SIT responds to migration crisis

October 4th, 2018   |   SIT Graduate Institute

Responding to a growing need for leaders in the field of humanitarian aid, School for International Training will launch a one-year Master of Arts degree in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management in fall 2019. Students on this SIT Graduate Institute program will take classes and complete their practicums in Jordan and Uganda, countries with high refugee populations but starkly different management approaches. Students will also travel to Geneva, home to the world’s leading refugee- and migrant-serving agencies.

Wars, violence and persecution uprooted a record 68.5 million men, women and children worldwide last year, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Global Trends report published in June. That includes more than 25 million refugees who fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution – an increase of 2.9 million over 2016 and the biggest jump the UNHCR had ever seen in a single year, according to the report.

“These unprecedented levels of forced displacement and natural disaster are creating a massive and critical humanitarian crisis affecting the health, safety and wellbeing of millions, with far-reaching implications for world peace and stability,” said Dr. Kenneth Williams, dean of SIT Graduate Institute. “With this program, we will train professionals to meet the needs of people affected by disaster or conflict, people who have a right to protection and assistance.”

During the first semester, which starts in Fall 2019, students will study in Jordan, home to an estimated 1.5 million registered and non-registered refugees and displaced persons from Palestine, Iraq, and Syria. The second semester takes students to Uganda, the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa with more than 1.35 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Somalia. In between, students will spend 10 days in Geneva to examine humanitarian policy and advocacy at the United Nations’ headquarters there.

Uganda has one of the most progressive and inclusive refugee protection policies in the world, with a system that seeks to develop self-reliance, while Jordan houses refugees in massive camps where they are dependent on aid agencies and governments to provide for their needs.

“We run a settlement model, which means when the refugees come, you give them support for a period of time, but [we also] provide them with a piece of land and allow them to be economically resilient. Those who can’t grow crops can create businesses,” said Dr. Charlotte Karungi Mafumbo, who leads the Uganda portion of the program. “What the settlement does is create that space for the refugees to be able to be independent. They still get some support from UNHCR, but mainly Uganda is trying to lead them toward self-reliance.”

SIT’s Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management MA will introduce students to legal and professional principles, standards, laws, and frameworks governing humanitarian action and human rights of vulnerable populations. “We examine major critiques of humanitarian action and reform and review processes,” said Dr. Bayan Abdulhaq, who chairs the program from Amman, Jordan. “Students will also study humanitarian policy and advocacy during a 10-day field visit to Geneva, headquarters of humanitarian and UN refugee-serving agencies.”

During the third and final semester, students will conduct a 12-week practicum at a humanitarian aid organization in Jordan or Uganda aimed at helping them master ethically sound, qualitative research methods. The practicum, a cornerstone of all SIT degree programs, gives students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in real-world settings while getting hands-on, professional experience.

Accreditation is pending for this program, which is the second in SIT’s growing portfolio of global master’s degrees that take place at SIT centers around the world. The first global master’s degree, Climate Change and Global Sustainability, launched this year and takes place in Iceland and Tanzania. SIT also offers the following MA programs in a low-residency format: TESOL and International Education, with brief residencies in Vermont; Sustainable Development, with brief residencies in Vermont and Oaxaca, Mexico; and Peace and Justice Leadership, with brief residencies in Vermont and South Africa.

For more information on the MA in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management, including how to apply, please visit the program page at