Maintaining the same core class structure and sequencing of its Master’s of International Development curriculum, our Panama Field Work Experience alternative for the degree divides the two-year coursework into one year of study in New Orleans and one year of study in Panama City, Panama where an internship with a United Nations' agency is included as elective credit.
Geographically situated between two oceans and two continents, the Republic of Panama has always been a natural global crossroads. Over the past couple of decades, as the Panama Canal, former United States military bases and surrounding Canal Zone have passed back to Panamanian sovereignty, these reverted areas have become a hemispheric logistics and humanitarian hub. Panama is now the designated United Nations Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) center that hosts the regional offices of most UN agencies, including:
Consequently, Panama has also attracted the regional offices of many other international organizations, which has led to the generation of humanitarian and development synergies for the entire region.
Tulane University’s Dr. Nanette Svenson has lived and worked in Panama throughout this transition. First as a UNDP official and then as a development consultant and Tulane professor, she has worked steadily to strengthen ties between Panama’s LAC hub and Tulane’s Payson Center for International Development. This effort resulted initially in a series of short, intensive courses based in Panama, primarily in the areas of Environmental Law and Sustainable Development and UN Fieldwork. More recently, Dr. Svenson has enlisted the support of Panama’s Catholic University, the Universidad Católica Santa María la Antigua (USMA), to create a new option for the Tulane Master’s of International Development.
USMA is Panama’s first and oldest non-profit, private university and its first nationally accredited institution of higher education. It is one of Panama’s only research universities and widely recognized for its law school, business school, social sciences department, and architecture and design program. With nearly 30,000 graduates since 1970, the year of its first graduating class, USMA counts Panamanian presidents, ministers and numerous prominent professionals among its alumni and faculty. USMA has also developed strong international connections that have led to US and European university exchanges, study abroad programs, joint research projects, and agreements with international organizations.
Given USMA’s history and accolades, it is a natural partner for Tulane and for the Payson Center. After several months of productive bilateral conversations, in January 2013 Tulane and USMA signed an important Memo of Understanding that lays the groundwork for the next stage of cooperation and for the Panama Field Experience degree option.
Tulane and USMA hope to generate additional regional—and even global—interest for this degree among new target markets and, at the same time, offer a pioneering, innovative alternative for international development studies.
In Panama, students will be able to avail themselves of a truly practice-oriented, international experience in pursuit of their degrees, with new electives related directly to development work in the LAC region. In April of 2013, a Tulane-UNDP MOU was finalized and signed by Freddy Justiniano, acting Director of the UNDP RSC LAC. The MOU indicates the level of dedication of this institution with regard to the new Master’s program and demonstrate a distinctly unique feature of the Panama Field Experience: the opportunity for students to work in a UN agency for the full duration of their two-semester study term in Panama.
These include internship opportunities with UN and other development organizations along with specially designed courses on regionally pertinent topics such as: