Certificate in Global Social Development Practice (GSDP)

china instituteThe Objective of The Certificate in Global Social Development Practice (GSDP) is to identify, recruit, and train well qualified candidates who are committed to assume leadership in the development and provision of policies, programs, and practices that address problems in the international social development arena. These include careers in international, national, state, and local social welfare and human service agencies and social development organizations; government; international policy, research, and advocacy organizations; and firms and non-profit organizations that engage in global social development initiatives.

GSDP candidates must:

  • Be accepted as a first-year student at SSA (second-year students are not eligible to apply to GSDP);
  • Have previous experience in global social policy or social work or a clearly expressed commitment to pursue a career in global social policy social work.
  • Have the ability to meet academic course requirements; complete an approved 6-month international block field placement; engage in an approved first year field placement; participate in at least two approved co-curricular activities each quarter; engage in a monthly discussion seminar; and complete a capstone project.


Applications for the GSDP Certificate Program will be considered on an ongoing basis with priority consideration given to earlier applicants.  

A complete application packet includes:

  1. A completed application,
  2. A resume or curriculum vita,
  3. One letter of recommendation that speaks to your ability to productively engage in and contribute to an international field placement setting for six months,
  4. Essay.

Please write an essay/personal statement (2-3 pages in length) describing:

(a) past experience in the global social welfare field;
(b) areas of interest, including (to the extent known) problem focus, population of interest, region of interest, and future goals; and
(c) how participation in the Certificate Program in Global Social Development Practice will help the applicant to achieve their goals.

Specific skills relevant to the applicant’s interests, such as language proficiency, should also be noted.



ACADEMIC COURSES: Students who are accepted into the Certificate Program will take at least four courses from available curricular offerings that focus on social welfare issues and social development practice in global perspective. This includes the required core introductory course, “International Perspectives on Social Policy and Social Work Practice” (SSA 63300), plus at least three additional courses. SSA offers courses that focus on international social work and social welfare, cross-national comparative perspectives, and the implications of global processes on social work and social development practice. For full descriptions, see our course catalog.

Courses are organized under three major themes: (1) Foundation courses, which focus on underlying theories and social policy orientations in comparative perspective; (2) Issues and Perspectives, which examine particular social development themes; and (3) Social Development Practice in Context, which address specific strategies and tools related to social development practice globally. Examples of courses offered at SSA include:

Foundation courses

    • 63300 International Perspectives on Social Policy and Social Work Practice
    • 62912 Global Development and Social Welfare

Issues and Perspectives

    • 45112 Contemporary Immigration Policy and Practice
    • 45312 Urban Social Movements
    • 47622 Community Development in International Perspective
    • 47812 Human Rights Perspectives for Social Work Practice
    • 60100 Drugs: Culture and Context
    • 61912 Policing, Citizenship, and Inequality in Comparative Perspective
    • 65700 Immigration, Law, and Society

Social Development Practice in Context

    • 45522 Creating a Context for Unity and Reconciliation in Global Post-Conflict Settings
    • 46922 Structuring Refuge: U.S. Refugee Policy and Resettlement Practice
    • 62712 Trauma and Resilience in Cross-Cultural Practice
    • 63800 Program Evaluation in International Settings

Certificate candidates will have the following suggested Curriculum Map for their First Year:

Fall and Winter Quarters:

      • 30100: Social Intervention: Direct Practice
      • 30000: Social Intervention: Programs and Policies
      • Standard HBSE (fall) and 30200 (winter)

Spring Quarter for both Clinical and Admin GSDP students

      • 63300: International Perspectives on Social Policy and Social Work Practice
      • 62900: Global Development and Social Policy
      • 63800 Program Evaluation in International Settings

Additional courses may be offered through other units of the university, including the Booth School of BusinessDepartment of Comparative Human DevelopmentHarris School of Public Policy, Law SchoolPozen Family Center for Human Rights, and the Pritzker School of Medicine. The courses may be accepted, by petition, as electives that count toward Certificate Program requirements.

  • 1st YEAR FIELD PLACEMENT (CHICAGO-BASED): Field placements provide opportunities for students to get direct experience working in agencies that serve disadvantaged immigrant or refugee populations, advocate for policies that address international social work issues, and engage in research on global social work topics. Most local (Chicago) field placements are designed for social administration students who are preparing for careers in international social development.
  • 2nd YEAR FIELD PLACEMENT (ABROAD): In addition to the first year field placement component, students are required to participate in an extended six-month block field placement/internship over the summer between the first and second year and the autumn quarter of the second year (i.e. June-December). Students who do the block field placement/internship will take four courses instead of three during the winter and spring quarters of their second year, plus an independent study course based on their placement/internship. Some financial support to help fund students’ work abroad will be available to Certificate students.
  • CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Students are required to complete two co-curricular activities per quarter over a two-year period. Suggested co-curricular activities will be provided to students in the Certificate Program through periodic e-mails sent to students. Lectures and other events that qualify as co-curricular activities are held at various times throughout the year. Students may select events that coordinate well with their academic schedules and particular substantive interests, including those hosted by the Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Race, Politics, and CultureInstitute on Politics, Katz Center for Mexican Studies, and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, among other university affiliates. Students in the Certificate Program will also receive a one-year membership to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which will allow them free access to a range of events the Council sponsors each year, which also qualify as approved co-curricular activities.
  • DISCUSSION SEMINAR: Students in the Certificate Program in Global Social Development Practice are required to participate in a monthly discussion seminar. Seminars in the first year will largely be organized around presentations by and discussion with scholars and practitioners working on specific global social welfare issues. In the second year, the seminar will also include presentation and discussion of students’ international experience in the field and work toward their capstone projects.
  • CAPSTONE PROJECT: In the spring of students’ final year, students will present on their experience in the field or on a specific project they have developed in the course of their study.