Explore social justice in urban environments. Examine how four cities around the world work, how they operate within the global economy, and how their citizens live and organize to create more just cities.
Learn through an innovative urban studies curriculum with fieldwork involving key actors and stakeholders—urban citizens, thought leaders and academics, public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs, and grassroots organizations.
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.
Live and study in four world cities undergoing rapid change and facing unique challenges.
Explore how politics, economics, geography, and culture shape social relations and the built environment.
Learn how to critically “read a city”—honing your ability to observe, question, research, document, and communicate—and gain a better understanding of the interconnected systems that affect urban environments.
Discover how people create a sense of community and urban identity.
Conduct fieldwork and complete an independent comparative research project on a topic of your choosing.
Enjoy a weeklong vacation in the middle of the semester.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Development | Economy | Inequality
None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in urban studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, or other related fields is strongly recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- What a just city is
- Who “owns” the city? What the priorities of city governance should be and what the consequences of pursuing some priorities over others are
- How urban citizens create a sense of place, of community, of urban identity
- Historical and sociocultural contexts that frame the opportunities, constraints, and uncertainties of urban life
- What must be done—and by whom—to move toward ecologically sustainable cities
- Opportunities for political action by individuals, community organizations, social movements, and local governments to shape city life
The following syllabi are representative of 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.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
United States: New York
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. You will discuss local conditions and issues and discover that, while every city is local, it is also a piece of the global puzzle.
Ahmedabad, 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 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 city’s mosques, 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 transportation systems in India.
Today, the city has become a major destination for foreign capital investment, particularly from the Persian Gulf, with which it has traded 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 as diverse as architectural styles.
Brazil: São Paulo
Brazil gives you 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 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 crossroads.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
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, MSc, Program Director
Kelly trained as a social anthropologist at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford. Her work has focused on urban social movements, particularly in a comparative context between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. She has focused 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 interdisciplinary research methods and the anthropology of development, politics, and medicine. 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 this program, as both traveling faculty and local faculty. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and son.
Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager
Anna Gail holds a BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management from SIT Graduate Institute. She also received her licensure in secondary education (social studies), incorporating social justice in the classroom. Anna Gail's work experience has focused on 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 on current issues and youth activism with the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Youth Leadership Program for two years. In 2013, she was the Trustees’ Fellow for the inaugural year of the IHP: Human Rights program. After four adventurous years living in Wellington, New Zealand, she became the IHP program manager in 2015.
Vanessa 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.
Sonny Singh, MEd, Launch Coordinator, New York
Sonny received his master’s degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2003, where he studied and practiced the art of using education as a tool for liberation. Since moving to New York City in 2003, he has worked for the union UNITE HERE, was a community organizer at the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) and at the Sikh Coalition, and a humane education instructor with HEART.
Sonny has written essays and articles on race, religion, and social justice for the Huffington Post, India Abroad, The Langar Hall, Colorlines, Sikh Chic, Left Turn, Asian American Literary Review. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, and Open City Magazine. He was a 2014-15 Open City Fellow for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop covering stories in Richmond Hill, Queens.
Sonny has been designing and facilitating workshops and classes related to social justice for more than 15 years with nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, and K-12 schools. He is a member of the training teams at Border Crossers, which trains educators on racial justice, as well as Race Forward.
He is also a musician and tours regularly with the Brooklyn-based bhangra brass band Red Baraat playing trumpet and singing.
Glenda de la Fuente, MA, Country Coordinator, Brazil
Glenda 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, serving as a lecturer and promoter of grassroots nonviolence and nondiscrimination groups in Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, and Brazil. Born in Argentina, she has lived for the last nine years in São Paulo, where she works as a freelance conference interpreter and translator and promotes humanist education programs with community-based groups. She has been a country coordinator with IHP since 2008.
Waly Faye, MA, Country Coordinator, Senegal
Waly is a development specialist with master’s degrees in development projects management and public administration. 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 this program in Dakar since 2010. Waly has significant experience in international education and development 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 throughout the country.
Sonal Mehta, MA, Country Coordinator, India
Sonal has a master’s degree in physics and a postgraduate diploma in space sciences. For the last three decades she has worked as a human rights activist, educator, and social organization builder. She has worked on several large-scale rehabilitation and social housing programs in the wake of major disasters in India and has played a key role in founding cooperatives of indigenous and urban poor women. She is currently director of Eklavya Foundation and is developing sustainable opportunities for an indigenous community of forest dwellers and bamboo workers in Gujarat. She is visiting faculty at Ahmedabad’s CEPT University and Gujarat’s Entrepreneurship Development Institute and has participated in and coordinated the World Social Forum at regional, national, and international levels. She is also actively involved with the International Women’s Movement.
Rutul Joshi, PhD, Lead Faculty
Rutul has taught urban planning at Ahmedabad’s CEPT University since 2006 and is one of the founding members of the university’s Centre for Urban Equity, which focuses on urban poverty, transport equity, and inclusive urban 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 focuses on 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 was closely associated with the urban planning process of the city of Surat for more than six years. He regularly writes newspaper columns and is a “sustainable mobility” enthusiast aspiring to build advocacy campaigns around safer streets and better walking/cycling facilities in Indian cities.
Evelyn Encalada Grez, PhD Candidate, Traveling Faculty
Born in Chile and based in Canada, Evelyn holds a master’s degree in political science and Latin American studies from York University and is in the final stage of her PhD in social justice education at the University of Toronto. 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 in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and Citizenship Studies among other journals. She has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia.
Dominique Somda, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Dominique 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 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, specifically Madagascar. Dominique grew up between two cultures and in two countries, France and Benin.
Carl Weitz, Trustees’ Fellow
Carl studied sustainable development at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. He has worked on grassroots efforts related to migrant justice, immigration, and anti-militarization policy. Carl has facilitated Department of State–funded youth empowerment, leadership, and peacebuilding programs for participants from Brazil, Lebanon, Iraq/Kurdistan, Mexico, and 13 Caribbean countries. He has conducted fieldwork on grassroots advocacy in Nicaragua and immigration policy in Washington, DC. Since 2010, he 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.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
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.
Family structures vary in every place. 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 you expect. 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.
Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Reporter for American Public Media’s Marketplace, Los Angeles, CA
- Program director at Helmsley Charitable Trust, New York, NY
- Director of cross agency partnerships at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Center for Health Equity, New York, NY
- Executive director of LivableStreets Alliance, Cambridge, MA
- Analyst in the urban investment group at Goldman Sachs
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Content and logistics for field programs in New York, Ahmedabad, São Paulo, and Dakar
- 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.
- 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, 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
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.
Vacation: $650 - $1,200
Please note: This is an estimated range based on student surveys from past semesters. Students' individual needs for their vacations will vary. For the entirety of the vacation period, students will be responsible for all of their expenses, including travel and room and board.
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.
Contact A Former Student
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, […]