Auburn University, USA


Kate Thornton, Ph.D.
Director of Global Education
College of Human Sciences
Director of International Outreach
Hunger Solutions Institute
334 Spidle Hall, Auburn, AL 36849



Background information and interest:

Auburn University (AU), a Carnegie R1 institution, is a leader in developing critical answers to real-world challenges. Auburn consistently ranks among the best public universities in the nation. AU joined the Sustainable Development Solutions Network in 2019 to further incorporate sustainable goals and practices into the framework of the University. As a member institution, AU engages in and supports discussions pertaining to sustainable development; problem-solving for sustainable development at local, national, and/or regional levels; educational initiatives for sustainable development; and applied research and communication for sustainable development. AU’s strategic plan contains an explicit commitment to sustainability. This strategic plan guides the day-to-day practices at AU. Examples of sustainable development practice at AU can be found here.

The MDP Global Association offers incredible resources and a strong network to support our students, train our faculty, and plan strategically for the future. We also believe our human sciences focused curriculum will add value to the MDP Global Association and are excited to join the global community of educators and practitioners.

In 2022, AU’s College of Human Sciences (CHS) launched its Master of Development Practice as a non-thesis degree to train students in design thinking and problem solving within the context of sustainable development. This interdisciplinary program incorporates courses from all human sciences disciplines within CHS (human development & family sciences, nutrition & dietetics, hospitality management, global studies, philanthropy and nonprofit studies, and consumer and design sciences), and it prepares development practitioners to improve quality of life through the building and growth of sustainable, resilient communities. Students must meet AU’s graduate admissions requirements that include successful completion of a 4-year undergraduate degree, English proficiency, and essay components. Work experience in a development context is preferred. Thus far, students from the U.S., Honduras, Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda are working towards degree completion.

Students in the MDP program at Auburn University have the option to take elective courses with other academic units, such as Agricultural Economics, Political Science, Social Work, and Rural Sociology. Recruitment, program management, and student advising are all housed in the Office of Global Education which is a unit of the Dean’s office in CHS. Courses are taught by faculty across the CHS disciplines. Additionally, a global cohort of CHS faculty are actively engaged in program management, curriculum decisions and student mentoring.

MDP Curriculum:

MDP experiential field practicum:

During the MDP program, students complete experiential field training through a full semester internship and a short-term practicum, one international and one domestic. In addition to hands-on experience, students continue to work directly with community partners in their final semester through the capstone experience.

As a land grant university, AU has extension officers in each Alabama county who engage in community development. This gives AU MDP students the opportunity for placements across the state, where they can utilize their education to promote meaningful development of Alabama’s rural communities. There are also extended international placements, allowing students to participate in global initiatives in underserved communities around the world.