Master of Public Administration in Development Practice


Produced by Field Studio

The MPA-DP Program

The Master of Public Administration in Development Practice (MPA-DP) at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) trains the next generation of development practitioners to design, implement, and manage results-oriented, integrated approaches to sustainable development. The program emphasizes practical technical knowledge and skills training while providing high-level opportunities to work directly with leading development organizations and practitioners in the field.

The goal is to train and deploy practitioners capable of understanding and crossing institutional, sectoral, and regional boundaries to integrate diverse stakeholders and methodologies to sustainably address complex development challenges. MPA-DP graduates are not generalists, but specialists in integrated approaches to development. They are rising leaders at NGOs, private sector companies, social enterprises, UN agencies, development banks, philanthropic organizations, academic research institutions, government departments, and bilateral aid agencies working toward the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Key Program Characteristics

Emphasis on Applied Practice

Summer field placements, client facing classroom projects, field workshops, skills clinics, and expert seminars allow students to engage directly with leading development organizations and practitioners to address challenges in the field and in the office. These opportunities equip students with skills and practice in management, communications, and technology, as well as quantitative and qualitative analytical experience.

Multilevel, Multisector Perspective

The MPA-DP looks at sustainable development from problem identification in the field up to project and program design, organizational management, and high-level national and global policy formulation.

Small by Design

The MPA-DP is the smallest two-year program at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), one of the largest and most global public policy schools in the world. Students benefit from SIPA and Columbia’s vast resources, brand, and alumni network, while learning in a small “family” atmosphere with access to and influence with program leadership and faculty.

Core Competencies and Cross Cutting Curriculum

The MPA-DP curriculum is based on the following core competencies, essential for practicing sustainable development at the grassroots project level and at the highest levels of national policy formulation:

  • Problem identification and appraisal
  • Program and project design
  • Implementation and management
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Technology use and integration
  • Communications
  • Capacity building
  • Ethics and intercultural interaction

Students develop these core competencies by learning foundational knowledge and practicing critical skills in the following program components:

Course Work

The MPA-DP core classroom curriculum spans economics, quantitative analysis, management, health, environmental sustainability, infrastructure, and food systems.

The Development Practice Lab

The DP-Lab is an effort to methodically deliver hands-on training for high priority skills in the field of development practice and integrate the MPA-DP curriculum across different disciplines.

The Summer Field Placement

MPA-DP curates and funds high level, dynamic, 12-week positions and consultancies for students, either pairing students’ interests and skill sets with the needs of partner organizations or helping students advance their own entrepreneurial endeavors. More than 240 students have worked in more than 43 different countries for partners spanning development and management consultancies, multilateral institutions, NGOs, social enterprises, and foreign governments. Within the first two months of arrival, students sit down one on one with MPA-DP’s dedicated Practice Manager to discuss their goals both during graduate school and beyond. Students also develop a plan to acquire applied skills, professional experiences, and classroom learning to ensure that they graduate with the portfolio needed to reenter the workforce as practitioners of sustainable development. Please click here to see our interactive summer field placement map.

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 200 alumni and over 110 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 MPA-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. Please click here for our map of our MPA-DP Alumni Global Network.

To Apply

Admission to the program is highly selective. Prospective students interested in learning about the program are encouraged to contact Program Manager and Professor André Corrêa d'Almeida,, (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

Dr. André Corrêa d'Almeida
(212) 854-2636

Zachary M. Gerth
(305) 998-8839