Global Inclusion and Social Development (PhD)

Program Overview

Our PhD program examines how to deepen inclusion and social development, from the local to the global level. For their doctoral degrees, our students conduct rigorous original research around the world and in the United States, adding to existing knowledge in meaningful ways so as to affect the lives of marginalized populations and make meaningful policy change. 

Complex issues require flexible and creative solutions. Our PhD program examines the interrelationships among health, wellness, social development, political participation, organizational behavior, and economic empowerment in the context of vulnerability. Our transdisciplinary approach allows students to think outside of traditional academic silos and engage in cutting-edge methodologies that produce original research outcomes.

Upon completion of their degrees, students work on policy, research, and education in universities; national and international nonprofits; civil society organizations; bilateral and multi-lateral institutions; local, regional, and national governments; and the for-profit sector. In all these roles, they increase inclusion and improve social development regionally, nationally, and globally.


Fall admission: December 1


1. Individualized plan of study: Students take courses across departments at UMass Boston that that relate to a specific area of global inclusion and social development. An example might be working with refugee and immigrant populations in the U.S. or abroad.

2. Or, students may select from the following concentrations:

  • Human rights: Focuses on the framework needed to foster inclusive change throughout societies and organizations. A certificate in human rights is also available.
  • Critical ethnic and community studies: Collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts. Analyzes migration patterns and other population movements, as well as race/ethnicity, through the lenses of culture, community, identity, and citizenship.
  • Disability studies: Prepares students to work with people with disabilities in various capacities and to become leaders and advocates in the field. Supported by our colleagues at the Institute for Community Inclusion.
  • Nonprofit management: Prepares students to lead a nonprofit organization. Students take courses from the College of Management to gain proficiency in business practices.
  • Gerontology: Prepares students to understand aging from a social and psychological perspective, and to work in the community or at a policy level. Partner: Department of Gerontology.
  • Rehabilitation counseling: Help people who face barriers to employment find fulfilling work. We also offer a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.
  • Transition leadership: Support people with disabilities to attend college, enter the workforce, and live independently. We also offer a transition leadership certificate.
  • Vision studies: Advocate for and support individuals with low vision to thrive in their daily lives and in their communities. We also offer a master’s degree in vision studies.

Second Language Requirement

We require that each PhD student achieve a certain level of proficiency in a language other than their native language. Proficiency may be demonstrated in a variety of ways. Learn more in the student handbook.

Core Courses

All students must complete GISD 601, 605, 602, and 803. Students must then take three additional courses, choosing one option from each of the following: 608 or 609; 610 or 611; and 615 or 616. Visit the course catalog for complete descriptions.

Careers for Graduates

Here are some examples of how a SGISD graduate could put their degree to use:

  • Running a women's shelter in an underserved rural community in the U.S.
  • Supporting veterans with disabilities to find fulfilling work
  • Training people who are blind or have low vision to navigate independently
  • Working with an international nonprofit to empower communities hit hard by natural disasters
  • Serving as a consultant to the United Nations on issues around equal access to education
  • Conducting research into employment and compensation patterns across ethnic groups in a developing country

Careers relevant to our PhD graduates include gerontology, conflict resolution, and international relations.

PhD students may go on to run, create, or direct work at nonprofits that improves inclusion within their communities of interest in the U.S. or internationally. In some cases, students may work more directly on inclusion issues at the government, legal, policy, research, consultant, and academic levels.

Contact Us

Phone: 617.287.3070

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School for Global Inclusion and Social Development
in the College of Education and Human Development