development on the Ground

  • Global Public Health

    • Global History, Global Humanities, Global Cultures, Global Diagnostics

    • Global Health Perspectives

    • Introduction to Health Research Methods

  • Security & Justice

    • Global History, Global Humanities, Global Cultures, Global Diagnostics

    • Global Issues of Security and Justice

Specifically, all courses required for the Global Development Studies major can be found here


All economics majors at UVA complete a foundational sequence of courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics.  With this common “toolkit”, students choose from a broad selection of electives including courses on international trade, financial markets, development economics, industrial organization, the economics of education, health  economics, antitrust policy, environment economics, law and economics, and many other options.  Not only do economics majors build a strong theoretical and empirical toolkit, but success in the major also requires students to develop good communication skills.

Economics majors also have the opportunity to pursue focused study in particular areas with concentrations in Financial Economics, Public Policy, Industrial Organization, and International Trade & Finance.   In addition, the competitive Distinguished Majors Program allows students to write a thesis and complete an independent research project.

Beyond coursework, students in economics have the opportunity to participate in seminars and lectures led by leading economists and policy makers from around the world.

The Department also offers a special concentration in International Economics. The international economics concentration is designed for ambitious majors with a keen interest in global economic policy. The core course requirements, ECON 4210 and ECON 4220, develop basic literacy in empirical techniques and international economic theory in international trade and macroeconomics. The remaining course electives allow students to specialize further in economic development (ECON 4230, 4610) or area studies (Econ 3630, 4410). Many students combine the international concentration with a study abroad program or with the Foreign Affairs major. Recent graduates have gone on to work for international governmental and non-governmental organizations, master’s degree programs in international studies or public policy, law school, and business school.

*To complete the concentration, students must meet the ordinary requirements for the major and complete:

  • ECON 4210 International Trade Theory and Policy
  • ECON 4220 International Finance and Macroeconomics
  • ECON 3630, Economics of the Middle East
  • ECON 4230, Seminar on Trade and Development
  • ECON 4610, Economic Development
  • ECON 4620 Seminar on Economic Development

Public Policy

A unique Bachelor of Arts program that is physically housed in a professional school, the Batten School’s BA in Public Policy and Leadership will prepare graduates for a variety of jobs in the government, education, nonprofit and private sectors. 

Students learn to analyze the economics, political implications and history of public policy choices. They explore the psychological and cultural aspects of public policy. Our faculty lead students through an examination of domestic and international policy issues. Students explore how traditional distinctions between “domestic” and “international” policy issues are crumbling in an increasingly global environment.

Batten also operates its unique Global Policy Center. It supports international activities in scholarship, curriculum development, service and student engagement. The Center seeks to infuse a global dimension in the public policy discourse and contribute to public debate and deliberation on the pressing international policy issues of our time. In addition, the Center aims to provide Batten students with the best of tools to thrive as public policy leaders in an increasingly diverse and globalized world.

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include:

  • International Public Policy
  • International Development Policy
  • Global Humanitarian Crises: Dilemmas, Leadership, and Action
  • Social Entrepreneurship: Global Field Experience

International Relations/Foreign Affairs

UVA’s Foreign Affairs and International Relations scholars tackle complexities with creativity and analytical rigor. Our substantive expertise covers the full range of international affairs including military conflict and nuclear proliferation; international trade and finance; international institutions and order; and the culture, language, and politics of every major region in the world.  Our varied analytical tools include, statistical analyses, a variety of qualitative methods, and game theoretic models. Combined, these tools reveal and make sense of the multi-faceted puzzles we face. Interdisciplinary collaboration with scholars across Grounds continually invigorates our research.

The undergraduate program consists of 30 credits of course work in the Department of Politics plus 12 hours of related coursework.

Our graduate IR curriculum is organized around a three-course sequence that includes IR Theory, International Security, and International Political Economy.  Students take these courses concurrent with the department’s methodology courses.  After PhD students advance to candidacy they present dissertation research in an on-going, faculty-led seminar – an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow as a scholar.  Our students routinely interact with prominent IR scholars from around the world in the department’s Lansing-Lee/Bankard Seminar and the Miller Center’s GAGE Colloquium. Our graduates are recruited by leading universities and colleges, governments, think tanks, and the private sector.

Top Employers

After graduation, our students across these academic disciplines go into a wide variety of careers within the international development realm. Some begin their careers with NGOs and nonprofits. Others begin their careers in think tanks or with leading bilateral or multilateral organizations. Other students successfully enroll in graduate school, and still others initially work in traditional business fields like consulting, hoping to apply their new corporate skills in the private sector. 

Some employers of our alums include:

  • The World Bank
  • Chemonics
  • IMF
  • DAI

As an example of employer partnerships, GDS is partnering with PROLINNOVA in order to initiate an internship program whereby farmer organizations, supportive professionals or country platform partner organizations of Prolinnova can invite students to learn and work with them either through or outside the IPW visits. 

Student Experiences

Contracted Independent Organizations (CIOs)

There are nearly 1,000 different student organizations at the University of Virginia. Among them include these specifically focused international development organizations: 

  • Global Development Organization (GDO) - Student members of the GDO were the ones who actually initiated the Global Studies major at UVA in 2006, researching similar programs at other schools, developing their own curriculum, and reaching out to faculty advisors to eventually get the major approved by the College of Arts & Sciences.

  • Global Brigades - The UVA chapter works with other universities to work in Honduras, Ghana, and Panama to focus on different development issues. Students choose areas of interest based on disciplines including Global Medical Dental Brigades (GMDB), Global Microfinance Brigades (MFB), Global Public Health Brigades (GPHB), and Global Water Brigades (GWB).

  • Engineering Students Without Borders (ESWB) - Engineering Students Without Borders is is a student run organization at the University of Virginia that’s focused on applying sustainable engineering methods to carry out local and international projects. Our mission is to inspire students to be proactive and contextually aware engineers who empower communities to attain their basic human needs in a sustainable manner. ESWB teams conduct both international and local projects.  It is the organization’s desire to partner with individuals, institutions, organizations, universities, and communities to undertake development projects within the framework of fostering long-term, sustainable, and reciprocal relationships. 

  • Global Medical Dental Brigades (GMDB) - The group's mission is to provide a holistic model for sustainable health care in underserved villages with limited access to medicine by conducting a preliminary needs assessment, treating patients to the highest ethical standards, sponsoring referrals to those with needs beyond our capability, recording data for the production of quantitative reports, and working to improve the water, sanitation, and economic infrastructures

  • Global Public Health Brigades at UVA - The group's mission is to provide volunteers with the opportunity to make a tangible impact on rural Honduran communities while gaining real life experiences in the fields of public health and international development. Working alongside community members, volunteers will spend a week implementing four public health construction projects (latrines, hygiene units, concrete floors, water storage units) within the homes of families. After finishing the projects, volunteers will also conduct educational workshops for the adults and the children of the community. These workshops will promote basic sanitation and hygiene practices, offer nutritional advice, and instruct on the principles of disease prevention.

  • Global Water Brigades Club at UVA - Global Water Brigades, a discipline of Global Brigades, is a movement of passionate students and professional volunteers from around the world dedicated to improving access to clean water and sanitation. Our students collaborate with water experts and community leaders to create and implement new and innovative solutions to water problems. Along with affiliate groups at other distinguished universities, our UVA team recruits student volunteers and water professionals, gathers supplies, and then travels overseas to work as a water brigade. Currently, the group is working with several impoverished Honduran villages in collaboration with one of their country's most highly regarded nonprofits, Sociedad Amigos de los Ninos. The group records data for the production of quantitative reports and works to improve the water, sanitation, and economic infrastructures in underserved villages.


Each student in the Global Studies program completes a capstone seminar, culminating in an individual research project. Here is the Security & Justice Inaugural Class of 2016’s Thesis Titles and Abstracts.

Other examples of student research include summers abroad “Investigating the Impact of Short-Term Medical Clinics in Iquitos, Peru” and co-designing solar-powered pumps with farmers with Tigray, Ethiopia.

Here is a link to some of the research being done by the Global Policy Center

Critical research, professional training, and collaborative capacity building coordinated through the Center for Global Health is shaped by three strong, interconnected, NIH-sponsored Training Grants: the Water and Health in Limpopo (WHIL) Innovations Post doctoral Fellowship, Global Infectious Disease Research Training (GIDRT), and Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT). These, and additional sources and networks, provide critical support and structure for CGH undergraduate, graduate, pre and post-doctoral emerging researchers. The transformative training experiences represent competitive, substantive, and intense training opportunities which strengthen institutional relationships, build bi-lateral capacity and sustain a global network of skilled, committed researchers and practitioners in crucial fields.

The University of Virginia's Center for Global Health University Scholar Awards support and cultivate the design and implementation of interdisciplinary research projects mentored by faculty and conducted at Center for Global Health International Partner sites. All Scholars are expected to report and present their work at the annual CGH symposium. The Center supports additional opportunities to publish in Conflux, a Global Health and Research Journal, as well as peer mentor new scholars. 

CGH has supported international experiences for students at the University of Virginia since 1978 with the Dean's/CGH Scholar Award in Medicine, which funds clinical electives for advanced medical students. The CGH-University Scholar Awards, created in 2001, support interdisciplinary research related to global health. The MHIRT (Minority Health International Research Training) scholar award supports outstanding minority students in mentored research training. Here is a link to the 2016 Scholar blog

Capabilities and Skills

Global Development Studies

Studies in the Global Development Studies major learn about development methods and theories through case studies to determine what works and what doesn’t, as well as taking an ethics course on community engagement. They use an interdisciplinary approach to draw from different liberal arts perspectives and to think about development means. Students and faculty think critically on how the history of a culture currently influences its society, and how this interacts with worldwide politics and economics to shape the future.

Global Public Health

Global Public Health students develop their skills in a variety of areas to approach public health issues through a multi-faceted lens. This includes studying social sciences to learn about different cultures from a social, political, and economic point of view, in order to effectively engage with different global communities and address their specific health needs. Students also utilize both quantitative and qualitative analysis to conduct and evaluate research, and they must understand how different institutions and organizations interact to prevent or treat specific global health issues.

Security & Justice

Students pursuing careers related to security and justice learn practical skills and gain diverse perspectives through this major. Beyond discussing traditional wars between nation-states, students and faculty together investigate modern conflicts including ethnic and religious conflict, genocide, terrorism, human trafficking, forced migration, detention, torture, drone warfare, cyberwarfare and surveillance.


Both scholarly and skills-based, the program offers students an opportunity to explore policy interests through research with faculty. Students develop marketable skills:

  • Quantitative and financial skills — how to use statistics and develop and manage budgets
  • Research skills — learn how to use data and find meaningful results
  • Interpersonal skills — developed and honed through group work and team-based projects
  • Communication skills — both through exposure to professional writing and public speaking

How to Recruit

Employers in the global development space looking to recruit students have a variety of opportunities to engage.

The signature event of the year has been our annual Global Development Career Day and Recruiting Fair! The Fair is an opportunity for organizations and institutional members to meet with students from these universities who are interested in international development careers. The program will consist of  panels, presentations, and an exhibitor showcase. There are several opportunities for organizations and institutional members to participate in this event as a sponsor or as an exhibitor. This is the information from last year's event

Organizations in this industry have also partnered with us on the DC IMPACTlink (formerly MetroLink) program. DC IMPACTlink gives employers the opportunity to meet, interview and hire top candidates from the University of Virginia, Swarthmore College, Yale University, Duke University, and Brown University in one convenient location. Juniors and seniors attend to interview for both full-time and internship positions. For more details visit this page

Engagement is not limited to these two events, however. Organizations are encouraged to post their jobs and internships year round through our Handshake job portal. 

Handshake is UVA's online recruiting portal that allows you to:

  • Post jobs or internships
  • Register for Career Fairs
  • Manage your On-Grounds Interviewing
  • Advertise your presentations
  • and more!

Log in or register for Handshake here.

More to Explore

David Lapinski, Director of Employer Relations and Experiential Education

UVA offers a wide variety of large career events to meet the needs of organizations recruiting UVA students. 

Handshake is UVA's online recruiting portal. Post jobs or internships, register for Career Fairs, manage your On-Grounds Interviewing, and more!