Emory launched its new Master's Degree in Development Practice
(MDP) program this semester, enabling the 13 inaugural students to aid in the world effort for international sustainable development through a combination of class lectures and field work.
The program, made possible through a grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is a two-year course of study currently offered at 22 universities across the globe.
According to MDP Associate Director Carla Roncoli, the program is “part of a network of similar programs around the world.”
The program allows students to identify and address global challenges in sustainable development, including poverty, conservation, climate change, health, population and agricultural productivity according to the Emory MDP website.
“It is a new professional degree that will make Emory a really important institution in shaping the leaders in development of the future,” Roncoli said.
MDP Director David Nugent said the skills students develop in the program will prepare them to handle many different responsibilities in the world of development and achieve positions of leadership in development organizations.
Nugent said that Emory received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation in June 2009 and was one of only 10 universities to do so at the time.
Currently, the MacArthur Foundation commits more than $15 million to 22 universities around the world, which, according to Nugent, “reflects the founders’ goal to create a global network of schools that can offer a very new kind of training in development.”
Roncoli, who began working at Emory six months ago specifically for the program, said that thus far, the program has been “tremendously successful.”
The MDP students arrived at Emory in early August for a pre-semester intensive foundational course, which prepares them for the MDP curriculum with instruction on the theories of development and field trips to visit different partners in Atlanta with whom the students will work for the next two years.
“Most importantly, to me, the August session allowed the program members to bond and get to know one another, which is crucial to the functioning of this program,” Stephanie Stawicki, a student in the Emory MDP program, wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel
This semester, the MDP students are enrolled in courses that combine scientific disciplines, development themes and pragmatic skills.
Roncoli explained that while a few of the courses are combined with graduate classes across disciplines that are outside the program, most are developed and taught specifically for the program.
In addition to the pre-semester course, students in the program are required to fulfill core class requirements; enroll in a technology-based global classroom course, which will allow them to interact with students at other MDP consortium schools; and participate in field training with international development projects.
Field training consists of traveling abroad during summers to underdeveloped countries as well as working with organizations in the Atlanta area, including Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE), the Carter Center and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Gray Clevenger, an MDP student, wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel that Emory’s proximity to world-renowned development organizations and its commitment to international development make the MDP program particularly suitable.
“I’d like to gain a better understanding of the forces that shape international development and ways to become a better and more effective development practitioner,” Clevenger explained.
Students must select a concentration that combines a geographic region of interest with a particular sector or theme, Nugent explained.
“The program is designed to give students broad training, but it’s not enough to just be a generalist, although it’s important to be a generalist,” Nugent said. “So we decided to supplement the general curriculum with a concentration.”
Last year, Nugent said, approximately 175 applicants expressed interest in the Emory MDP program. 20 students were ultimately accepted, 13 of which enrolled. Many of the remaining students requested deferral for one year.
“We wanted to keep it relatively small to give our students a lot of personal attention,” Roncoli said.
Nugent said the program plans to expand the number of students, though specific details in this area have yet to be decided.
According to Stawicki, the students in the program come from many different backgrounds and perspectives.
“It’s exciting for us all to interact and share our opinions,” Stawicki explained.
According to Roncoli, the program will be conducting a more active recruitment process for next year’s incoming class.
Roncoli commented that the students are “fantastic, inspiring and so full of energy and commitment.” She said she believes that MDP’s future looks bright.
“We’re already bombarded by phone calls,” Roncoli said. “People who have heard about the program are waiting anxiously for when admissions are going to be open.”
The admissions procedures and deadlines for 2011 have yet to be announced.
— Contact Jordan Friedman