Oct. 5, 2016

Gelsdorf Leads New Course on Global Humanitarian Crises

As Director of Global Humanitarian Policy for the Batten School, Professor Kirsten Gelsdorf brings 19 years of experience working in the humanitarian sector; most recently serving as the Chief of the Policy Analysis and Innovation section at the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In spring of 2017 Professor Gelsdorf will be teaching a new course, ‘Global Humanitarian Crises: Dilemmas, Leadership, and Action,’ which is open to undergraduate and graduate students.

Today humanitarian crises are one of the most gripping and complex challenges facing local communities, national governments and international leaders. The war in Syria, the ineffective international response to Ebola in West Africa, the increasing number of climate-induced disasters, trends of rapid urbanization, and increased refugee flows all dominate media headlines and global policy dialogues.

This new course will prepare students to understand the history, principles, and ethical and operational challenges of international crisis response. Students will not only be exposed to theoretical debates and critical thinking but learn from current case studies, guest speakers from the international aid community, and real-time professional assignments. These experiences will help prepare them for future internships and careers in international policy.

Students will benefit by gaining a solid knowledge base in one of the fastest growing fields in international work.  In the last 10 years there has been a tripling of the number of people in need of international humanitarian assistance and a nearly 600 percent increase in the amount of funding required to assist them.  

Professor Gelsdorf’s career includes long-term field postings and operational deployments to numerous emergencies including the international responses to Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, the Ethiopian Famine, the South African Regional Food Crisis, the Liberian War, the Tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina, the Pakistan Earthquake, the Timor-Leste Security Crisis, the Global Food Crisis and the Haiti Earthquake. She also served as a humanitarian advisor to President Clinton in his role as the UN Special Envoy for Haiti and as a policy advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the global food crisis in 2008. 

She has been teaching courses on global humanitarian assistance at the graduate and undergraduate level at both Columbia University and the University of Virginia. This experience coupled with her professional work allows her to expose students to first-hand knowledge of humanitarian issues and dilemmas. She hopes that the course will be an asset to students across all of UVA’s schools across Grounds.

In This Article

Senior Lecturer and Director of Global Humanitarian Policy
Email Address
Office Location/Room Number
Garrett L028