IHP | Multi-Country | Urban Planning | Sustainability | Geography

IHP: Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics (Fall 1)

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, meeting with actors from the private sector, 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.

Brazil: São Paulo
(4 weeks)

Brazil provides an excellent opportunity to see how participation, democracy, and a mobilized citizenry affect change. In multi-ethnic São Paulo, the largest urban area in South America, public infrastructure takes aggressive steps forward, but never seems to catch up to the expanding city’s growing needs. Land and water are plentiful, but how much is available to the secluded rich, the hard-working middle class, or the tenuous poor remains a question.

South Africa: Cape Town
(5 weeks)

BrazilIn 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.

India: Ahmedabad
(5 weeks)

IndiaAhmedabad, a city whose metropolitan area is approaching six million, is the largest in Gujarat, and is known for its leading role in industry and commerce. It is also known as the city in which M. K. Gandhi began his political work in India, established his ashrams, and built his struggle for freedom from colonial power. After the city was founded in 1411, both Hindu and Islamic architecture flourished in the form of mosques, city gates, and temples. After independence, the city continued to strengthen its architectural traditions by inviting American architect Louis Kahn, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, and Indian architects Charles Correa and Bernard Cohen to design several modern institutional and private spaces. In 2009, bus rapid transit was introduced in the city and has become one of the most advanced of such systems in India. Ahmedabad has witnessed sectarian conflict in contrast with its history as a place of pluralism, tolerance, and nonviolent political action. Today, the city has become a major destination for foreign capital investment, particularly from the Persian Gulf, to which it has been linked through trade for centuries, and is frequently held up as an example of India’s successful efforts at globalization. Contemporary Ahmedabad represents a privileged place from which to analyze how global flows of people and capital intersect with cities whose built environments still encompass the early modern and medieval periods, and where social forms are equally diverse as architectural styles.


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.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

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 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 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 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 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 (Fall)

October 28, 2015
IHP Cities in the 21st Century Track 1 Fall 2015 – Sao Paulo
Hello IHPers! The IHP Cities in the 21st Century Track 1 program has wrapped up its time in Sao Paulo, Brazil and has published this video Letter Home:
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 Cape Town, South Africa
A Letter Home from the Fall 2014 IHP Cities in the 21st Century Track 1 Program: Written by IHP Students, edited by Maggie Livingstone, photos by Anselmo Fuentes Leaving the confines of São Paulo to Cape Town was like stepping away from a concrete jungle into a city seemingly designed for a postcard: the gorgeous […]

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.

DantasVanessa Dantas e Sá, MA, Program Coordinator

Vanessa graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology and environmental and geographical science from the University of Cape Town and went on to complete her master’s degree in human geography at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. For her master’s research, she engaged with issues of complexity and visibility/invisibility within the context of World Heritage. Vanessa was born in Maputo and has spent her life between Mozambique, Portugal, and South Africa. Her keen interest in the layeredness and movement of life and her specific concern with war, migration, and intergenerational trauma have led to her current training in psychoanalysis in Cape Town.

Meghan Phadke, MA, Launch Coordinator, New York City

Meghan Phadke is an educator and IHP Cities alum who has been living and working in New York City for more than ten years. Meghan spent six years teaching in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, where she built a comprehensive music program, from the ground up, that now services more than 400 students. In this role, she worked closely with arts foundations and nonprofits as well as city arts agencies, in order to obtain, and maintain, resources. In fall 2013, Meghan completed her master’s degree in urban affairs, with a focus on urban education policy. She is preparing to embark on her doctoral studies in fall 2016. Meghan was the Trustees’ Fellow in both spring 2014 and 2015 and has held a number of positions within IHP over the years. She is excited to return to the role of launch coordinator.

Glenda de la Fuente, MA, Country Coordinator, Brazil

Glenda de la Fuente holds a bachelor’s degree in translation and a postgraduate degree from King’s College, University of London, in applied linguistics and English language teaching. She was a professor for and coordinator of the extracurricular English program at the University of Buenos Aires, where she was in charge of teacher training courses. Since 1987, she has been a member of the Humanist Movement, an international volunteer organization engaged in the promotion of equity and human rights worldwide; through this work, she has served as a lecturer and promoter of grassroots groups committed to the principles of nonviolence and nondiscrimination in Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, and Brazil. Born in Argentina, she has lived for the last nine years in São Paulo, where she currently works as a freelance conference interpreter and translator. She also promotes humanist education programs with community-based groups. She has been the country coordinator of the SIT Study Abroad / IHP Cities program since 2008, and since 2010 she has also coordinated the SIT Study Abroad / IHP Health and Community program in São Paulo.

Sally Frankental, PhD, Country Coordinator, South Africa

Sally Frankental is a sociocultural anthropologist who taught at the University of Cape Town for many years. She directed the university’s Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research from 1980 to 1992. Her current research interests are in the areas of migration, identity, ethnicity, and citizenship. Her association with the SIT Study Abroad / IHP Cities program (since 1999) has been facilitated by her teaching of development and applied anthropology, her supervision of a wide variety of graduate students’ research projects conducted locally, and the consultancy work she has done for the city of Cape Town. Her book South Africa’s Diverse Peoples (with Dr. Owen Sichone), commissioned as part of a series specifically for American university and public libraries, was published by ABC-CLIO in 2005. She was a founding member of the anti-apartheid organization Jews for Justice.

Sonal Mehta, Country Coordinator, India

Sonal Mehta has a master’s degree in physics and a postgraduate diploma in space sciences. For the last three decades she has worked as human rights activist, an education professional, and a social organization builder. She is currently director of Eklavya Foundation, a social development and human rights organization working for indigenous and marginalized communities. She has played a key role in founding cooperatives of indigenous and urban poor women. She has worked on several large-scale rehabilitation and social housing programs in the wake of major disasters in India. She is currently working on sustainable development alternatives for an indigenous community of forest dwellers and bamboo workers in the state of Gujarat in western India. She is also a visiting faculty for humanities courses at CEPT University in Ahmedabad as well as visiting faculty for development course at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute in Gujarat. In the past, she has worked on science education, policy-making, and teachers’ education programs. She has traveled extensively in India, Canada, Europe, and Asia. She has participated in and coordinated the World Social Forum process at regional, national, and international levels. She is also actively involved with the International Women’s Movement of rank-and-file women.

JoshiRutul Joshi, PhD, Lead Faculty

Rutul Joshi has taught urban planning in the Faculty of Planning at CEPT University (Ahmedabad, India) since 2006. Currently, he is engaged in subjects related to urban history, spatial planning, and transportation planning along with the first semester postgraduate studio on local area planning. Rutul is keenly interested in debating the issues of equity and sustainability within the in/formal urban planning practices of the Global South. His published research so far focuses on issues like the politics of sustainable mobility and social in/exclusion. His doctoral research (completed in Bristol, UK) explored poverty and transport linkages for Indian cities that are witnessing contestations over space and resources. Rutul is one of the founding members of the research center Centre for Urban Equity, based at CEPT University. The center is working extensively on the issues of urban poverty, transport equity, and inclusive urban planning. 

Rutul was previously involved in mainstream urban planning and design consultancy. He was closely associated with the urban planning process of the city of Surat for more than six years. He currently seeks to engage in the wider civic issues of cities by regularly writing columns for newspapers and by being part of various lobbying groups and litigations. Rutul is also a “sustainable mobility” enthusiast and aspires to build advocacy campaigns around safer streets and better walking/cycling facilities in Indian cities.

SomdaDominique Somda, PhD, Traveling Faculty

Dominique Somda is a sociocultural anthropologist trained in France, where she received a PhD in anthropology from Université Paris Ouest Nanterre and a master’s degree in philosophy from Université Blaise Pascal. She taught anthropology as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and at Reed College. As a postdoctoral researcher, she also held visiting positions at the Fondation Maisons des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris and at the London School of Economics. Her work focuses on how inequality—or conversely, egalitarianism—emerges through everyday practices, a thematic interest that has led her to engage with the anthropology of democracy, Christianity, and feminist and postcolonial studies. Her regional focus is Africa, and more specifically Madagascar.  Dominique grew up between two cultures and in two countries (France and Benin).

DalgicUmud Dalgic, PhD, Traveling Faculty

Umud is a sociologist based in Istanbul. He received his PhD at Northwestern University and lived in Chicago for seven years. After going back to Turkey, Umud worked as a project coordinator responsible for international politics programs in Heinrich Boll Stiftung Turkey Representation, a German Green foundation and fund-giving organization. Currently, he teaches sociology at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, and does freelance translations into English. Parallel to his teaching career, Umud is active in right-to-the-city, ecology, and struggle-for-the-commons movements. Outside of academia, he works in a consumer collective that buys produce in solidarity from the gardener families who maintain the historic gardens alongside the ancient city walls of Istanbul and in a working, meeting, and creation space designed to socialize freelance workers, activists, and artists.

Sarah Tracy-Wanck, Trustees’ Fellow

Sarah Tracy-Wanck, also known as “TW,” is excited to join the Cities program for the fall 2016 semester. Her previous experience with IHP was as a student on the Health and Communities program in the spring of 2009. TW comes from New Haven, Connecticut, where she worked at Common Ground High School for five years. She loves her community in New Haven and is involved in food justice and community healing work as well as the fight for racial and economic justice in her town. At Common Ground, she developed and managed the Environmental Leadership Program, work propelled by the principle that all students have the power to be leaders of social and environmental change. TW graduated from Wesleyan University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and African American history. When not at work, TW heads to the ocean to go surfing.

Vietnam Homestay

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
  • IHP: Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics is available in both the spring and fall semesters.
  • The fall semester generally begins in mid-August and ends in early December.

The dates listed above are tentative. 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:   Apr 1, 2017


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: Not yet available.

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in New York City, São Paulo, Cape Town, and Ahmedabad
  • 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: Not yet available.

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 São Paulo, Cape Town, and Ahmedabad
  • 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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