The program encourages potential students to gain hands-on field experience before applying to the program. For each cohort, we seek diverse international representation and a range of disciplinary backgrounds to enrich the learning environment. The first two MPA-DP classes include students from 21 countries, coming from a range of academic backgrounds, including economics, business, engineering, computer science, agriculture, public health, biology, religion, history, communications, political science, law and international relations. This cultural and professional diversity within each cohort is a powerful asset for learning and contributing to a vibrant program.
The MPA degree in Development Practice (MPA-DP) trains aspiring practitioners to understand, develop and implement integrated approaches to sustainable development. Drawing on the extraordinary educational and research facilities of Columbia University, the MPA-DP emphasizes practical knowledge and skills in food systems, public health, education, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, business enterprise, economics and management. During the 22-month program, these areas are covered through a combination of formal courses, seminars, special events and internship opportunities. Direct hands-on field experience in all areas is obtained through the mid-program field internship.
Practitioners of a Cross-disciplinary Approach
The creation of the MPA-DP degree was one of the core recommendations of the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice , supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The year-long Commission was co-chaired by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, and John McArthur, Executive Director of Millennium Promise, and comprised 20 top thinkers in the field of sustainable development, including the CEO of CARE, the then Executive Director of UNICEF, and a former president of Mexico.
This group of distinguished experts concluded that there is significant and growing demand for generalist development professionals - individuals highly trained in a set of cross-disciplinary competencies that prepares them to address the complexities of sustainable development. Leaders in the field need multidisciplinary knowledge and skills to solve problems in the increasingly complex and dynamic world.