The curriculum of the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) Program equips students with the insights, knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to successfully pursue a career in the field of sustainable development.

Insights are drawn from an interdisciplinary selection of courses in the natural sciences, public health, social sciences, and management. Knowledge focuses on both global and domestic challenges relating to poverty reduction, societal inclusion, environmental justice, and community capacity building. Skills encompass the analytical, statistical, programmatic, and managerial, while experiences derive from an intensive summer field practicum on a topic and in a global location of students’ choosing.

Students in the MDP Program earn a practice-oriented professional degree and have learned the limits of top-down methods, the importance of context-specific solutions, the value of participatory and community-based approaches, and the imperative to prioritize the needs of under-resourced and socially-excluded populations. The MDP curriculum can be tailored for those early in their careers as well as those with prior professional experience in development.

Degree Requirements

Over the course of 22 months students complete 48 credits of development-focused coursework, including a combination of core, elective, and integrative work.

Students begin by taking required core courses and other introductory activities with their cohort the first year.

During the summer between their two years of study, MDP students complete an intensive hands-on field practicum in their field of concentration and at a destination chosen in consultation with MDP faculty.

Students apply knowledge and skills gained during the first year of study to their practicum.  Then they return with new insights for the second year to distil the findings from their summer projects, to complete more specialized coursework, and to apply their experiences to the pursuit of new careers in development practice.

During the two academic years, many students also gain valuable experience as teaching assistants or research assistants, working directly with UA professors. Some students also carry out internships with local organizations in the Tucson area that work on development-related issues. 

Overview of Courses

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach to development practice, students must take a combination of required core courses. Unless a waiver is granted because a directly equivalent course has already been completed for graduate credit at another institution, these courses include the following.

Social Sciences
DVP 601: Principles of Social Science for Development
DVP 602: The Role of Culture in Sustainable Development
Other electives of your choice (which for many students will be in economics)

Natural Sciences
DVP 620: Introduction to Natural Systems
DVP 621: Natural Systems Management: Applications
Other electives of your choice

Health Sciences
At least one elective 
A recommended course is HPS 533: Global Health

Development Management
DVP 630: Essential Management Principles for Development
Other electives of your choice
A recommended course is PA 582: Managing to Collaborate on Environmental and Natural Resource Conflicts

Additionally, students are required to take integrative coursework, which includes the following: 

DVP 600: Foundations of Development/ Boot Camp
DVP 640: Methods in Development Practice
DVP 642A: Cross-cohort professional development seminar
DVP 694A: Summer Field Practicum
DVP 909: MDP Culmination Project  

Along with integrative course work and courses in the Core curriculum, students may take further elective courses in their chosen areas of specialization.  Students may consult this suggested list of electives or discuss other course options with their advisors. Please also visit our page with examples of  prior summer field practicums.

The MDP program is located within the School of Geography and Development, which offers a range of courses in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). As appropriate for MDP students' particular interests and goals, we encourage enrollment in GIS courses.

Some students may also be interested in specific certificates that are available within the UA system, for example the Global Health Certificate at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Those interested in such a specialization should speak with the MDP Director before the start of the first semester.

It is also highly recommended that all MDP students have completed at least some coursework in statistics before starting their first semester, and also take an additional statistical analysis course related to their particular area of focus.