09/16/2014 - 09:50

Congratulations to MDP class of 2015! 

Having finished all of their coursework, the class of 2015 is now onto great things in the world:

Natalie Lucas has accepted a Fellowship with the University of New Hampshire program ‘One Montana’ and also founded the NGO ‘Care About Climate’

Mursal Ali will be continuing  his work at Horizons for Refugee Families as an Immigration Service Provider

Leigh Anne Schmidt took a position as the In-country Director for Montana de Luz, an orphanage for HIV positive children in Honduras

Phouthamaly Sengphaathith will be working for Electricite du Laos, the power company of the country of Laos

Kara Luebbering has accepted a position as the Country Director of Just Hope in Nicaragua


MDP students depart for Summer Practicums around the world

Now that the spring semester is coming to a close, the MDP class of 2016 is heading off to locations around the world to complete their summer field practicum, a critical component of the MDP experience. Below are two examples of some of the diverse and exciting research MDP students will be involved in for their practicums.

Emma Barker-Perez will be traveling to Zambia to work with WorldFish, an international organization that strives to end poverty and hunger by improving fisheries and aquaculture. Emma will spend three months engaging in field research, data analysis, literature review, and project reporting to assist in the implementation of a group savings and credit program in Western Province.

Nikki Marie Lippert will be partnering with the Mlawula Nature Reserve in Swaziland to conduct a needs assessment for the rural community of Mhlumeni. Mhlumeni is confined on three sides by the nature reserve and as a result, access to the surrounding natural resources is limited. Her assessment will consist of a household survey, focus group discussions, and participatory natural resource use mapping. Dr. Bishop's Geography of Health and Development study abroad will also be joining her for one week to assist with data collection. Upon completion of the assessment, the findings and recommendations will be used by the Mlawula Nature Reserve to direct their development strategy for Mhlumeni. 


MDP student Nikki Lippert awarded 2 GPSC Grants


MDP student Nikki Lippert was awarded both a GPSC travel grant and a GPSC research grant to fund her summer field practicum, "Community Needs Assessment for Mhlumeni, Swaziland." Congratulations Nikki!







MDP students work with local nonprofits 

As part of the course “Essential Management Principles for Development,” MDP students are collaborating with three local nonprofit projects to provide much-needed project evaluations and recommendations.   

  • The Youth Farm Project (YFP) - Led by the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank, the YFP teaches children and young adults about the food they eat and how it affects their health, the community, and the planet. MDP students will analyze pre- and post-surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and offer suggestions for improvement. Further, the MDP students will develop a new pre- and post-program evaluation and data collection tool.
  • Caridad Kitchen Project - MDP students will identify and evaluate indicators for health improvement with the Caridad Kitchen Project. The students will analyze the qualitative indicators of the project through the lens of the beneficiaries and present the findings to the project’s board.  
  • Native Seeds/SEARCH - Partnering with TANGO International and Native Seeds/SEARCH, MDP tudents will investigate the impacts of seed conservation projects in the Tucson area. Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H. (NS/S) promotes the use of locally cultivated heirloom and landrace seeds by distributing seeds to traditional communities and gardeners around the world. Students will assist NS/S in creating and implementing a database to organize participant surveys. Additionally, they will revise the design and implementation of pre- and post-distribution surveys in order to strengthen


Meet MDP Student Mursal Ali

Mursal, what motivated you to pursue the MDP program at the U of A?

I am here with a desire to better myself academically, improve my career prospects and contribute to global development. I chose this field because of its focus on development problems such as poverty, population growth, unequal distribution of resources, gender inequalities and agriculture. These are the most challenging issues in the developing counties especially in Africa and Asia where the population is rapidly growing and food production is scarce. Attending the University of Arizona to study this field will broadly develop and improve my understanding of the contemporary issues affecting not only developing countries but also developed countries. Academically, I strongly believe that this degree will provide me with problem solving skills relevant to tackling development and sustainability problems.

Every MDP student is required to conduct a summer practicum in development practice. Can you tell us about your practicum experience?

For my summer practicum, I went to Kenya for a month to research how to generate an economy in the refugee camps to improve current livelihood interventions and mitigate their huge dependency on humanitarian aid. Since the 1990s, Kenya hosts the world’s largest refugee camps and most refugees live in an extreme welfare state. They are completely dependent on foreign aid from the international community. Meanwhile because of influx from neighboring countries, humanitarian aid is not sufficient to cover the basic needs of the increasing number of refugees in the camp.

How do you hope to use your degree once you finish the MDP program?

Since I have been studying I have learned a lot and developed an understanding of the theory and strategies used to address development issues. The program has introduced me to the true expanse of development and the courses have given me an in-depth knowledge of the development field. At my current job, I work with disadvantaged refugees in Tucson. With the MDP degree I would be thrilled to continue working with disadvantaged populations locally or internationally.



MDP kicks off Spring Colloquium Series

The Master’s in Development Practice Program presents many important opportunities for students to engage directly with a wide variety of development practitioners. The weekly colloquium series is a key component of this engagement. Every Tuesday, specialists in applied research, development experts, and/or faculty from diverse disciplines spend the noon hour sharing their perspectives with MDP students and answering questions. This semester, food security and at-risk populations are the two main themes of the series. Dr. Stephanie Buechlar helped to organize the talks and explains they provide an important opportunity for students to not only learn about a particular development issue but also to hear directly from professionals about what it’s like to work in their field and how to successfully pursue different careers. Speakers this semester include Tom Spangler from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Ethan Smith Cox of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF), and Monica Mueller, a Senior Technical Specialist at TANGO International who will speak about her experiences working with the World Food Program (WFP).  


Student Photo Exhibit a Big Success

On October 23rd, MDP students successfully inaugurated a photo exhibit in downtown Tucson. The photographs document the many places and faces from MDP students' recent summer practicums at NGOs and development insititutions throughout the world. A story of the event appeared in the most recent issue of the Wildcat Weekend and can be viewed here: The exhibit will continue at Cafe Passe through November.

MDP students appear on the Morning Blend to announce their upcoming Photo Exhibit

On September 25, Students from the Master's in Development Practice Program at the University of Arizona appeared on KGUN's Channel 9 program, the Morning Blend, to announce their upcoming photography exhibit at Cafe Passe in Downtown Tucson. Click here to watch the full interview. 

The exhibit will include images from MDP students' recent experiences on their summer practicum. Photos relate to issues such as migration in Southern Mexico, public health in the Dominican Republic, indigenous rights in Indonesia, child protection in Romania, and food security in Benin, West Africa. 

The exhibition will be held at Café Passe on 4th Avenue, on October 23rd from 5-7 pm.


MDP students return from successful summer practicums around the world



Brittany John completed her MDP summer practicum at the Africa Rice Program (CGIAR) in Benin, West Africa. She worked on a monitoring and evaluation project to increase food security and resilience among rice farmers throughout the region. During her stay in Benin, Brittany also attended the Van Duyse Entrepreneurship & Leadership Institute to study education models of business development and leadership to combat poverty.  


Benjamin Dierksmeier did his MDP summer practicum with CGIAR’s Aquatic Agriculture Systems project. He has since received a consultancy contract as a social and gender technical writer with the same institutions and will be a co-author of the final project publication.



MDP student, Natalie Lucas went to Indonesia this summer as an intern with the Center for International Forestry Research. She studied fuelwood use on the island of Lombok as it relates to deforestation, forest degradation and climate change. 



Kara Luebbering worked for a small NGO based in the rural community of Chacraseca, Nicaragua. Kara conducted over 150 semi-structured interviews as part of a gender analysis of formal education in the area. Kara is currently working on the final report of this study.



For her summer practicum, Leigh Anne Schmidt was in Ixtepec, Mexico (Southern Mexico) working with and researching female migrants from Central America at a migrant shelter called 'Hermanos en el Camino'. In addition to conducting qualitative interviews, she worked at the shelter in various forms, primarily overseeing the women's dormitory and providing women with any assistance they needed during their stay at the shelter. This research will be written in to a journal article and submitted for publication with Dr. Stephanie Buechler. 




Chantel Welch spent the summer in Myanmar as a USAID sponsored Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer with Winrock International. She collected baseline data on new projects, gathered information for impact evaluations, wrote success stories, and compiled photographs for social media campaigns. She also conducted a three-day training on Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) material for the Food Security Working Group (local NGO and CBOs) in Yangon, Myanmar. 


Phouthamaly Sengphaathith did her summer practicum at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) with the regional office for Southeast Asia in Vientiane, Laos. She worked on a project evaluating how land use change affects the hydrological cycle of two micro-catchments in Vietnam and Thailand. 





MDP students present at 2nd Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice

This week, MDP students are at Colombia University in New York City to present their research at the 2nd Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice. The theme of the conference is "Advancing Evidence-Based Solutions for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. The MDP students' presentations include:

  • "Fuelwood, Deforestation, and Climate Change: An Analysis of Consumption Patterns, Impacts and Alternatives in Lombok, Indonesia" by Natalie Lucas
  • "Entrepreneurial Education: a mechanism to address gender-based inequalities and economic disparities" by Kara Luebbering and Brittany John

MDP student to be awarded grant from the Female Entrepreneurs for Development (FED)
Committee on the Status of Women

Kara Luebbering won the award which will development a project aimed at connecting female entrepreneurs at the University of Arizona to at-risk female youth in rural Nicaragua. Once partnerships are formed, University students will work long-distance with Nicaraguan students to identify a human development concern facing women in Nicaragua and will develop an entrepreneurial venture to address this issue over a four month period.

MDP students win grant funding for summer practicum

MDP student TIm Workman won the SBSRI travel grant for his upcoming practicum in Indonesia.  His proposal was titled: "Perspectives on Land and Resource Policy and Management in South Sulawesi, Indonesia: Looking for a Way Forward"

MDP students Ian Philabaum and Leigh Anne Schmidt have both won Tinker Travel Grants for their upcoming field practicums in Mexico and Guatamala. 

MDP student and faculty published

MDP student Leigh Anne Schmidt and faculty member Stephanie Buechler's article titled "Honduran boys confronting adversity: urban multi-locality and kin mobilization" was recently published in the Journal Children's Geographies.

MDP student, Lauren Simonis accepts position with international non-profit.

Lauren Simonis (pictured right), a gradaute student in the US MDP inaugural cohort, has accepted a training position with the Tucson chapter of Amigos de las Américas, preparing new youth volunteers to participate in public health projects  in rural communities throughout Latin America.









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