IHP | Comparative | Urban Studies | Sustainability | Geography

IHP: Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics (Fall 2)

Explore how geography, politics, economics, and culture shape social relations and the built environment -- and with what consequences -- in cities across the globe.

This program combines an innovative urban studies curriculum with fieldwork involving key actors and stakeholders — public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs, and grassroots organizations. You will spend time in four cities across the globe to better understand the interconnected social, physical, economic, environmental, and political systems affecting urban environments. In addition, you will complete an independent comparative research project on a topic of your choosing.

Key Questions:

  • Though human needs may be similar around the globe, why does a city's ability to satisfy those needs vary?
  • How do people create a sense of place, of community, of urban identity?
  • What historical and sociocultural contexts frame the opportunities, constraints, and uncertainties of urban life?
  • What must be done — and by whom — to move toward ecologically sustainable cities?
  • What are the opportunities for political action by individuals, community organizations, social movements, and local governments to shape city life?

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

United States: New York

(2 weeks)
The program starts in arguably the most prominent “world” city in the United States. In New York, you will meet classmates and faculty and be introduced to field experiences by exploring neighborhoods, visiting nongovernmental organizations, and hearing from public officials. The world journey commences with a discussion of local conditions and issues as well as an acknowledgment that while every city is local, it is also a piece of the global puzzle.

Argentina: Buenos Aires

(4 weeks)
The cosmopolitan capital city of Buenos Aires has a history with an enduring legacy: European-influenced architecture, an extraction economy, large landowners, an influential Catholic church, charismatic political leadership and military dictatorships, a tradition of public protest, and a cultural heritage embedded in the tango. Underlying it all are the complex lives of a diverse society where former owners now work to survive and former workers now manage retaken factories.

Vietnam: Hanoi

(5 weeks)
vietnamRising from poverty and isolation, Hanoi offers examples of rapid human adaptation and resilience. With decades of war all but vanished, a new paradigm of local identity and international connectivity is being tested. Tension grows between the use of public resources for community and environmental benefit or commercial development and private profit. Meanwhile, the basic form of the traditional city — dense, narrow, and vertical — invites examination of the use, purpose, and expectations of public space.

South Africa: Cape Town

(5 weeks)
south africaIn Cape Town, you will see how a society that was grossly unequal by design is attempting to transform itself into one that provides equal economic opportunity for all. Contrast the awe-inspiring beauty of Table Mountain of Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans’ currents meet, and the charming cobblestone streets of the bustling Green Market Square with apartheid-legacy townships such as Langa, Khayelitsha, Joe Slovo Park, Guguletu, Nyanga, and the Cape Flats. Observe effective community radio stations, food cooperatives, informal traders, taxi companies, and the variety of small businesses, art, crafts, music, and vibrant personalities that make township culture thrive. You will meet with government leaders, social activists, and academics from local universities, all involved with transforming Cape Town in the wake of apartheid. There will be a one-week vacation in South Africa.


None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in urban studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, or other related fields is strongly recommended.

Access virtual library guide.

The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also student observations, guest lectures, and homestay interviews to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.

Students enrolled on this program take all courses listed below for a total course load of 16 credits. Syllabi are typically updated just before the start of the program. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Culture and Society of World Cities – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
This course examines the many ways people make urban life meaningful. What are the historical, political-economic, and sociocultural contexts that frame the opportunities, constraints, and uncertainties of urban life? How do people create a sense of place, of community, or of urban identity? In addressing these questions, we will explore the core concepts and conceptual frameworks that anthropologists and sociologists use to understand lived experience in cities. Our study of social and cultural urban processes emphasizes the relationship of space to identity and power. The course examines aspects of identity, including race and ethnicity, gender, class, family, and citizenship. In each city, we will grapple with conflicts, struggles, and celebrations that are embedded in and emerge from specific historical, socio-economic, and political contexts. We will examine cities as physical and imagined spaces, exploring how spatial and social life are mutually shaped, and how the meanings of cities are multiple and contested by different groups and actors with often incompatible agendas. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
Urban Politics and Development – syllabus
(DVST3500 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
Cities are simultaneously centers of individual opportunity and civic engagement and sites of inequality and economic disparity. In this course students explore, question, and critique the intersection of politics and development in cities at multiple scales, from local to global, and examine how related institutions, policies, and processes shape the evolution of cities. This course examines a variety of structural elements and processes, including relationships between municipal and regional institutions, privatization, community development, economic growth, industrial restructuring, informal economy, and poverty and income distribution. We will pay particular attention to these guiding questions: What economic, social, and political factors (local, national, and international) shape the development/organization of cities? Who exercises power in cities and what are their sources of power? Whose voices are considered relevant in the discussion of what the city could be? In the Urban Politics and Development course, we will explore how and why urban development is a tension filled, conflictual process that occurs at multiple scales. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
Contemporary Urban Issues – syllabus
(URST3000 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
This research and methods seminar is designed to give students the tools to identify and analyze challenges common to cities across continents and cultures, and to distinguish such challenges from others that are rooted in particular histories and human geographies. It is also focused on developing in students the ability to make meaningful comparisons, particularly concerning configurations of political, economic, and social power as they are manifested in urban space. Using these tools, students have an opportunity to pursue individual comparative research on topics of their own choosing. The course will be co-taught by all faculty and country coordinators to emphasize the multi-disciplinary analysis of issues and to integrate the experience-based learning of the semester. This course is taught by traveling and locally based faculty.
Urban Planning and Sustainable Environments – syllabus
(URST3500 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
Within cities we find key challenges to long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability; processes of exclusion and deepened inequalities are occurring at such a scale that new geographies of power and injustice arise. In this context, planning and socio-spatial practices have become key instruments to understanding and intervening in complex realities that require both physical and social comprehension. This course introduces key concepts about the history, theory, and practice of urban planning and sustainability. It emphasizes how the physical elements of cities are related to and interact with the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of cities. This course is taught by locally based faculty.

These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.

Letters Home: Cities (Fall2)

January 27, 2016
IHP Cities in the 21st Century Track 2 Fall 2015 – Senegal
Hi! We’ve had such a fun time here in Senegal, we’ve barely had a chance to contact you. We hope you aren’t missing all of us too much! We did so much in Senegal that it’s hard to pack it all into one letter! So, here are some highlights from some of the things we […]
September 25, 2015
IHP Fall 2015 Cities in the 21st Century: New York
Dearest Friends and Family,   Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina! We have been here an entire week now, and are more than excited to share with you some of our favorite and most memorable moments from our two weeks in New York City. Here we go!   After months of planning and excitement, we landed […]
December 15, 2014
Letter Home from Hanoi, Viet Nam
A Letter Home from students on the Fall 2014 Track 1 of IHP Cities in the 21st Century: Written by Dimitri Antoniou, Alina Aksiyote Benardete, Elena Crowe, and Cinneah El-Amin Photos by QiHan Wong and Anselmo Fuentes Xin chào từ Việt Nam!  In this final month, we’ve reflected on the beauty and chaos of Hanoi […]
December 1, 2014
Letter Home from Dakar, Senegal
A Letter Home from the Fall 2014 Cities in the 21st Century Track 2 Students: Nanga def from Senegal— hello from Senegal! The past month has been an entirely different experience from our time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From weather to home stays, we had a month full of sunshine and new experiences. We’re grateful […]
November 14, 2014
Letter Home from Buenos Aires
A letter home from Fall 2014’s IHP Cities in the 21st Century Track 2 Program: Hola from Argentina! These past four weeks have truly been an adventure for the group.  Between joining our new homestays and learning about the rich culture through dance and food, we’ve found that Buenos Aires is more than just the “Paris of Latin […]

The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.

Kelly Rosenthal, PhD, Program Director

Kelly trained as a social anthropologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Her work has focused on urban social movements, particularly in a comparative context between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. She has worked on the struggle for socioeconomic rights and education as well as political culture and masculinities in Africa. Her fieldwork was supported by the Commonwealth Foundation and was conducted in the township of Soweto, Johannesburg, where she worked with a group of community organizers mobilizing against the privatization of water and electricity. Kelly has extensive teaching experience in social anthropology, having developed and taught courses on the anthropology of development, political anthropology, medical anthropology, and interdisciplinary research methods. She has also worked in the development world for many years, in the fields of education reform and advocacy. More recently, Kelly worked for a major private philanthropy foundation, managing a portfolio of grants to organizations working on education and child rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Kelly has a long association with the Cities program, having been both traveling faculty and local faculty. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and son.

Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager

Anna Gail's work experience has focused on the areas of youth and young adult leadership development, community building, residential life and student welfare, international education, and human rights education. Building on her graduate studies in social justice and international education, Anna Gail worked with World Learning’s Youth Leadership and Peacebuilding Programs, facilitating workshops with the Governor’s Institute of Vermont on current issues and youth activism and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Youth Leadership Program for two years. In 2013, she traveled as the IHP Trustees’ Fellow for the inaugural year of the Human Rights: Foundations, Challenges, and Advocacy program. After four adventurous years living in Wellington, New Zealand, she is excited for a new chapter as the IHP program manager in 2015.

Anna Gail earned her BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from SIT Graduate Institute with an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management and received her educator’s licensure in secondary education in social studies, incorporating social justice in the classroom. She is a vegetarian, photographer-in-the-making, and running enthusiast with a hearty laugh.

Meghan Phadke, Launch Coordinator, New York City

Meghan Phadke is a former New York City public school teacher and alum of the IHP Cities program. A Boston native, Meghan moved to NYC to attend New York University and has been there ever since. She spent six years working in a high-poverty public school in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, where she built a comprehensive music program, which now serves more than 400 students, from the ground up. In this role, she worked closely with arts foundations and nonprofits as well as city arts agencies, in order to obtain, and maintain, resources.

Meghan completed her master’s degree in urban affairs in the fall of 2013. She is interested in issues surrounding the building and implementation of sustainable educational reform and the privatization of educational services. Meghan was the Trustees’ Fellow in spring 2014 and spring 2015 and served as launch coordinator for the first time in fall 2014; she is excited to be back in this role this fall.  

Cuong Kieu Nguyen, PhD, Country Coordinator, Vietnam

Cuong Kieu Nguyen is a senior staff scientist at the Institute of Population, Health, and Development (PHAD). Cuong has intensive experience and wide interests in biomedical, genomic, and eHealth research. Earning a PhD in physics from Brown University in 2009, he got a postdoctoral fellowship focusing on the genomic technologies, research, and applications in the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he was key in the implementation of the ultra-high-throughput sequencing system utilizing Solexa/Illumina technologies and managed several sequencing projects. Coming back to Vietnam in 2012, he joined PHAD and founded the Hanoi Center of Genome Research, a research center established within PHAD with a commitment to promoting and strengthening research in public health genomics. Since 2012, Cuong has been a technical lead of several of PHAD’s innovative eHealth and mHealth projects utilizing electronic and mobile devices in the collaboration with various local and foreign partners including IDRC Canada, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID, Dartmouth College, UCLA, and Columbia. Cuong is also the director of VEH – Medical Investment and Communication, JSC, a local start-up with expertise in eHealth solutions and services.

Waly Faye, MA, Country Coordinator, Senegal

Waly Faye is a development manager. He has been coordinating study abroad programs at the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal, since 2007, and he has coordinated several faculty development programs in Senegal. He has been the country coordinator of the SIT Study Abroad / IHP Cities in the 21st Century program in Dakar since 2010. Waly has significant experience in international development and international education as well as experience planning educational excursions. He has a deep understanding of the social, political, economic, and cultural environments of Senegal through working with many NGOs and grassroots organizations in different areas of the country. Waly holds a master’s degree in development projects management and is finishing another MA in public administration. Waly is interested in public financial management, international development, and urbanization.

Carolina Rovetta, MA, Country Coordinator, Argentina

​ Carolina holds a five-year degree in arts from the University of Buenos Aires and a postgraduate degree in contemporary cinema and theater. She has been working in the field of international education for many years. Carolina is in charge of designing academic and immersion programs in Argentina for students and institutions from abroad. Her focus is on the interaction between academic content and cultural sensitivity. She is very interested in arts and culture and works as a cultural facilitator for the city of Buenos Aires. She has written several pedagogical guides on cultural activities in immersion. Ms. Rovetta serves as an academic advisor for American students studying abroad in Argentina. She first began working with IHP in 2005 and helped establish the Cities in the 21st Century and Health and Community programs in Buenos Aires.

Nicholas Welcome, PhD, Traveling Faculty

Nick is a cultural anthropologist who studies issues of urban life in Ecuador and the Americas. His work explores how public conflicts over industrial petroleum pollution come to shape the cultural politics of citizenship in Ecuador’s largest petroleum processing site. Nick’s research examines how community members attempt to use citizenship reforms, legal and scientific strategies, and everyday spectacles to push for a livable environment and a higher quality of life.

Nick was awarded a PhD in anthropology from the University of California Riverside in June 2013. While at UC Riverside he was the recipient of a UC President's Society of Humanities Fellowship, a UC Office of the President Dissertation Year Fellowship, and a summer fellowship from the UC One Health Institute / Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Nick received an MA in Latin American studies from San Diego State University in 2005 and a BA in anthropology and Latin American studies from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2003.

Jessica Nepomiachi, MA, Trustees’ Fellow

Jessica hails from a rural farm town in Illinois, the child of Argentine parents. She is a 2004 alumna of the SIT Southern Cone Regional Integration, Development, and Social Change program and graduated with a BA in Latin American studies from Hampshire College in 2005. Jessica’s passion for urban equity developed through her work as a legislative aide and chief of staff for a New York city council member. Jessica completed a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, with an emphasis in community development and advocacy. As a practitioner, her interests include working collaboratively alongside stakeholders to address language access barriers, socio-political inequality, and access to affordable housing. Jessica previously worked at the New York City Housing Authority, managing relationships with city hall, city council, and the state legislature to preserve and enhance public housing through capital projects and policy initiatives. She also worked for the Chicago Housing Authority, where she focused on expanding housing choice through development and policy. Prior to that, she implemented community outreach strategies for the largest infrastructure project in New York City: the creation of the Second Avenue Subway line. 

Jessica loves living in and exploring new cities, discussing politics and literature with her twin sister, camping, and a enjoying a good live music show. Jessica is thrilled to reengage in the world of experiential learning and explore her passions through the IHP lens and community. 

senegal bus

You will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.

Homestay families provide you with the opportunity to live as an integrated member of the host communities. In sharing daily life, conversations, family stories, celebrations, and community events, you will not only learn a tremendous amount, but also develop lasting friendships.

Family structures vary in every place, and SIT values the diversity of homestay families. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what one expects. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.

Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Reporter, American Public Media’s Marketplace, Los Angeles, California
  • Program Director, Helmsley Charitable Trust, New York, New York
  • Director of Cross Agency Partnerships, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Center for Health Equity, New York, New York
  • Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Analyst, Urban Investment Group, Goldman Sachs

Program Dates: Fall 2016

Program Arrival Date:  Aug 21, 2016

Program Departure Date:    Dec 8, 2016

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Jun 1, 2016


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $18,000

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in New York City, Buenos Aires, Dakar, and Hanoi
  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Urban Planning and Sustainable Environments
    • Culture and Society of World Cities
    • Urban Politics and Development
    • Contemporary Urban Issues
  • Guest lectures and panel discussions
  • Site visit hosts and facilitators
  • Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
  • All educational excursions and final program retreat, including all related travel costs
  • Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period 
  • Instructional materials
  • Other direct program costs

Note: Vacation costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.

Airfare: $4,500

  • Group airfare during the program
  • Airfare includes a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program.

Room & Board: $4,500

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays in Buenos Aires, Dakar, and Hanoi
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.  

Estimated Additional Costs:

Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site

Domestic airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 275

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 150

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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