Emory Report
July 6, 2009
Volume 61, Number 34


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July 6, 2009
$900,000 grant funds new degree program

By Carol clark

The Emory Graduate School will launch a master’s degree program in development practice in the fall of 2010, funded by a $900,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The grant is part of a significant, worldwide effort by the MacArthur Foundation to promote more effective, sustainable development for the poorest of the poor. Only 10 institutions were awarded the grants, including three universities in the United States, with the rest spread across the globe.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and exciting for both students and faculty,” says David Nugent, professor of anthropology and director of the new program. “Emory will be helping to shape and define the future of sustainable development practices, while also training the next generation of innovative practitioners.”

The Emory program for a masters in development practice, or MDP, will focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. The program will draw from the resources of many departments, schools and programs, including the Global Health Institute, the Institute for Developing Nations, the Rollins School of Public Health, Goizueta Business School, Emory Law, the School of Nursing, anthropology, economics, environmental studies, history, political science, sociology, women’s studies and more.

“The award is a wonderful recognition of Emory’s commitment to expanding fields of training and knowledge in directions that explicitly contribute to the public good,” says Lisa Tedesco, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.

In addition to its internal resources, Emory was chosen for the grant due to its strong working relationships with organizations such as The Carter Center, CARE, the CDC, the National Institute for Public Health in Mexico and the Amazonas Sustainability Foundation in Brazil.

Graduate students in the program will undergo extensive training in the field, where they can gain hands-on experience and test theories they learn in the classroom.

The curriculum will integrate four different areas of development disciplines: social science, natural science, health science and management science. “Traditional development training provides expertise in one or perhaps two of these areas,” Nugent says. “If people are thinking in terms of separate pieces of a puzzle, it’s hard for them to craft a project that works in a sustainable way. This program aims to produce well-rounded professionals who can understand the big picture. We want them to recognize the limitations of existing development work, and move beyond them.”

In 2007, the MacArthur-funded International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice found that worldwide, many people working in the field of development are not sufficiently prepared to tackle the challenges they face. In recent years, recognition has been growing that piecemeal approaches to development aid are not effective in the long haul, Nugent says. “The MacArthur Foundation has seized upon this important moment to forge a global collaboration to establish new standards for the best of development practice.”

The project marks a significant milestone for sustainable development practices, adds Nugent, who has studied political and economic anthropology for more than two decades, primarily in Latin America. “I’m chomping at the bit,” he says of the ambitious plans for the MDP program. “We’re not going to fix the world in five weeks, but if we can identify and implement more sustainable methods for addressing poverty and development, we will be doing a great deal.”

The MacArthur Foundation is awarding grants totaling $7.6 million to 10 universities in seven countries to establish the MDP programs. Collectively, the universities are expected to produce 250 MDP graduates by 2012.