Friday, September 3, 2010

Blazing a new path for development work

Photos by Carla Roncoli.

Emory’s master’s degree in development practice (MDP) launched this semester, and the 13 graduate students in the inaugural class have hit the ground running. “It’s exciting to meet so many diverse people who have had so many different experiences,” said MDP candidate Stephanie Stawicki of her classmates, who come from around the United States, and the French West Indies, Kenya, the Ivory Coast and Burma.

The University was flooded with expressions of interest, says David Nugent, professor of anthropology and the director of the MDP program at Emory. “We looked for students who are gifted and accomplished and, even more importantly, who have a burning passion to do development work,” he says.

Emory was among the first 10 universities awarded a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for the program. The foundation has committed more than $15 million to create MDP programs at more than 20 universities worldwide. The grants are part of a significant, worldwide effort by the MacArthur Foundation to promote more effective, sustainable development for the poorest of the poor.

“I’ve always loved what I do,” says Nugent, “but this undertaking has got me so charged up and engaged, it’s like somebody took my batteries and plugged them into the sun. This is a chance to help craft new ways of approaching a problem that is really of major importance to everybody.”

In recent years, recognition has been growing that single-factor approaches to alleviating extreme poverty are mostly ineffective, and that more holistic, integrated methods are needed, Nugent says. “We’re trying to train students to recognize the context-specific forces in different parts of the world that make it impossible to come up with a single answer to poverty.”

The MDP program will draw from resources across the University, including the Global Health Institute, the Institute for Development 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. In addition to internal resources, Emory will draw on its strong working relationships with other Atlanta universities and organizations such as The Carter Center, CARE and the CDC.

During the fall and spring, the students will combine intensive classroom training with local field experience. The Office of University and Community Partnerships will place the students with Atlanta organizations involved in urban development.

During the summers, the students will do field work with international development projects. “We’re placing the students in different contexts in different parts of the world,” Nugent says. “When they come back, they can compare notes on what they have done and everyone can learn from the experiences of the entire group.”

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