Stacy J. Kosko, Ph.D.

Development Ethicist. Project Design Specialist.
Research Professor. Teacher.
(She, Her, Hers)

Development ethics, with a focus on human rights and culture and an emphasis on severely marginalized populations, is my scholarly bread-and-butter. I also teach and consult on development project design.

I am an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Government and Politics, Director of the College Park Scholars International Studies program, and an affiliate in the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland (USA).

I am a first-generation college student with a PhD in Public Policy and development studies from the University of Maryland and an MS in Foreign Service and international conflict management from Georgetown University. I spent the 2017-2018 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar in Moldova.

I have two small children, three cats, and a passion for cooking and ballroom dance.  I learned to knit badly while in COVID-19 lockdown.

For a recent interview I did with Empathy Media Lab, click here.
For my latest articles for the Center Values and International Development, click here and here.
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Development Ethics

Ethical analysis of the ends and means of global development. Participation. Empowerment. Human Rights. Capability.

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Development Project Design

Education, training, and consulting for the design of development solutions that are viable, evidence-based, sustainable, and ethical.

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Project-Based Learning

Training students for the fast-paced, creative, and collaborative professional world that they are about to enter.

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BOOK:  Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics

Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics, with Lori Keleher, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2019.

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Cultural Freedom:  Worthwhile Development for a Diverse World

“Cultural Freedom: Worthwhile Development for a Diverse World,” in Handbook of Development Ethics, Jay Drydyk and Lori Keleher, eds., Routledge, 2019.

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‘Reason to Value’:  Process, Opportunity, and Perfectionism in the Capability Approach

“‘Reason to Value’: Process, Opportunity, and Perfectionism in the Capability Approach” with Serene J. Khader in Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics, Lori Keleher and Stacy J. Kosko, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2019.

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The Recognition Gap:  Why Labels Matter in Human Rights Protection

in Theorizing Justice: Critical Insights and Future Directions. Krushil Watene and Jay Drydyk, eds. Rowman and Littlefield, 2016

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Adapting to Feasible Means or Ends?:  Educational Attainment & School-to-Work Conversion of Roma in Romania

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Vol 13, Iss 3, 2012, pp 415-450

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Parental Consent and Children's Rights in Europe:  A Balancing Act

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Vol. 11, Iss. 3, 2010, pp 425-448

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Stacy J. Kosko

Associate Research Professor, Government and Politics

University of Maryland

You can find a PDF of my CV here.

Global Development & Design:  Ethical Impact for Communities of Struggle, a digital humanities & social sciences multimedia project (See FIRE-GDD under "My Programs," below, for more information.)

Culture and Development, monograph

“'Standard Threats' and Basic Rights: Standard for Whom?”

Valori şi principii: Minority Youth Activism”

“Students at your service: A case study in community-engaged learning in international development,” with Caroline Archambault and David Ehrhardt

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College Park Scholars International Studies

IS is a living-learning program for first- and second-year UMD students who are interested in better understanding the world as it is, who wish to conceive a vision for the world as it might be, and who are committed to developing the skills and mindset of a global citizen, including an understanding of global justice, development ethics, human rights, and human dignity.

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Global Development & Design

FIRE Global Development and Design explores what ethical development around the world really means and needs. We will look at the values-based differences between “good” and “bad” development and the technological and design tools that can help program designers do their jobs better.

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Minor in International Development & Conflict Management

The Minor in International Development and Conflict Management (MIDCM) prepares students with the theoretical frameworks and practical skills necessary to address critical global concerns.

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University of Maryland, Department of Government and Politics

Associate Research Professor | Associate Director, Minor in International Development & Conflict Management


University of Maryland, College Park Scholars Public Leadership

Associate Director


Civil Society, Foundations, World Bank


Occasional, 2010-present

The Advocacy Project

Deputy Director



Ph.D. in Policy Studies & International Development, University of Maryland

GPA: 4.0 / 4.0 | Doctoral Fellow | Dissertation: "Essays in Human Rights and Education: Accommodating Vulnerable Minorities"


M.S. Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Concentration in International Conflict Management | Certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies | GPA: 3.8 / 4.0 | Kellen Scholar


B.A., English and Textual Studies | B.A., French Language, Literature, and Culture | B.S., Television/Radio/Film, Syracuse University

GPA: 3.9 / 4.0 | University Scholar (Valedictorian) | Honors in Screenwriting


I have been a classroom teacher for most of the last 20 years.  My work has ranged from teaching “at risk” students and former drop-outs in an urban night school, to guiding college students as they came to terms with the challenges and realities of project design for international development, to advising undergraduate Individual Studies Program students in designing their own majors and completing their theses, to teaching Master's students as a Fulbright Scholar in Moldova.  As a high school teacher, I cut my teaching teeth against the backdrop of learning disabilities, significant social and economic hardship, substance abuse, and apathy.  Rising to meet these challenges drove me to invest in offering the most intellectually stimulating, practically relevant, and personally engaging courses that I could, an experience that has shaped the way I teach university students today. 

For all of the courses I discuss here, I have developed my own curricula and have been able to explore and hone my personal teaching philosophy, which takes a highly individual approach to student engagement while seeking to foster an atmosphere of deliberative dialogue.  Scroll down to read more of my teaching philosophy.

I have received seven teaching and mentoring awards for this work, including the Undergraduate Education Recognition Award for exemplary teaching and service to the University of Maryland and three Merrill Presidential Scholar Faculty Mentor recognitions.  But my students’ own words speak to my efforts far better...

In January 2021 I co-founded UMD's Experiential Learning Working Group.  Experiential learning is a powerful way not only to engage students but to lead them to approach learning in a whole different way, to “grab” the material from different (often more personal) angles.  Increasingly, I lean toward project-based learning (PBL) and have given talks on my approach in several US cities and three other countries.  PBL, which typically is team-based, requires students to take on real problems, using the tools and techniques that they would use to problem-solve in the real world.  It also gives students more control over their learning, putting instructors in the position of facilitators rather than (only) as deliverers of information.  PBL also accommodates different learning styles within the classroom and within student groups as students learn to use a variety of learning modalities to problem-solve and communicate their ideas.  Finally, it can increase student achievement by drawing students into the learning process in a way that allows them to feel ownership over their work and to play to their strengths.  I have piloted two university-wide teaching initiatives at UMD, Global Classroom and Fearless Ideas, and have used my PBL course model for both of these.  Activities I use in other courses range from short, half-class role-plays, to year-long service learning projects (such as through the Public Leadership Community-Based Learning program that I developed and led).  I also use simulations, such as the one-day “Budgeting for Poverty” simulation I created, which places students in “families,” gives them a story and asks them to make their financial ends meet over the course of one month.  In my Introduction to International Development and Conflict Management class I have used one-to-three-day crisis negotiation simulations.  Formal team debates, ranging from US healthcare reform (fall 2009) to whether foreign aid works and whether there is a moral obligation to provide aid (fall 2012) are also popular and effective, linking my desire to make students think critically with the imperative that they become adept at articulating their views and expressing them orally, all through engaged classroom experience.
“Interdisciplinarity” is a hot word in contemporary college education.  Since I began teaching undergraduate students at the University of Maryland in 2007, I have striven to ensure that my courses walk the walk.  In the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management, housed in the Department of Government and Politics, I have taught two undergraduate courses in international development, peace, and conflict management dozens of times, honing my approach with successive iterations.  The Introduction course draws heavily on political science texts but also relies on works in philosophy, sociology, and economics, as well as documents from international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank.  The Capstone course in International Development is interdisciplinary at its core, relying on a project-based, client-based model of development problem solving that relies on real-world engagement with development practitioners, industry texts and guides, and concrete examples that cover fields ranging from agriculture to community health to education to small business development to disaster risk reduction.  In my previous role at UMD, during my five years as the Associate Director of the College Park Scholars Public Leadership program, I taught 12 sections each of two small undergraduate courses—Public Leadership and Applied Leadership—as well as 10 sections of an experiential learning course called Guided Teaching in Public Leadership.  All of these courses draw from “the disciplines” and on interdisciplinary scholarship (in fields such as leadership and management studies, development studies, and peace and conflict studies), while also relying heavily on current events, contemporary political commentary, and examples of real-world development programs and ethics questions.
I aim to inspire, excite, and challenge my students through my choice of learning material and style of classroom management and by doing my best to lead by example, to model the kind of citizen I hope they will become:  socially aware, self-aware, and engaged in their communities.  I also aim to build their skills in critical dialogue.  All of my classes tackle issues of power and privilege, justice and ethics, identity and community, solidarity and difference.  This was true of my teaching high school English; it was true of my teaching leadership; and it is true of my teaching international development and conflict management.  However, I do not spend much time “lecturing” on these topics, and students appreciate the chance to “actually talk amongst ourselves instead of being talked at” (student evaluation).  Rather, I attempt to guide students in developing the ability to answer the questions “What do I believe?” and “Why do I believe this?” and to articulate clearly their responses to the diverse audience that is their peers and professors and sometimes their clients.  In doing the former, I guide them in using both ethical reflection and evidence-based reasoning.  For the latter, I try to cultivate respectful, open dialogue in the classroom, include participation in the course grade, and require at least one oral presentation per course.  One freshman wrote in an evaluation “I learned to look at the construction of society more critically and discuss why I hold certain values over others.”

Emphasizing the real-world applications of the concepts I teach, I draw learning material from diverse sources, including videos, newspaper articles, industry and academic texts, primary sources, reports from international organizations, and “great works.”  One way in which I attempt to help students bridge their perceived academia-reality gap is through case studies.  Another is by pairing student groups with clients in the professional world whose “development challenges” posed at the start of the semester form the basis for student research, innovation, and design throughout the next 15 weeks as they work in teams to design solutions (in the form of development projects) to address those challenges (PBL in action).  Yet another way in which I strive to make classroom learning as practical as possible is by assigning assessments—“deliverables”—of the sort that students might be asked to do in a professional capacity in government or development work:  memos, conflict maps, issue briefs, stakeholder analyses, problem analyses, results-based frameworks, concept notes, professional “pitches,” and so on.
The atmosphere of respectful deliberation for which I strive, while sometimes hard to achieve, pays off as students grow comfortable with discussing difficult topics and feel empowered to share their views and think for themselves, even (as I encourage) to challenge me.  When asked what worked well in the course, one student said:  “Stacy as a discussion facilitator—it made talking easy and helped other people express their opinions to me.”  These skills help students to grow not only intellectually, but personally, as citizens.  Because of the importance I place on this outcome, I have been especially gratified—touched, actually—by the several students who have thanked me “for the investment you have put to make me a greater student and ultimately a better citizen” and for having “shaped me to be a better individual than when I first entered the program” (student emails).
  • Prof. Stacy J. Kosko
  • Center for Int'l Development and Conflict Management Department of Government and Politics 2117 Chincoteague Hall College Park, MD, USA

Stacy J. Kosko

Associate Research Professor, Government and Politics

University of Maryland

You can find a PDF of my CV here.