MDP Curriculum

The MDP is a two-year program that includes a field practicum during the summer between the two years. It is ordinarily completed over a 22-month period beginning in a fall semester. The MDP includes four main interdisciplinary fields of study: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Public Health, and Management. Please details see below, or consult the MDP handbook, to learn more about the curriculum. To find out which courses will be offered in any particular semester, visit the UArizona Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes.

Degree Requirements

The first year of the MDP program focuses on establishing foundational knowledge and skills, although most students also take some electives. During the second year, students have the opportunity to focus primarily on electives from anywhere within the University (all electives must be 500-level or above and are subject to approval by the MDP Program).  Students also complete a summer field practicum.

Core Courses

Most MDP students complete all core courses, unless waived by the program director (usually because a student has taken an equivalent graduate-level course). Not all courses are offered every semester:

This one-credit course will be taught intensively in the early part of the fall semester, when each new cohort is convened. It is designed to create a shared basic understanding of development for students with different academic and practitioner backgrounds and presents the context of development as a historical and contemporary process.


This course introduces students to the "culture of inquiry", the basic principles of applied, problem-solving research, and the logic of a mixed methods approach. It then relates research methodology to the development context as defined by the project cycle and project design principles, information systems and management, livelihood and vulnerability assessment (including health, nutrition, and environmental assessment), community and participatory planning, project monitoring and evaluation, and proposal development. In providing a comprehensive overview of the role of information in development, the course is designed to build decision skills in the choice of method and the management of information. Instruction will be provided by faculty and practitioner experts in these fields.


The one-credit course will enroll all MDP students who have just completed their practicums. It will focus on planning the MDP Portfolio and  initiating the production of research briefs, Op-Eds, blogposts and other products. First-year students will also participate in some activities of the workshop but will not enroll for credit until their second year.  


A core element of the Arizona MDP program is its field practicum. The purpose of the field practicum is to create a structured opportunity for field-tested learning on a closely mentored individual basis. The practicum experience engages students in an on-going specific development practice activity that utilizes cross-disciplinary skills, provides a concrete methodological experience, and involves collaboration and field interaction with local colleagues. 



The MDP degree culminates with a Master's Project. In collaboration with field-partners and faculty advisors, students will develop an MDP Portfolio of various reports based on the summer practicum as well as on other aspects of each student's experience in the field of development practice. This course is organized mostly as an independent study and is taken during the last semester of each student's program of study, i.e., usually in the fourth semester. The prelude to this course is DVP 642a, and many of the products in the MDP Portfolio will be posted to the MDP Blog and/or published elsewhere. 


Social Sciences

  • Complete all required courses below
  • Complete other electives of your choice 

This course will introduce students to key social science analytical tools relevant to development. It provides training in major development theories and practices through a social justice and rights-based lens and prepares students to understand how relations of power at local and global scales intersect with and shape development efforts.


This course emphasizes the cultural and spatial dimensions to development practice and promotes sensitivity to the unique development practice challenges related to language and culture. Students are exposed to a range of regional contexts and are expected to expand their knowledge and understanding of a specific cultural area. The specific regional themes focus on the impacts of culture on problems related to health and nutrition, natural resource management, governance, and economic decision-making, among other. Faculty from different core competency disciplines will participate in this course.



Natural Sciences

  • Complete all required courses below
  • Complete other electives of your choice 

This course presents the basic concept and principles of ecosystem analysis, the services those ecosystems provide, and the impacts of human-environment interactions. Instructional units will provide a clear understanding of the ecology and management of arid and semi-arid lands, rangelands, and forests. The importance to development of hydrologic resources (water availability and quality) in all of these environments will be explored with specific emphasis on the concepts of ecohydrology and watershed management. These units will be followed by instruction in the current concepts and practices in wildlife and fisheries conservation and management and will emphasize the importance of the biotic resources of ecosystems.


This course focuses on the management of natural resources within ecosystems. It introduces students to the management of land and water resources in the context of developing countries. Technical unites explore the management and engineering of irrigation systems, water and sanitation, alternative sources for energy, integrated watershed management, and urban and rural land planning. The course also examines the human element of natural resource management as evidenced in resource-tenure systems, environmental policy, indigenous knowledge systems, participatory management practices, and collaborative management for ecosystem services. The course further introduces the student to techniques for monitoring development using remote sensing and geographic information systems, cost benefit analysis for planning, and multi-criteria decision analysis.


Health Sciences 

  • Complete at least one elective (a recommended course is HPS 533: Global Health and/or HPS 529: Project Design and Implementation in Global Health)
  • Complete electives of your choice

Management Skills 

  • Complete one required course
  • Complete electives of your choice

This course introduces participants to the structure of development delivery services and the management skills that these delivery systems utilize. It first focuses on the organizational and operational characteristics of the principal development actors (bilateral and multilateral donors, international NGOs, local NGOs, national government agencies, foundations, etc.); then analyzes the sequential steps of the delivery process, including strategic planning, assessment, problem analysis / theory of change, project design, monitoring and evaluation, project administration, proposal development and policy analysis. This course will be administered by a combination of UA faculty and qualified guest lecturers with expertise in relevant fields.


MDP Student Handbook 2020-2021