Course Overview

There’s often a significant misunderstanding in the goals, intentions, and purposes of this course. I certainly understand why, given the pictures of international development flashed across our TVs that show Westerners bringing about all the (predetermined) changes needed in the Global South. Without getting too bogged down by the often loaded ideals behind those commercials, and instead of arguing what this course is not, allow me to explain what this course is all about…hopefully making our intentions clearer.

First, the course fits into a broader vision of Virginia Tech that offers students a combination of experiential learning coupled with fundamental classroom-type strategies (books, articles, lectures, etc). It’s a vision of our university that I love and that our students love and gravitate toward. It also provides a fascinating way to learn!

Secondly, the world offers a context for understanding international development that simply can’t be replicated on campus. Rwanda is a beautiful country, a growing economy, and a people of resolution, determination, forgiveness, and peace. We have much to learn from organizations like Rwanda Youth for Peace, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, KICS, Right to Play, and the Rwandan National Olympic Committee about how sport is used to further societal goals.

Over the years, students that have enrolled in this course have gone on to various graduate degrees, medical school, professional sports, non-profit work, coaching, etc. (…and we may even have a Navy Seal in there somewhere :) ). Like any one/single class a college student takes, the goal is not to have all students join the field of international development or lead a grassroots organization involved in such development. Instead, I have several objectives for this course. One is for students to understand more than they did prior to the class about international development. I also want them to understand that regardless of their major, they have gifts and strengths that can contribute to a broader dialogue across the globe. Another goal is for them to understand that, at times, folks mess up that dialogue and their contributions aren’t always so helpful… which is a harder lesson to learn.

We live in an ever-pressing globalized world. Given our university’s aim at service and making positive contributions to society, I think the class offers students tremendous learning opportunities that are (hopefully) applicable to their future that is yet to fully unfold.

I’ve said this many times but Virginia Tech has many remarkable students. I think you’ll get the chance to meet a few of those students throughout this blog as they share lessons learned, experiences, and their ever-changing perspectives. Join us as we blast the blogosphere with #VTinRwanda!

Go Hokies,


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