Global Social Development Practice Program of Study

Global Social Development Practice (GSDP) is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA and then by the Program of Study. SSA students apply to GSDP during the fall quarter of their first year. Criteria for acceptance include an ability to critically reflect on the implications of cross-cultural practice and an articulation of an interest in gaining a global perspective on social welfare problems, policy, and practice.


The Global Social Development Practice Program is designed for students interested in understanding social welfare challenges in a globalizing world. Internationally, processes of urbanization, economic liberalization, and various dimensions of globalization have had an increasing influence on local contexts. Along with some social benefits, these changes have led to a number of social problems and policy challenges. These occur across a range of social arenas, including growing disparities in wealth, income access to opportunity, and new pressures on service systems and governance regimes.

This program provides students with the opportunity to think about social problems, social policy, and social work practice in comparative cross-national perspective, grounded in scholarship and practice around a set of concrete issues.

Students apply and are accepted into the Program, however, any student may take GSDP courses as they are integrated into the broader curriculum. This provides all students with an opportunity to incorporate some international perspectives into their work locally as well as Program students with a particular interest in working abroad.


The Global Social Development Practice Program of Study selects a cohort of students from either the social administration or clinical concentration

Students who are accepted into the Program will take at least three courses from available curricular offerings that focus on social welfare issues and social work practice in global perspective. This includes one of the required core introductory courses, "International Perspectives on Social Policy and Social Work Practice" or "Global Development and Social Welfare," plus at least two additional courses. In the summer between their first and second year at SSA, students in the Program will also engage in an internship or study program abroad. Students will also participate in an integrated clinical and social administration field seminar.  

We currently offer courses that focus on international social work and social welfare, cross-national comparative perspectives, and the implications of global processes on social work practice. You may search the course catalog by using the keywords ‘international’ and 'global' to find all courses currently offered in this program.

Additional courses are offered through other units of the university, including the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights Program, the Harris School of Public Policy, the Pritzker School of Medicine, the Law School, the Booth School of Business, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. These courses may also be accepted, by petition, as electives that count toward Program requirements.

Field Placement

Field placements have been selected to provide opportunities for students to get direct experience working in Chicago agencies that serve disadvantaged immigrant or refugee populations, advocate for policies that address international social welfare issues, and engage in global social work topics of research. Most of the placements are designed for social administration students who are preparing for careers in international social welfare, though some clinical placements are available.

Study Abroad Requirement

In addition to the field placement component, students are required to participate in a study abroad or internship program over the summer between their first and second year. It is also possible to schedule this for the summer after the second year by graduating in the summer rather than the spring. Students may choose to participate in any of the following programs: an SSA study abroad program in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India or in collaboration with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Peking University, the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights Internships, or another approved internship or independent study. Other projects with an international organization in the field of social work may be considered, but must be first approved by the head of the Program of Study.

Career Opportunities

Students completing the program will be prepared to assume leadership in the development and provision of policies, programs, and practices that address problems in the international social work arena. These include careers in international, national, state, and local social welfare and human services agencies; international advocacy organizations; and firms and non-profit organizations that engage in global social work initiatives.


Jessica Darrow, Lecturer
Director, Global Social Development Practice Programs