Nepal: Development and Social Change

Key Features

Experience how global, regional, and local forces are interacting dynamically to shape and reshape Nepal today.

Kathmandu Valley

By engaging with an outstanding array of academic and community experts, students experience how global, regional, and local forces are interacting dynamically to shape and reshape Nepal today. The Nepal: Development and Social Change program examines the myriad factors — including historical, religious, economic, and political forces — that have impacted, and continue to affect, the diverse country of Nepal.

Lectures and discussions on this program, provided both in Nepal and on excursion, incorporate the following topics:

  • Introductions to Nepal and development: Locating Nepal in the region (and Kathmandu’s place in Nepal); Hinduism and Buddhism; causes and conditions for change and conflict; introduction to international development
  • Diversity and history: Caste and ethnicity in Nepal; early history of the Kingdom; economic forces in the Himalayas; defining development
  • Ethnicity, nationhood, and social and political change: Ethnicity and nationalism; political history of Nepal; social change in conflict areas
  • Development and social issues: Gender issues in development; women’s legal challenges in Nepal; in search of agency
  • Development redefined: Social entrepreneurship; social capital and civil society; development and freedom
  • Governance, opportunities, and challenges: “Fixing” development in Nepal; development in the twenty-first century; bridging the nonprofit and business sectors; under the governance umbrella

Learn from influential experts in the development arena.
The program takes full advantage of the countless academic resources located in the Kathmandu Valley, including visiting scholars, a plethora of NGO and INGO headquarters, bilateral and multilateral donors (such as USAID, DfID, GTZ, and the World Bank), and a wealth of important, world-famous cultural heritage sites.

Students have direct exposure to some of the most inspired and important Nepali scholars and practitioners in the development arena, such as activists for ethnic rights, women's issues, education reform, press freedom and responsibility, and urban renovation.

Explore the Kathmandu Valley (program base).
The program is based in the colorful and dynamic Kathmandu Valley. The SIT program house is conveniently located in Naxal, right in the center of Kathmandu, and provides a safe and quiet haven for students in the midst of busy urban activity.

Famous for its architecture and Newari culture, the Kathmandu Valley contains seven monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include the ancient city of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Durbar Square, the famous Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudha, the Hindu temple complex Pashupatinath, and Patan city. The program incorporates numerous excursions to many of these important locations within the Valley.

Nepali language class

Develop competency in Nepali.
Students develop speaking, reading, and writing skills in Nepali in small classes taught by some of the best Peace Corps–trained teachers in the country. The homestay further supports language acquisition, and students quickly develop competency in spoken Nepali.

Before the ISP period, all students typically develop a level of fluency that allows fieldwork without need of translators. Many alumni of the program have used their Nepali language skills in support of winning Fulbright fellowships and securing professional positions in Nepal after graduation.

Learn appropriate methodologies to undertake fieldwork.
The Field Methods and Ethics seminar focuses on the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. Material includes:

  • Cross-cultural adaptation and skills building
  • Appropriate methodologies
  • Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing contacts and finding resources
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing, and communicating data
  • Maintaining a work journal
  • Twenty-first-century ethnography


Enjoy unique learning opportunities.
As part of the program’s thematic seminar, students have worked with traditional stone carvers in their Patan workshop and enjoyed tours of the Bahals of the ancient city near Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. Students can expect to interact with scholars at the forefront of development studies.

Experience Nepal's tremendous diversity on excursion.
Though rich in academic resources and the nerve-center for international development interventions, the program base in Kathmandu is just one part of Nepalese culture in the Himalaya, making excursions outside the valley indispensable in recognizing the social, economic, and developmental differences among Nepali people in the region. Excursions outside the Kathmandu Valley expose students to Nepal’s remarkable biological, geological, cultural, linguistic, social, and religious diversity.

Learn more about the Nepal program’s excursions.

Independent Study Project
Students spend four weeks working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic of interest to them. The ISP is conducted in Kathmandu or, conditions permitting and with program approval, in other parts of Nepal. A large number of students have gone on to use their ISPs as the basis for further research under Fulbright fellowships in Nepal or in securing professional positions with INGOs, the State Department, and the United Nations.

Sample topic areas for the ISP include:

  • Rural development and aid
  • Community forestry
  • The emergence of a middle-class society
  • Remittance economies and development
  • Women’s health challenges and roles in development
  • Human rights in post-conflict situations
  • Preservation of world heritage sites
  • Changing food geographies and agricultural practices
  • Emerging dating and marriage patterns in urban Newari youth

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Kathmandu

Language Study: Nepali

Prerequisites: None

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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