Watson Institute at Brown University
Development Studies


Note to incoming students: The Watson Institute recently launched a new International and Public Affairs concentration. The new concentration embodies many of the strengths of the develoopment studies curriculum, and we urge interested students to talk to staff and faculty about the new opportunities already being offered. The Institute will continue to offer Development Studies through 2023. View the comparison chart.


Development Studies is an interdisciplinary concentration whose mission is to provide students with the knowledge, critical perspectives and skills they need to engage with the issues of economic and social development, especially as they relate to the Global South. The concentration is grounded in the social sciences and also draws from history, art, and other disciplines in the humanities. The requirements are designed with four goals in mind: first, provide concentrators a solid foundation in issues and debates in development; second, allow concentrators to develop expertise in a specific region and/or thematic area that is of interest to them; third, give concentrators access to a wide range of courses in a large number of disciplines of interest to them; fourth, provide concentrators with a high level of competence in a second language to enhance their engagement in regions other than their own. Concentrators are encouraged to do their own original field research, to seek internships, and study abroad. During the senior year, concentrators complete a capstone experience tailored to their interests in some aspect of international development. Towards this end, they benefit from extensive faculty and peer support.

What is DS?

Development Studies is an interdisciplinary social science concentration. The study of complex processes of social and economic development has theoretical, methodological, practical and ethical dimensions. As such, it calls on a wide range of academic disciplines. Development Studies concentrators are encouraged to develop the combination of skills and specialized knowledge that is best suited to their area of interest within the field. The study of development in a particular region or nation requires an intimate knowledge of internal factors, as well as an understanding of larger global processes.

The concentration emphasizes what is distinctive - both historically and culturally - about particular regions and the ways in which their development reflects general processes of socio-economic change. Thus, each individual program of study should include analytically oriented courses that cut across particular regions as well as courses that deepen local and historical knowledge.

While the concentration is designed to produce graduates with expertise in the study of development rather than area specialists, the large majority of concentrators combine their course work with some kind of first-hand experience in the developing world. Most students have spent time in developing countries either by studying or conducting research for their capstone project abroad.

The main strength of the concentration is the concentrators themselves. They have achieved impressive results academically and have taken numerous initiatives in organizing activities on campus.

See where a DS degree can take you! 

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