Concentrations at CIPA: International Development

In this post in our series about CIPA concentrations, we hear from Vanisha Sharma, and international student from India. Vanisha is a first year CIPA fellow (2018) concentrating in International Development. In this blog post, Vanisha explains more about her interest in International Development studies, the coursework she has been involved with, and the amazing things she has produced in her short six months here at Cornell.

I am a first-year student at CIPA, and I hope to graduate with a concentration in International Development. Before talking more about my concentration, I believe it’s pertinent to understand the concept of a concentration. A concentration at CIPA can be thought of as a major; it is the steering wheel that guides the students towards their career goals. Generally, in life, you cannot know if you like a field until you’re already in it. Fortunately, CIPA is very flexible in that we can first try out coursework related to whichever concentration we wish to pursue, and then declare our final concentration towards the end of our first year.


As I have been brought up in India, I have come across the existence of a certain complexity of challenges that developing countries face. Despite the apparent increase in the standards of living and reduction of overall poverty indexes, unequal access to the benefits of globalization has undoubtedly resulted in relative deprivation, income polarization and wider socio-economic disparities between the rich and the poor. In order to devise a panacea for such inequalities, I feel that India – along with other developing countries which are striving for greater economic prosperity – is in dire need of professionals who could formulate and regulate the socio-economic policy framework of a nation.This is precisely why I chose to focus on International Development. I believe that learning development practices from highly renowned professionals at a prestigious institute as Cornell will provide me with the skillset that is required to bring about institutional change in developing countries, starting from the grass-root level.

In my six months at CIPA, I have consulted for an Impact Investment Fund based in Mali, co-founded FlowUSA, which is a transportation network bridging the rural-urban divide in Tompkins county, published an article on Rethinking International Development, and built several, invaluable connections with extremely talented and experienced individuals. I have taken courses on Design Thinking, International Public and NGO Management, Institutional Reform, Alternative Paradigms in International Development, Research Methods in International Development, Intermediate Microeconomics, Evaluation of International Programs and Behavioral Economics. I believe that all of these courses have helped create a strong foundation of the core concepts required to succeed in the field of international development. However, I hope to complement my current knowledge of the subject by taking courses on food policy, rural agriculture management, global health systems, development economics and systems thinking among others. I am confident that pursuing a degree at CIPA will construct a bridge between my current acumen and that required to be a successful professional in the field of international development.


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