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Migration and Global Cities


Please note that this track will not be offered starting Fall 2018. The MALS program will no longer be admitting students interested in this track. Prospectives students interested in this track can apply to the new Master's in International Migration Studies

MALS students take four classes within the program—Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, two core courses in their chosen track, and the thesis/capstone project—and choose their remaining electives from among courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at the Graduate Center.



MALS Track in Migration and Global Cities


Today, more than 200 million people
—40 million in the U.S. alone—
live outside the nations of their birth. International migration is the human face of globalization, and it has remade the demographic, social, economic, political and cultural landscapes of many societies around the world. Just as immigrants cross international borders and live increasingly transnational lives, students and scholars who wish to understand these processes need to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and draw insights from a variety of different traditions.

We are particularly interested in fostering a comparative perspective, and asking how diverse world cities can learn from each other. How, for example, do approaches to immigration, citizenship and societal membership differ between cities with long experience of immigration (e.g., New York) and those for whom ethnic diversity is relatively new (e.g., Toronto)? How do notions of the “rights to the city” differ between cities of the global north and rapidly growing metropolises of the global south? How is religious and cultural diversity experienced and understood in different societies? How does life in diverse world cities affect the homelands of transnational populations? What do recent debates over “multi-culturalism” and “pluralism” in the US and Western Europe have to teach us, and how might these debates inform each other? The answers to these questions are inherently interdisciplinary. This new track encourages dialogue between social scientific and humanistic approaches to these issues.

View the Migration and Global Cities flyer.

Degree Requirements

This Master's degree program requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies].
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to Migration and Global Cities topics [MALS 77400 and MALS 77500].
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice.
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000].

Core Courses

The two core courses will provide the student with multiple perspectives and a sound understanding of international migration. The first core course, International Migration, will equip students from various disciplinary backgrounds with an overview of the various theories and key concepts of migration, integration, and assimilation, as well as offer an introduction to how these issues are studied by different disciplines. The second core course, Global Cities, will take an in-depth look at the effects of urban contexts of reception in various societies and specifically in their major cities. The second core course will use New York as the basis of comparison with other major global cities, such as Paris, London, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Toronto, Buenos Aires, etc.

  • MALS 77400 International Migration offers a comprehensive and interdisciplinary overview of the key current topics and issues in the burgeoning field of international migration. The field is unique in its interdisciplinary nature, stretching from history, anthropology, demography and economics, through political science, geography and sociology. Methodologically, it is also very eclectic, ranging from the use of quantitative data to ethnography and oral history of migrants. While the course will aspire to incorporate the experiences of major immigrant receiving countries around the world, the main comparative focus will be on Europe and North America, where the major theories and key concepts are most fully developed. The emphasis is on exploring both the theoretical debates in the field and the empirical data and case studies on which these debates hinge. Attention will be paid to detailed discussions of “classic” issues of immigration, such as assimilation, incorporation/integration, the labor market, race and ethnic relations, gender and the family, transnationalism, and the second generation. Throughout, the course will take into account the way in which global cities, as contexts of reception, affect the immigrant experience, and in turn, are transformed by immigrants.

  • MALS 77500 Global Cities asks the question of how various migrant-receiving global cities experience, respond to, and are transformed by the changing composition of their ethnic populations. Looking at several European, North American, Latin American and Asian cities, it will explore their histories of ethnic and racial difference; the ways in which their ideologies about diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism have evolved and changed over time; the extent to which they incorporate (or do not incorporate) their migrants; and the different economic, cultural and political impacts that migration has had on these global cities. The main focus will be on international comparison, and students will be trained in the use of comparative perspectives to illustrate similarities and differences between cities.

Elective Courses

Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at the Graduate Center.
For related coursework in Migration and Global Cities, students may look to offerings in the doctoral programs in Anthropology, HistoryPolitical ScienceSociology and Urban Education.


The Graduate Center faculty includes one of the largest concentrations of migration-oriented scholars anywhere, as well as many of the leading figures in contemporary urban studies. The Graduate Center is already home to the New York Immigration Seminar, one of the City’s premier venues for the presentation and discussion of cutting-edge social scientific research on migration. Our MALS Migration and Global Cities track is the first of its kind for the New York metropolitan area.

MALS faculty associated with this track:

Other GC faculty associated with this track:

Library Resources

Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.
Students' contact for Migration and Global Cities research is reference librarian Silvia Cho.

Questions about the MALS track in Migration and Global Cities may be directed to

PHOTO CREDITS: First Image: Roman Aqueduct, Segovia by Amber Snider;; Second Image: London Eye, By Victoria Belanger;