Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Fast facts on the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program.

What do we mean by development?

Individuals, communities, nations and the broader global community all hold visions of what they seek to become. Development is the evolutionary process of creating the conditions necessary to achieve those visions. Development also refers to outcomes, the specific sustainable changes in human behavior that occur as this process unfolds. Accordingly, development takes place at multiple levels: within individuals, families, communities, nations, regions, and in the context of global governance.

Among the building blocks of development are sound social and economic policies, good governance, respect for human rights, targeted investment that facilitates growth with equity, and citizen engagement. Development is also deeply linked to values (including empowerment, sustainability, participation, enlightened efficiency, and equity) as well as basic freedoms (concerning, illustratively, economic justice, transparency, security, and political expression).

What are Social Change Organizations (SCOs)?

Through their projects, programs and other activities, SCOs address issues of critical importance to society by fostering positive, sustainable changes in human behavior that are linked to specific development outcomes. These changes may be socio-economic (e.g., reducing poverty through micro-enterprise development), socio-cultural (e.g., protecting human rights for traditionally excluded groups), socio-environmental (e.g., reducing the carbon footprint through recycling), or socio-political (e.g., increasing civic participation in local governance or achieving gender equity).

SCOs represent many different types of entities including units of local or national government; international organizations (e.g., Unicef and UNDP); international NGOs; grassroots community action groups; for-profit social enterprises; and alliances of for- and not-for-profit institutions. Local and national NGOs as well as social movements also fall under the SCO rubric as do enterprises created by social entrepreneurs. While SCOs take many forms, what they have in common is a commitment to generating and supporting the conditions necessary to achieve greater social wellbeing.

Where do development-focused SCOs work?

The settings in which SCOs operate are varied. They include transitional states, low income countries, and anywhere where people hold aspirations for a better future. There are many communities in middle and high income countries--including the US--where large numbers of people live in poverty, face discrimination, or battle against threats to their wellbeing. These settings are also important for development work.

How do SCOs pursue their objectives?

SCOs contribute to development by designing, implementing and assessing programs. Often, they also engage fact-finding, policy advocacy, and networking to achieve change.

Some SCOs provide services in such areas as health, education, livelihood generation, human security, and natural resource management. Others work in policy reform (including compliance monitoring of existing policies or laws); organizational capacity development; or institutional renewal. Still others provide training; conduct development-focused research; mobilize resources (financial and human); or make targeted investments (sometimes in the form of grants). Highly effective SCOs usually apply several of these approaches to achieve mission.

What are the purpose and focus of the Institute’s MPA Program?

The MIIS MPA program prepares students to become effective leaders and managers in social change organizations engaged in development. Through coursework and practical field experiences, students integrate theory, knowledge, and skills. They also develop the personal traits of effective leaders and managers including adaptability, resourcefulness and critical self-reflection.

Leadership, in our view, occurs at every level of an organization's structure and is a shared function. Effective leaders create, manage, assess, and improve processes that enable people to join together to achieve shared objectives and accomplish extraordinary things in diverse, multicultural settings. MIIS MPA graduates are prepared to exercise effective leadership as soon as they launch or continue their careers.

How does the MIIS MPA program equip students to work in development-oriented SCOs?

Students in the MIIS MPA program are prepared to apply - in diverse settings and with diverse stakeholder groups - the approaches widely used by social change organizations (SCOs). They also learn how to depart from traditional development practices to pursue innovative techniques and processes to improve the human condition in an increasingly complex world. Typically, program graduates complete coursework related to eight key thematic areas:

  • Leading mission-driven organizations
  • Managing and generating human, financial and material resources
  • Practicing good governance
  • Creating policy environments conducive to sustainable social change
  • Using qualitative and quantitative information to design solution strategies to critical problems
  • Evaluating programs, projects and initiatives
  • Developing organizational and individual capacity
  • Building networks and partnerships with diverse actors

Students may elect to create a four-course specialization to complement their coursework in the key thematic areas.  Illustrative degree specializations include development management; gender and development; human rights; security and development; monitoring and evaluation; and capacity development.

Highly relevant core courses, challenging professional service opportunities, complementary specializations, and a collegial community all contribute to helping graduates become gifted at:

  • Developing both oneself and others (at different levels of society) to become ever more effective SCO leaders and managers
  • Strengthening social change organizations so they can expand their impact
  • Promoting systemic approaches to sustainable change 
  • Fostering critical examination of key assumptions and promoting dialogue among people whose assumptions differ
  • Applying theory to practice and using practice to inform theory
  • Communicating and collaborating effectively in multi-cultural, multi-stakeholder environments
  • Generating and using information (both quantitative and qualitative) to improve stakeholder engagement, organizational impact, and the stewardship of resources.

Within a values-driven environment, students in the MIIS MPA program learn how to be effective change agents. They acquire tools and techniques to become practical idealists with a deep understanding of the contested meanings of development; inter-relationships among power, culture and sustainable social change; and, the role that SCOs and civil society play in development.