Building Understanding through International Learning and Development (BUILD)

What is BUILD? Who is BUILD?

"BUILD is an inspiration for the impact students can have in changing the world... the BUILD program is laying the foundation for long-term, sustainable development, and in so doing it is training the next generation of leaders and international citizens. It is an innovative program, all the more impressive having been developed and sustained by student initiative...."

-Edward Fischer, PhD Director, Vanderbilt University Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies

What is BUILD?

BUILD is a student-led sustainable development program guided by the four pillars of education, action, solidarity, and leadership, each serving a crucial and complementary role as we work directly with rural communities in the developing world for the general improvement of their economic, social, and infrastructural condition. BUILD conducts powerful and innovative development work that operates in four stages: research, planning, execution, and analysis.

BUILD’s community partnerships are highly independent, long-term, and comprehensive, transforming the student learning experience from the purely analytical to the fully participatory. As one student said, "We impact real peoples’ lives; the stakes are too high for failure." Statements such as this have prompted BUILD to assure full community participation and deep human investment in all of our projects. The research, planning, execution, and analysis are shared activities, linking and blending the motivations and goals of the Program’s students and the members of our partner communities, for the their mutual benefit.

Program Pillars


BUILD educates students about sustainable development, which we define as a process combining economics, anthropology, political science, and principles of social and environmental justice. Students involved in the program attend weekly meetings to discuss competing theories of economic development as well as the various political, social, and economic issues our partner communities may face given their history, geography, culture, and economy.


BUILD fosters direct interaction between Tufts students and those living in developing communities in order to give students the opportunity to act in the sustainable development process with the ultimate goal of collaboratively implementing sustainable solutions to expressed needs. As interaction depends, BUILD is able to form a Community Development Plan (CDP) written conjointly by BUILD students and community leaders.


Direct interaction and collaboration with partner communities produces a crucial sense of solidarity between students and communities. BUILD students spend substantial time with families and youth conducting personal interviews in order to assess local needs on an individual basis. The sense of solidarity cultivated during all stages of the projects is fundamental to BUILD’s effectiveness and to ensuring the longevity of our community partnerships.


Research and project management enable BUILD students to develop their leadership abilities in a context similar to that of a small development NGO. Grant writing, logistical planning, fundraising, budget formation, and outreach to local NGOs are just a few of the responsibilities of BUILD students, and this practical experience equips students with valuable skills while at the same time providing tangible, innovative development solutions to our partner communities.


Who is BUILD?

(Meet the BUILD team)

BUILD promotes transparent and horizontal leadership and operates under the guidance and sponsorship of the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL), whose mission is to “prepare new generations and critical thinkers for effective and ethical leadership, ready to act as global citizens in addressing international and national issues across cultures.” Pursuant to its mission, the IGL provides BUILD a tremendous network of development professionals, actively promotes BUILD and its endeavors, and provides limited financial support for research and project execution, as well as enforcing a high standard of outcomes and accountability.

There is no standard profile of the BUILD student. We integrate undergraduates not only from diverse majors within Liberal Arts, but from across Tufts University’s various schools, combining methodologies and analytical approaches from the anthropological, political, economic, literary, cultural, medical, and engineering perspectives. Regardless of career path, all BUILD students share a noticeable motivation and passion, understanding that their work is of highest stakes, affecting sustainable, innovative change in the developing world.