For those committed to people and place

The Great Plains IDEA Community Development master’s degree or graduate certificate will empower you to lead communities to action and engage citizens in democratic decision-making. 

How does the program work?

Our programs are offered completely online, providing flexibility for busy adults who don’t have access or time to attend on-campus classes.

The faculty in the community development program work collaboratively across five partner universities, providing diverse perspectives on the field, which will provide you with unique experiences you couldn’t get when taking classes from just one university.

What is community development?

Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, equality, economic opportunity and social justice, through the organization, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings. (As adopted by IACD, CDS and NACDEP.)

A master’s degree or graduate certificate in community development is ideal for professionals working in areas such as:
  • Community, regional and local planning departments
  • Community economic development organizations
  • Community health and wellness
  • Economic development and entrepreneurship
  • Anti-poverty programs
  • Cooperative extension services
  • Housing and infrastructure agencies
  • Non-profit organizations focusing on community enhancement
  • Parks & recreation
  • Natural resource management
  • Public administration
  • Applied sociology
  • Tribal programs

Am I right for this program?

This program is perfect for you if you:

  • Enjoy working with others to find solutions to local problems.
  • Are passionate about working in urban communities, rural areas or with tribal communities.
  • Now work with communities and want to enhance your skills, knowledge and credentials.
  • Seek to better understand how global issues are tied to specific places in order to better organize others to respond to climate change, health disparities, and economic shifts.
  • Are a volunteer in your community and want to be even more effective.

In this video, community development professor Dr. Gary Goreham explains the characteristics a student needs to be successful in this program.

What will I learn in this program?

The Great Plains IDEA Community Development programs will teach you:

  • Critical thinking
  • Ethical consideration
  • Careful planning
  • Involvement of all stakeholders 

Our electives allow students to pursue subtopics such as land development, housing, community economic strategies, immigrants in communities and sustainable communities.

Learn more about the courses taught in this program by visiting the Course Planner.

Great Plains IDEA Student Handbook

Degree and certificate titles vary by university.  Consult each university for the title as it will appear on the diploma or certificate.

Curriculum for Master's Degree

Curriculum for Graduate Certificate

Program Summary
Cost per credit hour:

2017-2018: $565
2018-2019: $580

36 Hours

12 Hours

University Contact
These campus coordinators can help you navigate Great Plains IDEA. Click on the university name to learn more about how Great Plains IDEA works at that campus. Michelle Zander
Rachel Ohmes
Karen Murie
Tracia Hogue
Diane M. Wasser
University Members
Members of the Great Plains IDEA are universities accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Member universities recruit, admit and graduate students, teach in an academic program and contribute to the leadership and maintenance of the alliance. Membership in the alliance is a selective process that engages institutional leadership at all levels.

– – April-Dawn Knudsen, Community Development Graduate