Master of Public Administration in Development Practice


Produced by Field Studio

The Program

The Master of Public Administration in Development Practice (MPA-DP) trains current and aspiring practitioners to develop, implement, and manage comprehensive approaches to sustainable development. The goal is to create a new generation of development practitioners who can speak the “languages” of many specialties, understand the complex interactions among them, and coordinate stakeholders from all levels and disciplines to better address development challenges.

Graduates of the MPA–DP program are prepared to work in a range of organizations that address sustainable development issues, including: local and international NGOs, UN agencies, private sector companies, consulting firms, social enterprises, government institutions, international finance institutions, bilateral aid agencies, philanthropic organizations, and academic institutions.

Program Goals

Development Practitioners will be able to:

  • Apply cross-disciplinary knowledge to address complex sustainable development challenges.
  • Critically analyze national development policies, strategies, plans, and budgets.
  • Design and implement effective programs, monitor and evaluate those programs, and recognize when to change and adapt them.
  • Facilitate collaboration across sectors and with a wide range of stakeholders, including local communities, NGOs, development practitioners, scientists, policymakers, government officials and private  companies.
  • Manage and lead personnel from diverse backgrounds and in a wide range of contexts.
  • Integrate science and technology into sustainable development policy and implementation.
  • Navigate the "development landscape,” understanding the roles of major players, such as USAID, the State Department and UN agencies.
  • Secure major funding and grants, manage funds, and report to donors.

The Curriculum

The MPA-DP curriculum draws upon the outstanding resources of the Earth Institute and SIPA to provide students with the technical knowledge, skills and tools needed to address complex development issues.

  • Technical knowledge – Core curriculum provides students with a solid background in food systems, public health, education, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and business enterprise.
  • Skills – All coursework focuses on fostering the management, communication, quantitative, and analytical skills necessary to work fluidly and flexibly across disciplines and geographic regions.
  • Tools – Students have the opportunity to learn and apply the latest tools in project design and management, monitoring and evaluation, budgeting and financial management, decision making, negotiation, and information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • Core and Elective Courses – Students must take a minimum of 54 credits of core and elective courses in health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and management over four semesters. Core courses are determined annually by the program director, who also grants approval for elective choices that align with the objectives of the program.
  • Language – Students must demonstrate proficiency in a second language prior to joining the program or through successful completion of elective coursework while enrolled at SIPA.

In addition to the courses designed specifically for the program, MPA-DP students can take electives from the School of International and Public Affairs, as well as from Columbia’s other graduate schools, including the Mailman School of Public Health, the Business School, the Law School, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Field Work

The rigorous academic course work is complemented by practical hands-on experience. Through the field placement program, students work on the ground on an integrated, multi-sectoral development project, in close collaboration with skilled practitioners, community members, and faculty mentors. The field experience encompasses three months at select locations and several additional months of preparation and follow-up activities in New York.

Development Practitioners Seminar

During the course of the two year program, students attend a weekly seminar with accomplished development practitioners. The seminar provides students the opportunity to ask candid questions, gain practical insight on how to function effectively in future careers and also promotes longer term professional exchanges that may open the door for professional opportunities. A list of previous speakers for this seminar can be found here.

The Faculty

Courses are taught by an expert faculty and renowned practitioners in fields such as food systems, development economics, health systems, management and many others. The program utilizes sustainable development research and practitioner experience to provide practical training to a new generation of professionals who will address critical interdisciplinary issues.

The Students

The MPA in Development Practice program welcomed its first class in the fall of 2009 and graduated its first students in May 2011. The first two cohorts were about 25 students each, although the program has since grown to 50 students in each incoming class. The MPA-DP program now has nearly 90 alumni and over 100 current students attending Columbia.

The program encourages 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. Each MMPA-DP class comprises approximately 50 students from about 20 countries, coming from a range of academic backgrounds including economics, business, engineering, computer science, agriculture, public health, education, 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 Community

MPA-DP students can take advantage of the incredible resources and events offered by the Earth Institute and the School of International and Public Affairs.  In addition, students are part of a truly global network through the Global Master’s in Development Practice Secretariat, which serves as the umbrella organization overseeing all Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) programs and activities worldwide. The creation of the MDP Secretariat is one of the core recommendations of a report from the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The MDP Secretariat supports the Columbia MPA-DP program by facilitating interactions among MDP students and faculty members throughout the Global Network; managing the development of the MDP curriculum and standards; and supporting online resources for participating institutions.

To Apply

Admission to the program is highly selective. Prospective students interested in learning about the program are encouraged to contact André Corrêa d'Almeida, Ph.D.,, (212) 854-2636.

For more information, please visit the MPA in Development Practice website. To apply please submit an online application through SIPA’s application system.

Contact Information

André Corrêa d'Almeida, Ph.D
(212) 854-2636