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

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

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, students 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.

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.

Brazil: São Paulo
(4 weeks)

Graffiti BrazilBrazil 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.

Senegal: Dakar
(5 weeks)

SenegalSenegal is a fascinating mix of African and Francophone traditions embedded in decades of stable democracy. From traditional rhythms to modern beats, music infuses daily life. Dakar, the capital city, is undergoing rapid change as it accepts new immigrants, constructs new infrastructure, and expands its position as a thriving global crossroad.


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.

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 (Spring)

April 11, 2016
IHP Cities in the 21st Century Spring 2016 – India
IHP Cities Spring 2016   Dear Home,   When asked to describe her experience in India using just one word, a fellow student simply stated, “sensory.” We found this incredibly apt—Ahmedabad, India, captures and entrances every sense, overwhelming you with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels. One of our first rickshaw rides encapsulated this perfectly. […]
August 17, 2015
IHP Cities in the 21st Century Letter Home from India Spring 2015
From the moment we stepped out of the airport in Ahmedabad, India, the city offered up a sensory overload. Cows, monkeys and the occasional elephant in the street, the smell of burning trash, and the hustle-bustle traffic on the ride to our hotel formed our first impression of the place where we would spend the […]
August 17, 2015
IHP Cities in the 21st Century Letter Home from Cape Town, South Africa Spring 2015
Hello Well Wishers, As we say goodbye to our IHP family, we reflect on our time in Cape Town, the last stop on this IHP journey. Guided by our powerful and brilliant country coordinator, Sally, we dove into Cape Town head first, using the many tools we have honed over the semester. Along the way, […]

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.

Waly Faye, Country Coordinator, Senegal

Waly Faye is a development specialist. 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 master’s degrees in development projects management and public administration. Waly is interested in public policies, international development, and urbanization.

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.

GrezEvelyn Encalada Grez, PhD Candidate, Traveling Faculty

Evelyn Encalada Grez is a community-engaged scholar and transformative educator based in Canada. Born in Chile and being forced to migrate as a child has informed much of her political and academic work in critical development studies and counter-hegemonic movements against neoliberal globalization. She holds a master’s degree in political science and Latin American studies from York University and is in the final stage of her PhD at OISE of the University of Toronto in Social Justice Education. She has significant experience organizing with migrant farmworkers and export processing workers in Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Evelyn has shared her work in various venues, including the United Nations’ headquarters and Canada’s Parliament. She has published with Dr. Kerry Preibisch in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and Citizenship Studies among other journals. She has taught as an adjunct professor in the province of Ontario and online through the University of British Columbia. Evelyn’s teaching is based on transformative, embodied, and community-relevant education for action and global justice.  

MarksJamie Lee Marks, Traveling Faculty

Jamie Lee is an urban anthropologist, transit ethnographer, and writing instructor. Her graduate work focused on gender and rural to urban migration as well as the politics of public transportation in Lima, Peru. Her most current research explores the sensory appeal of infrastructure and the importance of aesthetics to how different city publics respond to proposed infrastructure projects. Her fieldwork has taken her from traveling with riders to working with urban planners in municipal offices and living and working with bus owners and operators. Jamie Lee has also worked with the Federal Transit Administration, where she supported applied research on emerging mobility frameworks, and the human face of transit projects enabled by internet-connected infrastructures. Additionally, she has taught ethnographic research, writing, and sustainability courses at the University of Florida and Trinity Washington University. Jamie Lee holds a BA in political science and women’s studies and a graduate degree in cultural anthropology. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and her two corgis—Bartleby and Buster. All four adore riding the metro.   

WeitzCarl Weitz, Trustees’ Fellow

Carl, affectionately known as Carlitos or Carlinhos, trained to be a sustainable development practitioner at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. His professional work has mostly focused on international education, working with trainers, educators, and students of all ages. He has worked on struggles and grassroots mobilization efforts related to migrant justice, immigration, and anti-militarization policy. Carl has experience facilitating Department of State–funded youth empowerment, leadership, and peacebuilding programs for participants from Brazil, Lebanon, Iraq/Kurdistan, Mexico, and 13 Caribbean countries. He has fieldwork and research experience studying grassroots advocacy in Nicaragua and immigration policy in Washington, DC. Since 2010, Carl has been living predominately in various parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Most recently, Carl has been based in Fortaleza, Brazil, completing intensive language training and an ethnographic study on inter-American and Bissau-Guinean immigration experiences. In 2015, he worked with SIT Study Abroad as an admissions assistant for the institution’s Latin America programs.




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: Spring 2017

Program Arrival Date:  Jan 22, 2017

Program Departure Date:    May 11, 2017

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:   Oct 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, São Paulo, Ahmedabad, and Cape Town
  • 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 São Paulo, Ahmedabad, and Cape Town
  • 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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