Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs

Core Courses

A minimum of 30 semester hours is required for the Masters of Arts in Community and Economic Development degree. The required hours will consists of:

  • 12 semester hours of core courses
  • 6 hours of directed electives
  • 6 hours of general electives, and
  • 6 semester hour capstone internship, applied project, or thesis.

All students must take IIRA 501, 510, 511, and 514. Students then choose at least 2 of 6 directed electives with the balance of electives coming from the 46 additional general elective courses. The available general elective courses are listed in the Graduate Studies Catalog, and can be selected in consultation with your adviser. The students then complete the 6 semester hour capstone experience to fulfill the 30 semester hour requirement.

Courses (12 semester hours)

IIRA 501 Principles of Community Development (3) - Introduces students to the foundational ideas of community development. Explores the diverse definitions of community and then presents various philosophical frameworks for studying communities and community change. Introduces students to specific strategies for promoting community development.

IIRA 510 Leadership and Decision-Making in Community Development (3) - Provides theories and models of the leadership process so students can synthesize a personal philosophy of leadership. Students are challenged to think about a community view of leadership that embraces diversity, ethics, and collaboration. Students learn approaches to facilitate participatory decision-making.

IIRA 511 Advanced Economic Development Practices (3) - Provides extensive information on the process and practice of local economic development. Students learn tools and approaches for expanding jobs and incomes in communities. Students also learn technical skills, such as project finance, to become more effective economic developers.

IIRA 514 Advanced Community Development Theory and Practice - Examines the theoretical basis of CED and methodologies that facilitates community development practice and effective collective actions. Students will examine how place influences community development practice.

Directed Electives (Select 6 semester hours from the following)

Group 1

GEOG 650 Cultural Geography: Rural Development (3) - Examines local, state, and federal government agencies that guide community and economic development. A survey of the historical evolution of the government programs that fostered rural development.

GEOG/UNIV 580 Skills in Community Development (3) - Emphasizes the practical skills required to be an effective community developer, including conflict resolution, leadership, communication, and community capacity-building.

IIRA 512 Sustainability and Community Economic Development (3) - Sustainability refers to environmentally friendly, economically profitable and community supporting development. This course examines the literature of community sustainability. Students will examine the literature and conduct case studies of places that exhibit environmental, economic and especially community sustainability.

Group 2

GEOG 549 Non-metro Planning (3) - An advanced course focusing on the process of non-metropolitan planning. Emphasizes planning for smaller communities and the restrictions that geographic space imposes on the planning process, particularly in the delivery of public services.

IIRA 595 Special Topics in Community and Economic Development (3) - Emerging issues in the rapid changing field of community development will be addressed as special topics. The course selects a cutting-edge issue to examine in-depth and examines how the issue affects the practice of community development. Prerequisite: Six hours of graduate coursework complete. 

IIRA 598 Independent Study (1-3 semester hours repeatable to 6 semester hours) Students may take up to three hours of independent study per semester on topics relating to community and economic development. Students must design the study in consultation with a faculty member and complete a Request for Independent Study form with approval by their Graduate Committee. 

IIRA 599 Workshops in Community and Economic Development  (3 semester hours repeatable to 12 semester hours with permission of graduate coordinator) Students participate in professional training through the Community Development Institute or other training program approved by their Graduate Committee. Students prepare a research paper investigating methods of community development and present their findings to their Graduate Committee for approval. Graded S/U. Prerequisite: Graduate Standing.

Directed electives offered through other departments may be selected in consultation with the program advisor. Please refer to the graduate catalogue for a listing of an additional 46 courses that may also be offered.

Capstone Projects

697 Internship (1-6 Repeatable to 6) Students engage in an internship in a relevant work environment to apply the theory and principles that they have learned. Students serve an internship of at least 12 weeks (300 hours). Prerequisite: 21 semester hours complete.

698 Applied Project (1-6 Repeatable to 6) Students engage in an applied community development project to better understand the theory and principles that they have learned. Students either identify a project within their current professional duties or a project in a related organization.  Prerequisite: 21 semester hours complete.

699 Thesis (1-6 Repeatable to 6) Students will complete a research project focusing on the field of community economic development to advance the theory and principles that they have learned. The thesis topic will be chosen in consultation with their graduate committee. Prerequisite: 21 semester hours complete