Sustainable Development


The Master of Global Affairs – Sustainable Development concentration prepares students for high-impact careers as international development practitioners and policymakers with the professional skills to design, manage, implement, and evaluate programs and policies that promote inclusive, sustainable solutions. Students in this concentration receive rigorous training in advanced quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis; explore the latest approaches in systems thinking, human-centered design, and impact evaluation; and have extended interaction with partner organizations engaged in hands-on project-based work in international development.

Sustainable Development is a vision for human dignity, economic well-being, social justice, and preservation of nature on the global level. In 2015, all 193 United Nations member countries signed on to the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which articulate a vision of globalization along with concrete economic, social, and environmental goals. In addressing world leaders at the United Nations in October 2015, Pope Francis called for a holistic and moral vision and encouraged the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Keough School — founded just as the world was rallying to the implementation of the SDGs — is making Sustainable Development central to its research, policy outreach, and educational programs for students. Students who choose this concentration will prepare for careers at the forefront of the global effort to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals “to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.”

The Sustainable Development Concentration is directed by Lakshmi Iyer, Associate Professor of Economics & Global Affairs.

Career opportunities: Development practice and management in government agencies and departments; local, national and international nongovernmental organizations; the private sector, and organizations focused on issues such as the alleviation of poverty, environmental sustainability, education, economic development, international migration, good governance, and religion and development.

In the Classroom and in the Field


Master’s students in Sustainable Development take:

Core Classes – for all Master’s students
Foundational Seminars (2)
Global Politics (1)
Economics (1)
Research design for practitioners (1)
Integration Labs (4) including a summer field experience (2-3 months)

Sustainable Development classes
Exploring Sustainable Development (1)
Applied Statistics (1)
Impact Evaluation for Development (1)
Skills and Methods Courses (3)
Elective Courses (3-5)

Integration Labs for Sustainable Development


In the Keough School’s Integration labs, students work with faculty-mentors to synthesize academic knowledge, skill development, and hands-on practice throughout all four semesters of the Master of Global Affairs. Through the Integration labs, students acquire two years of professional experience as they partner with global organizations on real-world challenges and opportunities.

In the first semester, students become acquainted with the latest varied approaches to addressing complex problems in a global context — including human-centered design, reflective practice and conflict transformation, systems thinking, negotiations, and co-creation of collaborative projects. Near the end of the first semester, students are matched with a partner organization and begin to plan a project addressing a specific problem or opportunity identified by their partner organization.

In the second semester, students gain more in-depth understanding of the substantive topic of their project, acquire deep knowledge about the culture, history, and context of their international placement and setting, and hone the professional skills necessary to accomplish their work.

In the summer, students spend 2-3 months in the field with their partner organization working on a consultancy or research project.

In the third semester, students synthesize and analyze what they’ve learned and begin to develop a professional-quality project, which might take the form of (for example) a policy brief, program evaluation, consultancy report, journal article, or master’s thesis.

In the fourth semester, students refine their final project and present, communicate, and disseminate their work in multiple ways to multiple audiences, including faculty and students, partner organizations, and professional and policy-making audiences.

Partnership opportunities for Master’s students specializing in Sustainable Development are under development, and may include existing and new Notre Dame partner organizations such as Partners in Health, Engineering2Empower, CARE, Notre Dame University Bangladesh, InterAmerican Development Bank, U.S. Department of State Diplomacy Labs, and many others.


sustainable development web

Read more about the Master of Global Affairs »

Selected courses in Sustainable Development may include:

Systems Thinking and Human-Centered Design

Methods of Analysis


Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Design for Development

Political Economy of Development

Development Economics

Managing Sustainable Development

Gender and Development

Research Methods for Field Work in the Developing World

Empirical Methods in Development

Globalization in Africa

Democracy and Citizenship in Africa

Education, Citizenship and Democracy

Political Economy of Food and Agriculture

Theories of Economic Development

International Organizations and Global Challenges

Poverty in the Developing World

Anthropology of Globalization

Immigration in Global Perspective



Frequently Asked Question about the Master’s Program

Other concentrations:

Global Affairs [Choose a Specialization]
International Peace Studies