Graduate Studies

Community and Economic Development

Admission | Courses | Program | Requirements | Profile

Chairperson:  Christopher D. Merrett
Graduate Committee Chairperson: Christopher D. Merrett
Office: Stipes Hall 515
Telephone: (309) 298-2281
E-mail: or
Location of Program Offering: Quad Cities (Hybrid)

Graduate Faculty


  • Adee Athiyaman, Ph.D., Hong Kong Polytechnic
  • Christopher Merrett, Ph.D., University of Iowa

Learning Outcomes

For student learning outcomes, please see

 Program Description

The Master of Community and Economic Development (CED) degree provides current and aspiring professionals with the latest tools and skills in community development, economic development, and marketing and data analysis. The program provides a strong background for those working as community and economic developers with community-based organizations, city, state, and federal agencies, foundations, banks, utilities, or universities.

The course content is delivered in a hybrid format, primarily online with occasional face-to-face meetings at the Quad City campus. The hybrid delivery offers the interaction and personal attention of face-to-face class meetings and the flexibility of online learning. Students can complete their degree in 17 months while continuing to work full-time.

The program is offered by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), which has more than 30 years of experience engaging with communities in outreach programs. The program focuses on practical, applied knowledge and skills that can be implemented to improve the economy and quality of life in urban and rural communities.

 Admission Requirements

  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 OR 3.0 or higher GPA for the last two years (60 s.h.) of undergraduate work
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume
  • Two-page essay explaining career goals and how the graduate program in CED at WIU will help you achieve those goals
  • Bachelor’s degree in a field related to community development, such as education, communication, economics, geography, sociology, planning, political science, business, or other social science. If the degree is unrelated, it is preferable that the applicant have demonstrated exposure to community development practice through an internship, work, or volunteer experience.

 Degree Requirements

The Master of Arts in Community and Economic Development degree program requires a minimum of 30 hours of coursework to graduate.

I. Core Courses: 12 s.h.

IIRA 501 Principles of Community Development (3)
IIRA 510 Leadership and Decision-Making in Community Development (3)
IIRA 511 Advanced Economic Development Practice (3)
IIRA 514 Advanced Community Development Theory and Practice (3)

II. Directed Departmental Electives: 12 - 18 s.h.

A. Group 1 - Select a minimum of 6 s.h. from the following: 6 s.h.

GIS 509 Fundamentals of GIS Analysis (3)
GEOG 580 Skills in Community Development (3)
GEOG 650 Seminars in Cultural Geography (3)
IIRA 512 Sustainability and Community Development (3)
IIRA 595 Special Topics in Community and Economic Development (3)
IIRA 598 Independent Study (3)
IIRA 696 Research Methods in Community Economic Development (3)

B. Group 2 - Select a minimum of 6 s.h. from the following: 9 s.h.

ECON 420G Economic Development (3)
ECON 432G Public Expenditures & Taxation (3)
ECON 440G Labor Theory (3)
ECON 487G Econometrics (3)
ECON 535 Small Community Development (3)
ECON 538 Economics for Managers (3)
EM 561 Foundations of Emergency Management (3)
EM 565 Evacuation Planning and Response (3)
EOS 510 Environmental Health Sciences (3)
GEOG 448G Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning (3)
GEOG 505 Research Methods I (3)
GEOG 549 Non-metro Planning (3)
GIS 509 Fundamentals of GIS Analysis (3)
HS 400G Grant Writing (3)
HSM 517 Health Services Organizational Behavior and Leadership (3)
IIRA 595 Special Topics in Community and Economic Development (3)
IIRA 598 Independent Study (3)
IIRA 599 Workshops in Community and Economic Development (3)
LEJA 513 Public Policy Issues in Criminal Justice (3)
MGT 445G Organization Development (3)
MGT 520 Organization Behavior & Leadership (3)
POLS 494G Public Budgeting Systems (3)
POLS 549 Public Policy Analysis & Program Evaluation (3)
POLS 550 Nonprofit Management (3)
POLS 567 Ethics in the Public Sector (3)
POLS 592 Public Personnel Management (3)
RPTA 424G Fundraising and Volunteerism in Leisure Services (3)
RPTA 428G Youth and Leisure Services (3)
RPTA 452G Leisure Services for the Elderly (3)
RPTA 460G Community Tourism Development (3)
RPTA 467G Special Event Planning and Management (3)
RPTA 482G Facility Management (3)
RPTA 526 Fiscal Management in Leisure Services (3)
SOC 405G Health and Aging (3)
SOC 410G Women & Poverty (3)
SOC 414G Population (3)
SOC/AAS/WS 420G Race, Class, Gender (3)
SOC 430G Sociology of Women’s Health (3)
SOC 515 Advanced Criminology (3)
SOC 525 Advanced Studies in Social Inequality (3)
SOC 561 Seminar: Family and Work Roles (3)
SOC 562 Complex Organizations (3)
SOC 565 Health and Medicine (3)

III. Capstone (Select one of the following): 0 - 6 s.h.

A. IIRA 601 Comprehensive Exam (0)

B. IIRA 697 Internship (6)

C. IIRA 698 Applied Project (3)
     IIRA 696 Research Methods in Community Economic Development (3)

D. IIRA 699 Thesis (3)
     IIRA 696 Research Methods in Community Economic Development (3)


 Course Descriptions

Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA)

501 Principles of Community Development. (3) This course introduces students to the foundational ideas of community development. It explores the diverse definitions of community and then presents various philosophical frameworks for studying communities and community change. It further introduces students to specific strategies for promoting community development. Specific topics include the role of communities in economic development, community leadership, volunteerism, strategies for promoting social justice and civic engagement, and planning for sustainable development that is environmentally-friendly, community supporting, and economically viable. Prerequisite: Graduate standing.

510 Leadership, Community Organizing, and Decision-Making. (3) This course explores the leadership and community organization process so students can synthesize a personal leadership philosophy. Students will learn a community view of leadership that embraces diversity, ethics, and collaboration. Students learn approaches to facilitate participatory/community decision-making. Prerequisite: Graduate standing.

511 Advanced Economic Development Practice. (3) Economic development rarely occurs in passive communities. Rather, development occurs through active engagement with public and private sector stakeholders. Students will learn how to deploy strategies, including project finance and cluster analysis, for expanding jobs and incomes in communities. Prerequisites: ECON 535 or permission of the instructor and graduate standing.

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. Prerequisite: IIRA 511 or permission of the instructor.

514 Advanced Community Development Theory and Practice. (3) The course will examine the theoretical bases of community development and methodologies that facilitate community development practice and effective collective action. Students will examine how place influences community development practice. Prerequisite: Nine semester hours completed.

595 Special Topics in Community and Economic Development. (3, repeatable to 12) 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: Graduate standing.

598 Independent Study. (1-3, repeatable to 12) 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. Prerequisite: Graduate standing.

599 Workshops in Community and Economic Development. (3, repeatable to 12 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.

601 Comprehensive Exam. (0) Students will be tested on community economic development learning objectives shared with all incoming students. The exam will be graded S/U and include written and oral segments. Students can register for the course after completing 30 semester hours. Prerequisite: Completion of 30 semester hours in the program or in the final semester in which 30 semester hours will be completed. Only open to students in the M.A. in CED program.

696 Research Methods in Community Economic Development. (3) This course will equip students with skills to complete their thesis or applied project. Students will learn about inductive versus deductive research, quantitative versus qualitative research, research ethics, and how to apply this knowledge to community economic development research topics. Prerequisite: graduate standing.

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: Nine semester hours completed.

698 Applied Project. (3) Students engage in an applied community development project utilizing a field experience 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: IIRA 696.

699 Thesis. (3) 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: IIRA 696.