Fordham University is launching a master of arts degree in international humanitarian action this June.

The program has received approval from the State and will be administered by Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). It will consist of a 32-credit curriculum offered by GSAS and IIHA.

“It has been a long road to the starting line, but we are finally here,” said Brendan Cahill, director of IIHA. “The program will balance theory and practice by linking the academic wealth of the Fordham faculty with our experienced humanitarian aid professionals.

“It also will provide an opportunity for Fordham to strengthen the academic foundation of a new field,” Cahill added. “While there are several programs on development, peace building, public health and other aspects of humanitarian assistance, there is no program that offers practical training to professionals working in complex emergencies.”

The new MHA will focus on emergency preparedness and necessary humanitarian responses to wartime and natural disasters. It will consist of four modules of eight credits each. Candidates should have at least five years of experience in humanitarian assistance or a related field.

The core module of the degree consists of a four-week, eight-credit International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), offered during the summer on the Fordham campus and at two other rotating venues.

Fordham faculty will provide political, historical, legal and ethical contexts of emergencies in the past, present and future. IIHA also presents lecturers from the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations and military on the tools needed to respond to natural and man-made disasters.

The remaining three eight-credit core modules are made up of one- to two-week intensive courses taught in Europe, Africa, the United States, Latin America and Asia.

“We wanted to ensure that our target audience—aid professionals working throughout the world—would not have to leave their organizations or uproot their families to take this program,” Cahill said.

Students will earn certificates in operational humanitarian assistance, management of humanitarian action and in humanitarian leadership. The certificates also can be earned as “standalone” advanced training for those students wishing to build their credentials first.

“The program matches perfectly with Fordham’s mission and approach to humanitarianism,” he said. “It will develop leaders who will contribute to the common good, serve the underserved and produce new ideas to disseminate across the world.”

Fordham hopes to enroll about 20 students per year in the MHA program.

Currently, the IIHA’s summer humanitarian institute services some 200 students annually and has trained more than 1,400 participants worldwide.

Fordham faculty who will offer instruction in their areas of expertise include:

• Robin Anderson, Ph.D., professor of communication and media studies, “Communication and Media in Humanitarian Affairs;”
• Norma Fuentes-Mayorga, Ph.D., professor of sociology, “Vulnerable Populations and Migration;”
• Carina Ray, Ph.D., professor of African and African-American studies;
• Amir Idris, Ph.D., professor of African and African-American studies, “Humanitarian Negotiation;”
• Marciana Popescu, Ph.D., professor of social work, “Community Participation in Emergency Response;”
• Melissa Labonte, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science, and
• Patrick Ryan, S.J., Fordham’s Laurence J. McGinley, S.J., Professor of Religion and Society, “Ethics of Humanitarian Assistance.”


Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or [email protected]