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Renewing God's World

To change the world for the better, you need a deep passion for justice. At Calvin you will learn how to be an effective agent of renewal, prepared to make a difference.


The global development studies program offers an 12-course major and a 6-course minor. Both programs include study off-campus in one of Calvin's semester programs or interim courses.

Majors take eleven required courses, one elective course, and spend one semester in a developing country. Minors take three required courses and three elective courses, spending either a semester or interim in a developing country.


Initially called Third World Development Studies, the GDS program began in 1993 as a minor option for students interested in deepening their understanding of global poverty and how to combat it. The GDS program gradually grew in popularity and prominence as global issues became increasingly important, as student and faculty interest grew and as more opportunities for overseas study became available. Students could officially major in GDS for the first time in 2005.

Program goals


Expand your awareness of global hunger, poverty and oppression. Throughout your studies and experience abroad, the international development program will help you understand cultures in developing countries from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Dual foundation

The international development program will provide you with a theoretical foundation and Christian perspective for analyzing the problems and solutions of human development. Through this perspective we aim to nurture in you a Christ-like spirit of compassion for suffering people around the world.

Beyond Calvin

By combining all of the elements of the GDS program, you will be equipped with knowledge, skills and virtues for positions in development organizations or for study in graduate programs.

Active Faculty

Spread across different disciplines, there are numerous faculty advisers who teach GDS courses and work directly with GDS students to help them shape an academic program designed to meet their individual interests and needs. All GDS faculty have extensive experience in developing countries and in researching and teaching about development issues. These interest/research areas include:

  • Religion and politics in southern Africa
  • Short-term missions
  • Justice and development in Honduras
  • Eco-tourism in Jamaica
  • International law
  • International collaboration
  • Intersection of race and place
  • Modern-day slavery
  • Human rights advocacy in South Asia
  • Higher education in Ethiopia
  • Refugees in East Africa
  • Sustainable food production
  • Labor migration in developing countries
  • Human population issues
  • Traditional religions in Africa
  • Security institutions

Global Opportunities

Spending a semester in a developing country guided by a trained faculty member is a vital component of the international development studies program at Calvin. Calvin offers many off-campus semester programs, several of which are in developing countries. The fall semester in Honduras is specifically geared toward justice studies, and the spring semester in Ghana focuses on development studies.

Other, Calvin-endorsed programs are available with Northwestern College's program in Romania and the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute's program in Thailand. Calvin-offered interim courses regularly visit developing countries like Cambodia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Liberia and many others.

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