Making an Impact in Your Community: Applying What You Learn in the Classroom to a Real World Project
Have you wanted to make positive changes in a community you’re passionate about? In our master’s program, you will apply classroom learning to real-world challenges by addressing a specific problem in your community. Engaging key stakeholders, you design, implement, and manage your project over four terms with guidance from our experienced field practitioners. The valuable lessons learned during this experience greatly enhance the knowledge gained throughout the program’s interdisciplinary curriculum.
By the end of your master’s program, you graduate with a degree and real-world experience that can be added to your work history. You can become the change you want to see by learning how today!
The core of the Master of Arts in Community Development Policy and Practice program is the applied field project. Over four terms, students gain the required knowledge and valuable skills which are immediately applied through a project in their selected community:
Project Design (First Summer Term On Campus): During this semester, students will identify a community problem or issue, research and analyze the issue in consultation with colleagues and community stakeholders, and design a project. Experienced faculty will work closely with students, providing the guidance they need on their projects. A preliminary project design will be submitted at the end of the first semester. The project’s design is evaluated and must be approved by the student’s advisor before the student can proceed to the project implementation phase. Students will conduct their project work with an identified field placement previously determined. Many students will come to the program with the field organization already identified. Those who have not yet identified a field organization through which they will do their project/field placement will be assisted through this process during the first term.
Project Implementation (Online Fall Term): Students will be in the field where their projects will be refined and a full, formal proposal prepared. This is equivalent to a proposal to a foundation or intermediary and will be presented to the faculty and peers. This proposal must be approved by the student’s advisor before the student can proceed.
Project Management (Online Spring Term): Students will begin implementation activities in field placement communities. Regular progress reports and online postings will be required.
Project Monitoring and Evaluation (Second Summer Term On Campus): This semester students will conduct an evaluation of their project and manage closure processes. At the end, students will submit a final written report and present it to faculty and peers. This final project and the final report detailing the project will serve as the capstone of the program.
Some recent examples of field projects conducted by our students are:
Marine Sustainability and Tourism in La Caleta, the Dominican Republic
Due to decades of overfishing and unsustainable practices, the marine life near La Caleta in Santo Domingo had been severely compromised. Through the efforts of the Reef Check Organization, there is now an Aquatic Center which offers locals in the fishing community the ability to subsidize their incomes while simultaneously maintaining sustainable practices for the Underwater Park. Kristen Fitzpatrick’s project assisted the Aquatic Center in achieving financial self-sustainability through more effective marketing practices.
Empowering Somali Youth to Prevent Radicalism & Piracy (Somalia)
More than 70 percent of Somali youth today lack employment opportunities stemming from twenty-one years of civil war and a vacuum of government institutions. These factors and pervasive youth hopelessness have led to war profiteers and criminal enterprises taking advantage of Somali youth, leading to involvement in both terrorism and piracy. Safiya Farah’s pilot project in Mogadishu provides youth with an opportunity to develop and implement projects. The goal is to inspire the local community and businesses in Somalia to duplicate these programs of youth employment creation to prevent the Somali youth’s dire situation, hence improving the security situation for the country.
The Feasibility of the Biodigester System in Las Marias, Puerto Rico
A small grassroots permaculture organization, Plenitud Initiative Eco-Education, wanted to build a demonstrative biodigester but lacked the resources, knowledge, skills, human labor, and time. Von Ferguson’s project involved researching current waste management practices, feasibility, and demand of alternative and more sustainable systems for Plenitud and local residents in Alto Sano, Las Marias, Puerto Rico. The results of this research determined whether the biodigester is the most suitable waste management system for Plenitud and Alto Sano.
Mulheres Mil of Valenca: Women’s Health Training Course (Bahia, Brazil)
Many women in Valenca abandon school to assist in their family’s fishing operations—then later struggle to enter the formal labor sector. The Mulheres Mil project has been working with these poorly educated, socially and economically vulnerable women that have been excluded from the labor market. Sope Ogunrinde’s project strove to improve the women’s education, offer them professional qualifications, and help them to successfully enter the labor market. The program also helped the women to rediscover their citizenship, thereby restoring their self-esteem and improving their family and community relations.
Sunflower County United for Children (Mississippi, USA)
Sunflower County in Mississippi is a community where 90 percent of students are African-American. The legacy of racism and low expectations of its children leave many of Sunflower County’s African-American children receiving an inadequate and inequitable education. William Buster’s project began to address the issues preventing high educational attainment of the county’s children by increasing the number of high quality early childcare providers, supporting parents to help their children come to kindergarten with more resources ready to learn, and equipping principals and teachers to provide excellent education through professional development and better curriculum development.
To read about more exciting projects that our students have completed around the world, click here.