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Global Human Development Students Start with Ethics Retreat

September 18, 2012 – Students in the inaugural class of Georgetown's new Master of Arts in Global Human Development (MGHD) program were able to consider implications of decision-making in their field during a retreat on ethics and development earlier this month.

Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (SFS), which launched the two-year degree this fall, created the retreat in cooperation with the university's Jesuit Community.

The program builds on students' previous overseas development experience with a rigorous curriculum and emphasizes practical learning through an extensive summer field project.

Ethics First

Starting with ethics makes sense, according to SFS Dean Carol Lancaster, because practitioners soon enough will find themselves asking questions:

“Are the values that motivate me in my work inconsistent with the values of those I am trying to help?” Lancaster explained. “Should I abide by the law and bureaucratic regulations and get little done or skirt the law to accomplish lasting good?”

Development issues and development work are ethically charged, she said.

Students and faculty at the two-day retreat in Arlington, Va., discussed a range of issues, including corruption, the capture by the elite of governance and resources, gender biases, prejudice, lack of transparency and unintended consequences.

Student Reflections

"One thing I took from this retreat is that it is impossible to divorce the professional practice of international development from the ethical foundations that motivate our decisions," said Peter Cook (G'14). "Ultimately, each one of us is motivated in one way or another to pursue [this] career by fundamental ethical beliefs and considerations."

Anne Flaker (G'14) noted that, "This class of 21 [students] is digging into an ocean of ambiguity. We are searching for answers."

Innovative Degree

Lancaster, who spearheaded efforts to launch the new master's degree, pointed to the fact that more than two billion people in the world live in extreme poverty.

The director of the new program, Ann Van Dusen, worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for 25 years as both a social scientist and senior manager, serving in Washington in USAID’s Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination, Bureau for Asia and the Near East, Bureau for Science and Technology and Bureau for Global Programs, Field Support and Research.

She has also served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Save the Children/US and Interim CEO of EnterpriseWorks/VITA.

“With her unique combination of academic and practical experience, I know Ann is helping to establish a master’s program that will become one of the premier programs of its kind,” Lancaster said.