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Study Component
Individualized Master's Degree Option


The master's degree option for participants of the Rural Development Leadership Network is offered through Antioch University Midwest. Antioch was founded on the principles of racial and sexual equality and has a strong record in recognizing the value of practical work for learning purposes. RDLN participants take part in Antioch's Individualized Master of Arts (IMA) program. They are awarded a Master's in Rural Development upon successful completion of the required course of study.

This non-residential study option permits RDLN participants a strong role in designing their own learning activities and in particular provides the opportunity for their designing of learning segments that are compatible with the RDLN Field Projects.

At the same time, the format of this study plan permits RDLN to involve as Study Advisors local faculty and other "credentialed" individuals from different institutions; these people form part of the Network contributing to the evolution of the Rural Development Curriculum design, advising of students, and instruction.  In particular, the core curriculum segment, during which participants study together at the RDLN Institute, provides a demonstration of the value of practitioner/academic collaboration and multicultural, interregional synthesis of knowledge and experience.  Essential to the process of refining this curriculum is the feedback of participants before, during and after their involvement.

The external study is particularly suitable for those RDLN participants who want or need to spend the bulk of their program term in their home communities.

Degree Requirements

The breakdown of the thirty-six (36) credits required for those earning the individualized master's degree is as follows (subject to change):

RDLN Institute:  5 units
Individual Designed Components:  12 units
Antioch Online Coursework:  12 units
Field Project (Part 1 and 2):  7 units
Total: 36 units

All students must write a final Field Project report discussing and evaluating the Project.

Study Advisors/Field Advisors

We recommend that each participant choose two Study Advisors:  1) to confer on the degree outline, 2) to advise on independent learning components, and 3) to help identify additional resource people if necessary. At least one of the Study Advisors should have an understanding of community-based development. At least one should hold a terminal academic degree, such as a Ph.D., LLB., MBA, M.D. or MRP. This person may have special expertise in the area of the participants' RDLN Field Project. He or she may be serving on the faculty of a nearby college or university or other professional staff. These advisors may give coaching and background support, or if appropriate they may serve as faculty of an individualized learning component. By participating in this way, the Study Advisors do not become members of Antioch's "faculty" but are official advisors of Antioch students' work. A token honorarium is provided. (Note: Antioch will need to approve the qualifications of any advisor who serves as an Instructor for a learning component for credit. See Field Project Guidelines for more on Field Advisors.)

Independent Study

The independent Study/Coursework portion takes place in the participant's home area.  In cooperation with the Advisors, the participant designs several learning segments totaling the required 18 credits. It is necessary to identify a qualified person to evaluate the work accomplished in each learning segment (not necessarily one of the two Study Advisors). As noted before, during this work, students have the opportunity to pursue specialized learning related to their specific Projects and communities. One example might be "Review and Analysis of Legislation Relating to Water Policy in New Mexico." Evaluation of this segment might be through a written report.

A student may also use process learning as the basis of an independent learning segment.  An action-oriented course could have a title like "Development of Community Education Skills" and could consist of organizing meetings, preparing literature and publicizing issues in a consciously strategic and systemic way.  Evaluation of such a segment might be accomplished through observation by the evaluating individual or, again, through a written or oral report.  In any case, the learning measured is progress in understanding and performance.  Learning from mistakes is valid for credit; performing already accomplished exercises is not appropriate for this purpose.

In some cases, participants may feel that they can learn most efficiently by enrolling in or auditing a particular course or workshop.  The Degree Plan can accommodate this arrangement, but students will generally need to work out the payments on their own and will need to identify an academically qualified person to evaluate the learning.

Core Curriculum/RDLN Rural Development Institute

Please see description of coursework at the Institute.

Antioch Orientation and Professional Seminar

All Antioch IMA students must attend a three day Orientation session on the Antioch campus during the first quarter of Antioch enrollment. Subsequent Antioch seminars may be virtual.

Field Plan, Project Implementation and Progress Report

The RDLN Field Project is conducted during twenty-four – thirty-six months of participation in the RDLN program, except during the RDLN Rural Development Institute.  Separate guidelines are provided for the preparation of the Field Project Plan.  This should be completed within the first month of the program and approved by the Field Resource Advisor and RDLN.  At the end of twelve months, a progress report should be prepared, based on the timelines and evaluation criteria outlined in the Field Project Plan.  Again, this report must be approved by the Field Advisor and RDLN. A final report is also required.

RDLN Rural Development Institute - Learning Components

A. Overview of Rural America

Introduction to major regions, peoples, problems, and challenges of the rural United States, with an emphasis on groups and places in poverty and special emphasis on communities represented by RDLN Leaders.  A look at the interrelationship of history, culture, socioeconomic factors, and choice of strategy for change.  Identification of historical and contemporary trends in the rural U.S.

B. Tools for Rural Development

Introduction to skills and mechanism useful for comprehensive rural community development:  computer use, internet research, library research, documents research and analysis, fundraising, expository writing, interpretation of statistics, accessing data, organizing, review of programs, structures and technologies, including credit mechanisms, youth programs, cultural programs, community controlled educational institutions, appropriate technology, and housing.  Includes two special emphases:

Organization and Management: Review of structures of community development organizations; the process of setting institutional goals and objectives; review of alternative strategies for coordinating the accomplishment of goals and objectives; alternative means of budgeting and cash flow analysis; overseeing work flow; matching organizational structure to the type and size of the enterprise.

The Political Context of Rural Development: Review of government policy or lack of policy relating to rural areas; relevant legislation; current budget considerations; forms of local governance and interaction of government levels; examination of some of the larger political forces at work in rural economics.  Discussion of the language of political discourse and ways of keeping the debate focused on relevant rural concerns.

C. Economics and Economic Development

Introduction to basic economic concepts and methodology.  Examination of determinants of economic growth and development.  Opportunity to develop analytical skills in regard to problems of economic development in rural areas, including an understanding of alternative institutional systems and structures for the production and distribution of goods and services.  Investigation of how alternative institutional structures influence the quality of life in rural areas.

Overview of financial markets, institutions and instruments, including the Federal Reserve system.  Introduction to specific applications such as cost/benefit analysis of rural development projects and analysis to tax impact and to such functions as financial intermediation and financial leveraging.

Discussion of specific economic development efforts in some depth through case studies, 
including examples from communities where RDLN students live and work.

D. Our Cultures, Our Economies: Reclaiming Original Economies (Microeconomics)

This course is intended to strengthen economic and analysis skills, assist learners in discerning the difference between economic growth and economic development, learning to examine models of culturally sustainable economic development, (CSED) strategies and articulate criteria of such strategies. Participants will learn how to determine community and individual readiness for micro-enterprises, how to identify market needs; become familiar with feasibility studies, forms of business structures, financing, and marketing strategies. Learners will apply lessons learned and development criteria to their own community development projects.

Note on Basic Skills

RDLN Leaders' mastery of substance and previous experience qualifies them at the master's level.  In some cases, years out of school, concentration on specialized professional areas, or proficiency in other languages may have left them rusty in such "basic skills" as business writing, general math or public speaking.  RDLN will offer sessions in these areas and we encourage participants to consider enrolling in local writing courses.

Reporting Requirements

RDLN requires monthly reports on progress in the Study Component and Field Project.  Antioch requires Evaluations of each Learning Component and other documentation.

Purpose of Degree

The degree is intended to be of value to the participant’s community work and to the community. While it provides a credential for the learner, the purpose is not primarily individual advancement.