UC Berkeley Launches New Sustainable Development Master’s Program

December 06, 2011
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The University of California, Berkeley, is now accepting applications for the inaugural cohort of its new Master’s of Development Practice (MDP), the University announced today (Dec. 7). The application period closes February 10, 2012 and classes begin fall 2012.

The new multidisciplinary program integrates theory with hands-on experiential learning in the health, natural, social and management sciences as they pertain to sustainable development practice and is part of a global network of 23 MDP programs supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

“This program fills an enormous gap,” said David Zilberman, a professor of agriculture and natural resources and the Berkeley MDP executive director. Zilberman said the new degree is like an MBA, but for sustainable development.

“There are business management programs and there are applied science degrees such as public health and conservation biology, but until this master’s was launched, there was no practical training at the advanced level for sustainable development work, which is in demand worldwide,” Zilberman said.

The interdisciplinary nature of the program is reflected by its executive committee, which includes Arthur Reingold, an expert on infectious diseases; Alain de Janvry, a development economist; Daniel Farber, a scholar of environmental law; Arpad Horvath, a civil engineer with a specialty on life-cycle assessments; and Zilberman, who studies natural resources and technology—all Berkeley faculty.

Zilberman said that strengths like the executive committee make the new program poised to become a leader in the MacArthur Foundation-sponsored MDP network.

“What’s exciting about bringing the program to Berkeley is that we have the faculty, the programmatic expertise and the research infrastructure to be leaders in all the areas of the MDP,” Zilberman said. UC Berkeley is consistently ranked at the top of most of disciplines that participate in the MDP program. According to the recent National Research Council report, agricultural and resource economics and civil engineering are ranked in the top three; environmental science and economics are in the top 10. According to US News and World Report, the Haas School Business School is ranked top five and the School of Public Health in the top 10.

Berkeley is further leveraging that expertise by having all MDP courses taught by faculty—not lecturers or graduate student instructors.

Zilberman said UC Berkeley is also unique in its ready-made network of relationships with international non-governmental organizations, where the program can place students for their two required internships, and later, for jobs.

“Berkeley’s Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program has been training environmental and development managers for 10 years now,” said Zilberman, who is co-director of that program.

Eunice Kim, who is administering the Berkeley MDP program, said the ELP and the MDP will be working together to connect students with ELP and UC Berkeley alumni involved with ongoing projects on the ground, from Africa to India to Central California.

Kim says they are aiming for a diverse cohort of students.

“We have received inquiries from film majors, economics majors, engineers, and from professionals already working in the field who want formal, structured training,” Kim said.

J. Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources, which administers the program, said that the Berkeley MDP and its students will make an impact for generations to come.

“From improving clean water and food safety to implementing agricultural innovations and conservation measures, the practical training students receive here will help them improve the lives of countless people across the globe,” he said.

The UC Berkeley MDP program is supported by an $800,000 grant from the MacArthur foundation.