The American University of Beirut Faculty of Health Sciences in Lebanon and EARTH University in Costa Rica have received funding from the MasterCard Foundation over the period from 2013 – 2018 to develop a joint Global Master’s Program in Health and Sustainable Development (GMP). The GMP will be an advanced degree designed to graduate a new cadre of global thought leaders who are capable of implementing programs to address pressing health and sustainable development challenges, ensuring that solutions enhance dignity and social justice.

Why a program in Global Health and Sustainable Development?

Factors affecting human health do not adhere to national boundaries. They are determined by global social and political factors, the economy, the environment, and issues such as racial and gender inequalities. The concept of global health emphasizes the extent to which health is inextricably linked to sustainable development, which is fundamentally about promoting equity of wellbeing both within and across generations. Yet although the relationship between health and development is inherent in the concept of sustainable development and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, in programs, policy and university teaching, sustainable development tends to be the domain of environmental sciences and is rarely integrated with public health.

In order to address global health and environmental challenges, academia needs to produce ethical agents of change with the skills and ability to think across disciplines to find creative solutions to help those most in need. The Global Master’s Program would be the first Master’s degree of its kind that addresses global health and sustainable development in an integrated manner. The Global Master’s thus fills a key gap in higher education, and is particularly timely given the recent global commitment to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Why EARTH and AUB?

EARTH University and the American University of Beirut Faculty of Health Sciences represent distinct academic traditions and approaches, but are joined by their shared values and commitment to excellence in education that supports students to become ethical change agents.

EARTH was founded in Costa Rica in 1986 to promote sustainable rural development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It aims to address environmental and social challenges through cutting-edge, relevant education that fosters strong values, leadership and a lifelong commitment to social and environmental service. Today, students from more than thirty countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East attend EARTH. The University recruits young leaders from economically underprivileged communities in these regions to provide a unique learning opportunity to youth who otherwise might not have access to a college education.

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at AUB is the first independent school of public health in the Arab region. Its Graduate Public Health Program (GPHP) is guided by a set of core values that stem from its context and emphasize equity and social justice. The GPHP trains students in public health with a dedication to community service and improving the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged populations.

The unique partnership between these two institutions to develop the GMP is based on the argument that living and studying in multiple countries and institutions of the Global South is a critical component of the educational experience for students who will become change agents. Lebanon and Costa Rica demonstrate vastly divergent contexts in terms of development, environmental policy, politics and experience of conflict, as well as numerous other factors. The GMP’s approach to experiential learning and community engagement in these two contrasting contexts will provide an important opportunity for students to develop the skills they need to become effective health and development practitioners.

About the Master’s program

>p>The Global Master’s Program has six pillars around which the program mission, structure and coursework are organized. These pillars are:

  • Global health
  • Sustainable development
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Social justice
  • Transformative learning
  • South-South collaboration

Based on transformative learning pedagogy, the 18-month curriculum will expose students to real world problems in Latin America, the Middle East, and other regions of the Global South. Students will be encouraged to transform ideas into actions, significantly impacting local development by mobilizing communities to influence development agendas, as well as empowering them to take action.

Project timeline

The Global Master’s Program has been developed over a rigorous five-year feasibility, review and planning phase. The program development adopted an iterative process of research, brainstorming, and consultation.

In the first phase of the program development in 2013, a literature review was conducted on global health, sustainable development, social entrepreneurship and transformative learning. At the same time, a review was conducted of Master’s programs teaching global health, sustainable development, and social entrepreneurship. This review of relevant programs was a benchmark for developing the first draft model of the Global Master’s Program, and reveled how unique the program’s integrated approach is.

In the second phase, global thought leaders were convened at an international conference and at various meetings alongside conferences to obtain their feedback and input into the program model. The demand for the Global Master’s among potential students and employers was assessed through online surveys, in addition to focus group discussions, interviews and field visits with stakeholders and potential partners. Feedback from the global community was clear and unequivocal: build the program.

The feedback obtained throughout this inception phase was incorporated into the Global Master’s model, and in late 2014 faculty members from AUB and EARTH came together in a retreat to outline the program curriculum. The model and curriculum were then tested through a summer 2015 demonstration course in Natural Resources Management that brought 15 students from 11 countries to both EARTH and AUB. The full program curriculum was finalized in 2016-2017 through the work of a joint AUB-EARTH Curriculum Committee that included faculty from both universities, alumni from the demonstration course, and other stakeholders.

Further information about the timeline for the program launch and admissions of the first cohort will be available once all institutional approvals, registrations and accreditation requirements for the program have been met. In the meantime, we invite you to contact our project team for more information about the Global Master’s Program development phase.

Meet our project team

Project coordinators:

Maia Sieverding, PhD
Assistant Professor of Public Health Practice
Faculty of Health Sciences
American University of Beirut

BK Singh, PhD
Professor of Soils
EARTH University

Research Assistant:

Nasma Berri, MPH
Faculty of Health Sciences
American University of Beirut