MDP students combine academics with hands-on experience at The Carter Center

 China-Africa 
(Image courtesy of L. Zhong)

For Linling Zhong and Anna Ellis, hands-on professional development experience and academic training go hand in hand.  Both women are completing their first year in Emory's Master's in Development Practice (MDP) program, a new program that combines rigorous academic training in a broad range of disciplines with hands-on experience and field training.  MDP students have two summer practicum experiences with development organizations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  During the academic year, they intern with local non-governmental organizations.  Like many MDP students, Zhong and Ellis worked for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on development prior to joining the program.  Zhong worked with The Carter Center in the Center's China Program.  Her work with the China Village Elections project changed her ideas about what constitutes effective development work.  Before working for The Carter Center, she was drawn to the potential impact she could have through large organizations such as the United Nations that have, in her words, "big concepts, big aid and more power."  Her experience with The Carter Center bolstered her interest in tailoring assistance to meet local needs, which prompted her to apply to the MDP program at Emory.  Similarly, Ellis' work as the Bangladesh Field Director with World Teach, a nonprofit organization that advances international education by enrolling undergraduate and graduate students to teach in developing countries, made her want a solid academic foundation in development.

Since fall of 2011, Zhong and Ellis have been working with The Carter Center's China-Africa initiative.  The purpose of the China-Africa Initiative is to foster mutual understanding among stakeholders in China and African nations to create opportunities for Chinese government agencies and businesses to engage and collaborate with African civil society organizations, and to encourage multilateral collaboration on health and economic development in African countries.  The Institute for Developing Nations is a collaborating partner in the China-Africa Initiative and also supports opportunities for graduate students to work with The Carter Center.  Zhong and Ellis have had the opportunity to work with the Initiative since it was launched.  "The China-Africa Initiative is really just starting," said Ellis.  "We've been able to watch the formation of the program, and because the China Program as a whole is not very large [in terms of staff] our opinion matters.  We have a role in the formation of the program and that's exciting."

Ellis
(Image courtesy of A. Ellis)

Zhong and Ellis have worked on the China-Africa website and have provided research support for a pilot project focused on the long-standing relationship between China and Zambia.  They have also made direct connections between their graduate coursework and their work at The Carter Center.  As part of a required course on measurement and evaluation, Zhong and Ellis created a logframe for the China-Africa Initiative, which provided a framework for evaluating the Initiative in light of its stated goals and objectives.  For Ellis, the logframe project was valuable because “it helps to track stakeholder benefits and to foster understanding [of the Initiative].”  The course credit that she and Zhong received as a result of their joint project was an added bonus.  When asked what was next in their professional trajectory, Zhong stated that she was looking forward to working with a development organization, large or small, now that she’s learned that a one-size-fits-all model—no matter the size of the organization—does not make for solid development work.  Ellis added that she is looking forward to learning more about development concepts and making an impact in the field and in the classroom.  The experience that these students are having with The Carter Center and in the classroom is an investment in their professional lives that is sure to pay off.

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