Get your B.A. from the International YMCA University

Date: 02 May 2014

Preparing people for a lifetime of service: Get your B.A. from the International YMCA University in Kassel, Germany.

In a recent conversation with an enthusiastic young volunteer who had participated in one of our international volunteer programs as part of the German YMCA I was confronted with a question I receive quite regularly: “This was a great experience” she said, “and I learned so much. But in the end I ask myself – can we really make a difference? How can we empower young people when we are in fact so powerless?” Usually the conversation then turns to some bureaucratic problem, some story about missing critical administrative information from international partners, lack of funding or necessary improvements in training of staff and so on. I can see many heads nodding out there right now. You know exactly what I am talking about.

“Powerless?” I generally ask back, “are you really so sure about that?” Looking at things from a different angle makes you realize, that the opportunities for us as a global community to have an impact on each others lives not just for worse but also for better have never been greater than today.

Globalization: Menace or Opportunity? (Both, in fact)

Globalization is a pretty old hat for the YMCA. We have been a global youth-oriented NGO since the emergence of modern-form globalization in the nineteenth century, complete with consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) since 1947 – long before the exponential increase in these organizations starting in the 1970s or the term “NGO” was even created. The world’s affairs are not merely in the hands of governments and corporations (as well as international crime syndicates). Individuals such as Bill Gates and Malala Yousafzai, global groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières or national YMCA movements are now active participants in what we call “world governance”. No matter how un-orderly and chaotic this new world order seems at times, we are increasingly interdependent on one another.

New Rules Require New Forms of Education

This interdependence requires a greater knowledge of the new (and not so new) rules of the game if we want to continue to successfully empower young people in and for the twenty-first century. In 2012, the International YMCA University of Applied Sciences (IYU), located in Kassel, Germany, began to offer a Bachelor in Human Development (HuD) specifically designed for the needs of those willing to serve others either as part of the YMCA movement or any other NGO, but also in government agencies or as part of corporate efforts to engage with their communities.

The HuD program provides students with a broad understanding of the main issues in the area of development assistance and cooperation and enables them to engage in a lifelong-learning process. We have streamlined the program with a clear focus on practical application of theories and best practices in four thematic areas: (1) methods, (2) operational management, (3) spiritual and (4) global studies. Students are offered a base set of common courses and are then able to specialize within the program to best fit their needs as well as those of their employers (current or future).

The courses are offered online, so students are able to participate in the program from wherever they have some Internet access (and electricity). Regular on-campus residencies as well as exposure to different kinds of professional experiences as part of internships complement the learning process (called “blended learning”).

We view our global YMCA movement as a treasure-trove of knowledge, experience and wisdom. Consequently, the program aims to give students access to this rich and diverse pool of information, connecting it to the theories, methods and concepts covered in the courses.

Certificate Courses

In addition to participation in the program to reach the B.A. degree, it is also possible to take courses on an individual basis. This allows students from around the world to take part in courses not offered at their own university. In addition, we have received interest in courses from people who are currently full- or part-time staff and would like to freshen up their knowledge on certain skills or topics – a terrific and convenient way to engage in lifelong learning.

Elders Program

Starting this fall, we have begun to focus not just on traditionally younger students, but also on people transitioning from their professional career lives to (active) retirement. Our educational focus aims to connect people and diverse knowledge across intellectual and cultural traditions. The “Elders” program allows us to bring an intergenerational learning component into the course-setting as well. It also allows senior students to connect their professional experience with differing organizational skills and methods needed as part of volunteering efforts in their local YMCA cooperations with international partners.

The deadline for applications is May 31st. (We still accept applications after that date; however, it is uncertain whether we will be able to accept students for the beginning of the semester in September for administrative reasons and due to space limitations).

Further information can be found at or email