It has been 15 years since the Ford School of Public Policy started the International Economic Development Program (IEDP). The rationale behind the program was that, as the domestic students could get hands-on experience in Washington D.C, Chicago and Detroit, the students with an interest in international development should have the same opportunities. The new program’s top priority was to create a space that would allow students with international development interest, to get that hands-on experience. the program was structured in a form that students would select a developing country to study and visit, investigate the economic development issues that affected the country, invite speakers with expertise in those areas to visit the classroom, and plan the trip—arranging interviews with policymakers, members of civil society, and foreign development agencies for the week-long spring break visit.
Combining field research with classroom learning to analyze emerging issues in international development, is the core philosophy of IEDP. At the first seven weeks of the program, the IEDP team dividing itself to several committees, each designated to a specific policy issue, creates and implements a course plan that gives student a solid grounding in the policy issues and challenges faced by the developing economy. The schedule for meeting with policy makers, social activists and other significant players through the trip, is planned in advance in this period.
The actual experience in the selected country lasts seven days. During the first six days, students met with mid- to high-level policy makers from NGOs, ministries, and businesses. Highlights include sharing perspectives with policy makers and getting feedback to analyze the differences and trips to see local agencies in action. The final day of the trip is for students to sightsee.
This year’s IEDP plans to study the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar-Burma. The IEDP team will be in the country from March 2nd to 8th, 2014.