Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Certificate in humanitarian assistance unveiled

The University of Denver has unveiled a new Graduate School of International Studies program that awards a certificatein humanitarian assistance. 

The program teaches students the practical aspects of disaster relief, development, conflict resolution, global politics, and humanitarian and human rights practice, according to Peter Van Arsdale, senior lecturer and the program’s director. 

Van Arsdale says that the practical nature of the program is very much by design. 

“One of the reasons we chose to offer the certificate is because there was increasing interest among graduate students for practical information and applications for humanitarian assistance,” Van Arsdale says. 

It’s a top reason why Ashley Beaudry of North Carolina chose to get her master’s degree in international studies at DU. “I liked the fact that the program is practical and not just theory,” Beaudry says. 

Beaudry has already taken five classes in humanitarian assistance and says she’s learned a lot she can use in the field.  

For example, in a class called Health and Humanitarian Aid, Beaudry says she spent the entire quarter poring over what’s called the Sphere Handbook. It covers specifics of water, sanitation, food, shelter and health and what people affected by disasters can expect from humanitarian assistance. 

Insiders say field work is crucial to developing skills and understanding best practices in humanitarian assistance. The program also features an optional eight-week internship at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and field work in Israel and Palestine with human rights organizations. 

Thirteen students are enrolled in the program. Van Arsdale says the original cap was 10, but due to demand, the department added three more slots. The program also is open to students who are interested in a concentration in humanitarian assistance.

The certificate includes a 15-credit-hour core curriculum along with elective courses, field training, skills development courses and an internship for a total of 35 credit hours. The certification can be completed within a year. Admission is based on an application and interviews.

Some of the courses include: Nonprofit Fundraising and Finance, Health and Humanitarian Aid, International Project Analysis, International Organizations and Post-war Peace Building.

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