With the ending of Randy Page’s term as faculty coordinator of the International Development program, we are pleased to announce that the new coordinator of the program will be Dr. Darren Hawkins, effective 1 July 2023. The program offers the International Development minor, which combines insights from academic disciplines such as education, political economy, social innovation, and more to focus on raising the level and quality of life throughout the "underdeveloped" world.
Dr. Hawkins earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Utah, followed by a master’s degree and PhD in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has taught since 1998 in BYU’s Department of Political Science.
Though he is new to the International Development program, Dr. Hawkins has a long history with the Kennedy Center for International Studies. He helped design the International Relations program and served as its faculty coordinator for a number of years; he is also an affiliated faculty member with the Latin American Studies program. And he has long been interested in the topics that are encompassed by the International Development program: “International Development is relatively new to me as a program,” he says, “but not as a research or teaching interest.”
One of his specialties in his research is building bridges between academics and policy makers. “Academics have a lot of knowledge and information about what works and what doesn’t in terms of government and nonprofit programs and policies,” he says, “but we don’t share that information as much as we could.” To build a bridge between these two groups, he’s created a website called impactevidence.org, which summarizes academic work on many kinds of policies relating to education, health, employment, and more, allowing policy makers to easily access information that can inform their decisions. It’s currently available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and he plans to add more languages in the future. “We regularly reach out to public servants in Latin America and elsewhere to help educate them about the research that’s available,” says Dr. Hawkins, adding, “There are lots of different ways to work on development problems; this is my particular way.”
As he prepares to take the helm of the International Development program, he looks forward to growing the number of students who pursue the minor. “I think that there’s a very large potential on BYU campus,” he says, “because we have a very large number of returned missionaries who served in developing countries; they fall in love with those countries and want to help the people that they meet in them. And the International Development minor is all about helping people in developing countries.”
Dr. Hawkins points out that International Development fits well with the mission of Brigham Young University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many students on campus are interested in the idea of helping others but may not be aware of the program and what it offers. “We already host one of the most well-known activities on campus—the Hunger Banquet—and it would be great if people knew International Development as more than just the Hunger Banquet,” he says. “I look forward to helping students understand the value of this program and recruiting them to classes and activities.”
So what is the value of the program? According to Dr. Hawkins, the program prepares students to improve the world and be better followers of Christ: “It’s part of the gospel of Jesus Christ to improve people’s lives,” he says. “We are a gospel of many things; we are a gospel of improving spirituality and connections to Jesus Christ, but we are also a gospel of improving people’s happiness and joy. And it’s hard to improve people’s happiness and joy if they live in conditions of extreme poverty or concern about their security.”
“We can do better in this world,” he concludes. “We have a unique perspective as disciples of Jesus Christ, and we can bring together those spiritual and physical dimensions to really improve the way that people live their lives and the amount of joy they experience.”
To learn more about the International Development program, click here.