June 21, 2018

SIPA’s Economic and Political Development workshop – a seminal experience for a generation of SIPA students – recently marked its 30th anniversary. Long a requirement for EPD concentrators, the workshop gives second-year MIA and MPA students the opportunity to gain real-world experience by completing a variety of assignments for diverse clients in the field of international development.

Working in teams under the guidance of faculty advisors, students bring a multidisciplinary approach to their work, learning extensively from each other and from the hands-on tasks of the workshop itself. Most projects involve in-country field work over SIPA’s winter and spring breaks, with teams visiting project areas and engaging directly with key stakeholders in the course of developing actionable and locally appropriate recommendations for their clients.

The program originated with two projects in Belize and Jamaica in 1987-1988, and has since grown to become an essential part of the EPD concentration, and one of the models for SIPA’s Capstone program. In almost 400 projects over 30 years, about 2,400 second-year students have worked with more than 200 development clients and partners in 90 countries. In 2017-18, more than 130 students worked with 21 clients, conducting fieldwork in 24 countries.

The concentration celebrated the milestone at a breakfast in conjunction with SIPA’s Alumni Day on April 14 and again at EPD’s year-end reception on April 30. Alumni and faculty honored the founders of the workshop and reflected on their own workshop experiences.

Cihan Sultanoglu MIA ’81, an EPD alumna who is assistant administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, attended both events as the guest of honor. Among other things Sultanoglu highlighted UNDP’s successful partnership on 24 projects over the years, making it the most frequent workshop client. In the past three years alone, for example, student teams worked with UNDP on innovative approaches to promote the Sustainable Development Goals in Armenia, Indonesia, Kosovo and Kyrgyzstan.