MDP Curriculum

The MDP is a two-year program that involves a summer field practicum. At its core, there are four main areas of study Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Public Health, and Management. These core areas from an interdisciplinary foundation and reflect Arizona’s commitment to connecting local issues with global networks of knowledge.

Consult the MDP handbook to learn more about the curriculum.

Degree Requirements

The first year of the MDP program focuses on establishing foundation skill and knowledge. During the second year, students have the opportunity to explore their areas of specializations across a range of departments including Public Policy, School of Natural Resources and Environment, Public Health, College of Agriculture and Life Science.

Students also complete a summer field practicum.

Core Courses

Complete all courses:

This intensive pre-program course will be taught over a three-week period prior to the start of 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 process, weaving in the major theories, concepts, and practice strategies that have defined its particular trajectory.

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 course will co-convene first and second year MDP students. It is designed to promote a collaborative learning environment for both cohorts. First year students will be expected to prepare for an intensive summer field practicum and produce a proposal for their field projects. Second year students will analyze and present the findings of their projects conducted the previous summer and help to orient the first-year cohort in proposal development and field work. This course will provide a concrete context around which analytical concepts and methodological tools can be evaluated and refined.

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 field practicum will be carried out with one of University of Arizona's long-term institutional partners in one of several countries including Brazil, Ethiopia, and Guatemala, or with the international development group TANGO International

The Field Practicum will culminate with a Master's Project. In collaboration with field-partners and faculty advisors, students will develop a report on the field research objectives, methods, and outcomes. The Master's project will be refined in the cross-cohort seminar and presented to program faculty and first year students in class as part of the seminar requirements. Additionally, it is anticipated that the Master's Report will reflect each student's chosen second-year specialization within MDP. The project will be presented formally at the annual University of Arizona MDP Forum, involving faculty and leading representatives of the international development community and the MDP network. Student papers will contribute to the MDP Discussion Paper Series, available online as a forum for collaboration among students and faculty engaged in the MDP network and the broader international development community.

Social Sciences

  • Complete two required courses
  • Can complete other electives of your choice (many students pursue economics)

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 two required courses
  • Can complete other electives of your choice (many students pursue economics)

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 

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

Development Management 

  • One required courses
  • Complete other electives of your choice 
  • A recommended course is PA 582: Managing to Collaborate on Environmental and Natural Resource Conflicts 

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 TANGO International Executive Officers and qualified guest lecturers with expertise in relevant fields.