Global Master of Arts in
Sustainable Development Practice (Full-Time)

Learn how to integrate policy, scholarship, ethics, and participatory practice to achieve sustainable development goals.

At a Glance

For the program beginning fall 2024

Credits

36

Format

Full-Time

Priority Deadline for U.S. & permanent residents

January 31, followed by rolling admissions until May 15

International students

January 31, no rolling admission

Duration

1 Year

Instructional Sites

Ecuador, Malawi, South Africa

Critical Global Issue of Study

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.

WHY A MASTER'S IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRACTICE?

Rooted in SIT’s distinctive experiential, place-based learning approach, this program explores the interconnected nature of global health crises, economic inequality, natural resource degradation, and political and ethnic conflicts. It aims to cultivate a new generation of highly educated innovative, and trans-disciplinary development practitioners.

Starting in Quito, Ecuador, a city high in the Andes, you will explore the challenges of one of the most biodiverse countries in the world while learning from faculty, guest lecturers, and experts in the field. Study ecological impacts, forest regeneration, sustainable land practices, and conservation on excursion to northern Ecuador’s patchwork of cloud forests. Excursions may also include trips to the Amazon. 

The second semester unfolds in Africa, with time split between Cape Town, South Africa, and Lilongwe, Malawi. Over 15 weeks, you will engage in comparative analyses of design thinking, monitoring and evaluation, economics, resource management, health policy, and trade. Emphasis is placed on understanding local needs, gender disparities, diverse livelihood practices, climate change, cultural identities, and the varied histories of colonization and resistance. Site visits and fieldwork explore sustainable and regenerative development practices in urban, periurban, and rural settings.

In the final semester of this one-year program, you will spend 10 to 12 weeks in a full-time practicum in a role and location of your choice, drawing from SIT’s worldwide professional networks. You will gain the experience and hands-on skills you need to attain your career goals and will also complete a capstone paper.

The SIT Master’s in Sustainable Development Practice provides a unique opportunity to acquire professional skills through research and fieldwork in a competitive global environment. Graduates, equipped with trans-disciplinary training are poised to integrate policy, scholarship, ethics, participatory practice, and lifelong learning for the achievement of sustainable global development goals in the 21st century.

Career Paths

Read about SIT Graduate Institute alumni careers through the SIT blog and our Career Impact page. Students who have graduated with this degree work in careers such as the following, among others.

  • Foreign Service officer

  • Monitoring and evaluation officer

  • Program manager in sustainability

  • Program manager in food and nutrition security

  • Public health analyst with a government agency

  • Independent consultant or researcher in the nonprofit sector

  • Housing organizer

  • Director, government development policy

  • Senior policy associate

Program Sites

Quito, Ecuador

In Quito, Ecuador’s vibrant capital, engage in the study of development practices within a multicultural, stratified society that has weathered political upheavals affecting multiple systems. Witness the complexities of implementing one of the most progressive constitutions, created in 2008, with the participation of civil society and social organizations. Explore a society undergoing transformation, offering valuable insights into how global health, economics, and culture contribute to enhancing the quality of life in urban and Indigenous communities. Delve into themes, such as ethnopolitics, sustainable development, and cultural enrichment.

Excursion highlights may include: 

  • Mashpi Shungo Biodiversity Reserve 
  • Amazon region

Cape Town, South Africa

The legislative capital of South Africa, Cape Town is a world-renowned port city, famous for its natural beauty and is the recipient of many international travel awards. It is also regarded as the most unequal city, within the world’s most unequal country. Because of its history, politics, geography, and natural resources, Cape Town is a compelling location from which to examine the tensions, contradictions, and consequences of the global development agenda, and allows for deep insight into the implementing the Sustainable Development Goals within complex socio-economic contexts. Learn from case studies delving into the core issues of development practice, such as community analysis and assessment; local participation in project design and implementation; and the methods and tools for monitoring and evaluation.

Excursion highlights may include: 

  • Visit a host of NGOs or community-based organizations working in formal and informal urban environments.
  • Field-based practice of design thinking with real-world challenges.
  • Arniston, the last historical fishing village in South Africa (and heritage site).

Lilongwe, Malawi

Malawi will provide you with an ideal case study for analyzing the ongoing and contentious discussions among members of government, civil society, and local citizens on development initiatives. Of particular significance to your master’s degree will be the exploration of the ways in which cultural traditions, gender disparity, climate change, ecology, migration, and international aid regimes affect agricultural enterprises and natural resource management in an environment of increasing climatic uncertainty. During your time in Malawi, you will participate in an extended rural stay living with smallholder farming families, learning about community-led development from those directly impacted by inflation, resource degradation, and food insecurity.

Excursion highlights may include: 

  • Permaculture Paradise Institute, Mchinji 
  • Rural homestay, Ntcheu District 

Click here for a description of the SIT center in Malawi.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Academics

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Contextualize the current systems that have led to growing inequality, poverty, environmental degradation, and unsustainable ways of living within the framework of sustainable development theory and practice.
  • Apply the tools of participatory inquiry and design to bring about transformative action that engages with urgent challenges, such as poverty and inequality, conflict over natural resources, and environmental degradation, in the field of sustainable development.
  • Apply social-ecological systems-thinking, practical skills, leadership capacity, and the sense of innovative and imaginative possibilities within the areas of sustainable development and resilience.
  • Design, implement, manage, and evaluate a project based on the needs of a locality and in collaboration with multiple stakeholders.
  • Compare global perspectives on development, sustainable development, and regeneration across different geographical, socioeconomic, cultural, and political contexts.
  • Identify the linkages across policy instruments, social complexities, human health risks, ecological system dynamics, technological innovations, and financial models that can advance integrated sustainable development solutions.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.



Coursework

With SIT's experiential curriculum, you will learn how to put theory into practice.


Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information.


This is SIT

  • We value active togetherness, reciprocity, and respect as the essential ingredients for building a sustainable community.
  • With open minds, empathy, and courage, we facilitate intercultural understanding and respect for the commonalities and differences between people.
  • We champion social inclusion & justice in all that we are and all that we do, from ensuring our community and our programs amplify the voices, agency, and dignity of all people to deliberately instilling the principles and practices of inclusion in all of our work.
  • We are committed to human and environmental well-being through sustainability and contributing to a better world for all living and future generations.

Semester One (Fall): Online and in Ecuador (12 Credits)

Online

  • (DIPL–5510 / 1.5 credits) Practitioner Inquiry 1

The first in a sequence of two courses introduces students to the design and methodology of qualitative research and offers students a hands-on opportunity to explore and apply qualitative research through a mini research study. The mini research study takes students full circle: from formulating a research question to situating their research inquiry in existing literature to designing and conducting an empirical study to generating findings and conclusions.

Ecuador

  • (DEVP–5050 / 1 credit) Foundations of Sustainable Development

The MA in Sustainable Development Practice program prepares skilled and analytical practitioners who will join the international development community and dedicate their careers to social justice and equity, the reduction of poverty, and greater global connectedness. The development practitioner is professional, well- versed across relevant disciplines, experienced in problem-solving, critically sensitive to underlying power differences, and adept at working within teams and across cultures. The Foundations of Sustainable Development Short Course is composed of 18 hours of classroom and field encounters and counts as one academic credit. By the end, students will be acclimated, the groundwork for their collective community identity will be founded, and they will be starting from a shared understanding of sustainable development practice.

  • (DEVP–5110 / 3 credits) Critical Issues in Global Health

This course will explore current issues, problems, and controversies in global health through an interdisciplinary perspective and will examine the complex interaction of social, economic, political, and environmental factors that affect global health. The course will contextualize current efforts in global health historically and describe likely future trends. Readings will be drawn from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including history, political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology. A major goal of this course is to equip students with some critical perspectives and resources they will need as public health professionals and global citizens in our increasingly small and interdependent world. The course will combine interactive lectures with case-based exercises. 

  • (SDIS–5210 / 3 credits) Economics for Sustainable Development and Regeneration

This course provides an introduction to the emerging discipline of ecological economics, an interdisciplinary field that includes ecology, physics, economics, public policy, philosophy, and ethics. This innovative field takes a holistic approach to the economy, considering its inextricable connection to the bio-physical aspects and limits of our planetary home and proposes new ways to think about the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services that are part of day-to-day life. The course will introduce students to how economics has shaped policy and practice as well as our sense of self. The orthodoxy of economic growth and measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is challenged through different models and approaches that prioritize other ways of thinking about the economy and human well-being. The course will also introduce students to development economics and will consider how ecological economics can contribute to the questions raised in the fields of poverty alleviation, equity, industrialization, and so forth.

  • (SDIS-5111 / 3 credits) Human Flourishing in the Anthropocene: From Development to Regeneration

This course provides a historical and philosophical overview of the transition from colonialism to development to sustainable development and then to regeneration and transition. The course situates these movements in the deep historical time of the Earth and of human dwelling within broader transformations of the planet’s ecology, including climate change. The significant historical moments of humans’ impacts are addressed, as are the diverse philosophical orientations that have ultimately shaped humans’ relationship to their environment. The shifts in thinking and practice around what is considered human flourishing is also addressed as the course moves across paradigms from development to sustainability to present-day regenerative movements. The course takes students through the history of development thinking and practice, outlining the major shifts and the key players involved.

  • (MPIM–5003 / .5 credits) Professional Development Seminar

The first part of a two-part, one-credit seminar focuses on topics related to professional development for students who will be establishing careers in government, nongovernmental, academic, or research settings. The seminar covers “how-to” knowledge and skills on topics including career planning, conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications, funding, and the job search process. The course is facilitated by the program chair, and individual sessions feature invited guest speakers, faculty, and others with expertise in sustainable development practice. Students have the opportunity and are encouraged to meet with leaders engaged in diplomacy work.

Semester Two (Spring): Online and in South Africa and Malawi, (15 credits)

Online

  • (DIPL–5518 / 1 credit) Negotiation, Mediation, and Dialogue 

Negotiation, mediation, and dialogue are essential skills for anyone seeking to bring about change in difficult environments. This course will examine the theory and practice behind each of these approaches to conflict transformation, consider settings where each skill might best be applied, and provide hands-on training through various roleplays and simulations.

  • (DIPL-5515 / 1.5 credits) Practitioner Inquiry 2

The second in a sequence of two courses introduces students to the design and methodology of qualitative research and offers students a hands-on opportunity to explore and apply qualitative research through a mini research study. The mini research study takes students full circle: from formulating a research question to situating their research inquiry in existing literature to designing and conducting an empirical study to generating findings and conclusions.

South Africa

  • (MPIM–5004 / .5 credits) Professional Development Seminar 2

The second part of a two-part, one-credit seminar focuses on topics related to professional development for students who will be establishing careers in government, nongovernmental, academic, or research settings. The seminar covers “how-to” knowledge and skills on topics including career planning, conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications, funding, and the job search process. The course is facilitated by the program chair, and individual sessions feature invited guest speakers, faculty, and others with expertise in sustainable development practice. Students have the opportunity and are encouraged to meet with leaders engaged in diplomacy work.

  • (MGMT–5106 / 3 credits) Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning

This course provides a thorough introduction to concepts, case examples, and research tools designed to explore and assess community problems and the feasibility of new development interventions, and to monitor and evaluate the process and impact of existing interventions. Special attention is given to participatory methodologies and other current approaches. In addition, students will explore monitoring, evaluation, and learning within the specific context of humanitarian assistance.

  • (DEVP–5375 / 3 credits) Special Topics in Design and Development

This course will cover a topic or set of closely related topics not covered in the rest of the curriculum. The course is initiated by a member of the faculty, often in response to student interest. The specific content and methods will vary based on the topic.

Malawi

  • (MPIM–5004 / 0 credits) Professional
Development Seminar 2 (continuation)

The second part of a two-part, one-credit seminar focuses on topics related to professional development for students who will be establishing careers in government, nongovernmental, academic, or research settings. The seminar covers “how-to” knowledge and skills on topics including career planning, conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications, funding, and the job search process. The course is facilitated by the program chair, and individual sessions feature invited guest speakers, faculty, and others with expertise in sustainable development practice. Students have the opportunity and are encouraged to meet with leaders engaged in diplomacy work.

  • (DEVP–5310 / 3 credits) Sustainable Natural Resource Management 

This course examines the interdisciplinary aspects of sustainable natural resource management. Sustainability is one of the most significant shifts in thinking and action in the environmental and resource management arenas. Sustainable natural resource management emphasizes practical and sustainable solutions from social, economic, and environmental perspectives. In this course we will discuss concepts and principles related to the economic, environmental, social, ecological, cultural, and ethical considerations of resource management and evaluate different methods of balancing these sometimes competing interests in order to manage resources sustainably. We will examine global natural resource issues and international collaborative efforts to address them through the lens of sustainable development. Key drivers of natural resource policy and key stressors of natural resources and ecosystems (including population, pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and degradation, overharvest, disease, poverty, political conflict, cultural traditions, urbanization, technology, and climate change) will be analyzed. The course will conclude with an analysis of the role of ethics, social justice, and communication in the sustainable management of natural resources.

  • (DEVP–5320 / 3 credits) Gender, Agriculture, and Climate Change 

This course explores global women’s efforts to make visible and address the gender dimensions of agriculture and climate change, including women’s grassroots adaptation strategies and cutting-edge research. The course will examine women’s vulnerability to the effects of chronic challenges and specific hazards and disasters that are related to agriculture and climate change. It will also look at work that has been done historically and regionally to promote gender, climate, and food justice. Since the course is based in Malawi, it will focus on how rural smallholding woman have coped with agricultural challenges and climate change historically and are organizing today.

Semester Three (Summer): Location of Choice (9 credits)

  • (DEVP–6601 / 6 credits) Global Field Practicum

The Global Field Practicum presents an opportunity for students to identify, connect, analyze, and apply useful theories and concepts highlighted in their coursework to further their professional contributions to the global community. It also leads to enhanced capacity for lifelong reflection, reflective practice, and professional development. The practicum consists of a 10- to 12-week placement with an international development agency, UN agency, intergovernmental organization, or national or local nongovernmental organization (NGO) working in practice, policy, advocacy, and/or development aid. The aim of this placement is to enable students to gain valuable practicum experience and enhance their skills in a practicum environment. Students will have two weeks after their placement to complete final course requirements and present their work.

  • (DEVP–6604 / 2 credits) Capstone Project

For this paper course, students work with the content learned in Practitioner Inquiry to develop a research paper related to the field of sustainable development. Each student is paired with an advisor to help conceptualize, launch, and write their research project.

  • (MPIM–6709 / 1 credit) Capstone Seminar

The capstone seminar provides an environment in which students demonstrate, assess, and synthesize previous learning as well as generating new learning. It is also an opportunity for students to improve and refine their skills in oral communication and presentation. Students will critically read and give, as well as receive, peer critique of their presentation during the seminar.

Following are some examples of past capstone projects:

  • Equity in Urban Green Spaces: How access to urban green space impacts residents of Albany, NY
  • Common Pool Resource Sharing and Conflict Resolution: A case study of two self-governed irrigation schemes in Ntcheu, Malawi
  • Rural Subsistence in Alaska: Rurality and “meaningful” natural resource management
  • Resilience Amongst Members of a Housing Community-Based Organization

Professional Practicum

A cornerstone of SIT’s Development Practice master’s program is the practicum. This will allow you to apply learning from the classroom directly to real-world settings, while getting hands-on, professional experience you can put to immediate use after you graduate. 

For your final semester, SIT and your advisor will support you in finding an approved practicum in a role and location of your choice, aligning with your career goals. This practicum experience will give you the opportunity to work in the field, as well as expand your professional network. 

During the practicum phase, you will remain engaged with faculty and other students and receive course credit for documenting the integration of your knowledge and skills while working in a professional context.

Following are some examples of past practicums:

  • Research and Education Specialist, Zisinthe Farm and Community Garden, Ntcheu, Malawi
  • Americorps Fellow, Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, Albany, New York
  • Subsistence Researcher, Office of Subsistence Management, Admiralty Island, Alaska
  • Housing Organizer, Not Me We Organization and the Bring Chicago Home Coalition, Chicago, Illinois

Faculty & Staff

Sustainable Development Practice (Full-Time)

Joseph Lanning, PhD
Chair, PhD in Sustainability • Chair and Assistant Professor, MA in Sustainable Development Practice • Assistant Professor, MA in Diplomacy and International Relations • Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Bruce W. Dayton, PhD
Associate Professor, PhD in International Relations • Chair and Associate Professor, MA in Diplomacy and International Relations • Chair and Associate Professor, MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management • Associate Professor, MA in International Education • Associate Professor, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Lowery Parker, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice • , Doctorate in Sustainability
Tatiana Macías Muentes, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, Ecuador, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Enrique Teran, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Cornel Hart, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Jessica Kampanje Phiri, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Weston Fredrick Mwase, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Nailah Conrad, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Michael D. Hill, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Emma Arogundade, MPhil
Country Coordinator, South Africa, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Geoffrey Mlongoti
Country Coordinator, Malawi, MA in Sustainable Development Practice
Estefanía Sánchez L., MS
Country Coordinator, Ecuador, MA in Sustainable Development Practice

Accommodations

You will be supported by SIT staff on location in arranging housing during your time abroad. Stay in small hotels (shared or private); apartments; guesthouses or hostels (these are simple, inexpensive and quite clean, and may even include food); or ask to be placed with a homestay family, where you will be able to immerse in the local culture and customs. Please note homestay families are less expensive, but also less independent. 

Discover the Possibilities