Later this year, UMass Boston’s ninth and newest college, the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD), will begin soliciting applications from students worldwide to attend its postgraduate programs at the master’s and doctoral levels.
Dean William Kiernan says the school will expand on the mission of UMass Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), which conducts research, training, employment services, consultations, and community outreach that helps people with disabilities participate in society. ICI operates in partnership with Children’s Hospital Boston.
SGISD will be among the first graduate schools in the world that focus on wellness and economic development from an international perspective.
Graduates of the new school, Kiernan says, will go on to take leadership and policymaking positions in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits that focus on inclusion.
“In Massachusetts alone, there are 41,000 NGOs. In the United States, there are 1.8 million. But there are very few training programs that prepare people to take leadership roles,” he says.
Students at the SGISD will research the ways different social groups are excluded in countries and cultures around the world, and study effective methods of encouraging inclusion. Their goals will include shaping public policy, providing economic opportunities for excluded groups, and creating educational materials that teach inclusion.
Exclusion affects a range of people worldwide; the causes and effects, Kiernan says, depend on country and culture. While the ICI focuses on inclusion for people with disabilities, Kiernan says the SGISD will expand in breadth to research inclusion for women; ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural minorities; and the LGBTQ community.
In India, for example, a program might work to shrink an educational gap that sees children’s quality of learning determined by their caste.
In Nigeria, efforts might focus on addressing religious discrimination against Muslim or Christian populations. A Saudi Arabian program might work to provide access to basic services such as health care and education to immigrant laborers, who do not enjoy those resources now.
Locally, Kiernan says, students might focus on how to create opportunities for Southeast Asian immigrants in Lowell, Massachusetts, to be included in the educational and housing systems.
“These are somewhat lofty principles, but as they roll out they become much more concrete,” says Kiernan.
The initiative to create the SGISD arose from UMass Boston’s administration, which saw an opportunity to expand on the strength of existing programs addressing wellness and economic development. The Institute for Community Inclusion will continue its programs as an institute within the school.
“The research activities of the ICI will serve as a base for master’s and doctoral students,” says Kiernan.
The SGISD plans to work closely with UMass Boston’s eight other colleges, offering joint programs and courses, and sharing faculty members between the schools.
“We’re really encouraging cross-college participation,” says Kiernan. “Some of our courses will be interesting to students in other schools; I think they’ll get a broad educational experience that will prepare them to understand the range of disciplines involved in inclusion studies.”