Economic Development News & Insight


The Higher ED Blog: You need to know about this master’s program (even if you’re done with school)

Michelle Madden, MAES, Ec.D. / October 13, 2016

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The Higher ED Blog: You need to know about this master’s program (even if you’re done with school)

Way back in 1980s, the Economic Developers Association of Canada and the University of Waterloo joined forces to create something this country’s economic developers wanted but didn’t have: a master’s degree just for them.

In the 30 years since, the program has flowed with the evolution of the field, with each influencing the other.  In the early years, it was a degree in Industrial Development; then it was renamed Local Economic Development to reflect the growing scope of the profession. Today, it is our pleasure to announce that on January 1, 2017 the Local Economic Development graduate program at the University of Waterloo will be relaunched as the Master of Economic Development & Innovation (MEDI).

What does that mean for you?

1) You now have a fresh and efficient option for getting a graduate degree in economic development.

2) You can increase capacity in your office by hiring a student intern or giving them a four-month research project.


This refresh is happening on a few fronts: there’s the new name, a refresh of the courses, and a condensed timeline.

From awkward to apt

The full named used to be a Master of Applied Environmental Studies (MAES) in Local Economic Development. That’s a mouthful! The shorter name is more elegant, and aligns better with the other masters programs in our department and faculty and the University of Waterloo’s reputation in innovation. It also reflects the direction the profession is taking. Innovation is increasingly recognized as a major contributor to economic growth; Canada even has a Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Better, stronger, more innovative courses

The program’s courses have been refreshed to better address the challenges and opportunities faced by cities and communities across Canada, and the skills needed to deal with them.  The new curriculum will still teach the foundations of economic development theory and practice, but add state-of-the-art management, policy and analysis tools, and weave innovation into the core concepts of entrepreneurship and regional development. Students can choose electives in social entrepreneurship, stakeholder engagement, sustainable cities, social marketing, land development, and community economic development on top of the many other courses offered in our Faculty and the University.

Some of the course changes are being made by a brand new member of our team, Heather Hall. She’ll be teaching the policy tools and entrepreneurship courses and her expertise in rural, northern, and resource-based regions is a welcome addition!

Condensed to 12 months (if you’re a full time student)

This is the change our alumni will envy, and future students will love!

The LED program had two milestone requirements: a 60+ page major research paper and a four-month internship (waived for those with experience). LED students were expected to complete both in 16 months, but many had the welcome problem of finding full time work before graduating. Our 250+ alumni will tell you that writing a major research paper on top of a day job is really challenging.

The MEDI program has only one milestone, and it’s a choice between an applied research project or an internship. The research project is the best of all worlds, combining the knowledge gained from research with the real world experience of working with a community. It also has a hard four-month deadline so full time students are done within 12 months.  A four-month internship is also on the table for those without previous ecdev experience who want to dive straight into the working world. Students who are dedicated to a serious research-oriented career still have the option to complete a major research paper.

Doing the program part time is also an option. The courses are scheduled to minimize time off work, and there are a couple online courses too.

Bring on the students!

If you’re not interested in taking a master’s program yourself, you can still take advantage of the knowledge and enthusiasm of our students. You can do that by developing a student project or hiring an intern.

You know that great idea that you’ve had on the back burner because you and your staff don’t have the capacity to take it on? Here’s a great opportunity to kick start a new project or get some background research done by partnering with MEDI.  MEDI capstone applied research projects can take on any aspect of economic development. The main constraint is that the project has to be completed within four months. Beyond that, the project should be enriching for the student—not just grunt work. You should also expect to invest some time managing the student to make sure the experience and end product are valuable for both of you.

Like the projects, the internships can tackle any corner of economic development. Our interns have done great work for municipalities, provincial ministries and departments, federal agencies, consulting firms, and organizations of all types. The internships are paid but should still be enriching and at least four months long at full time hours. We say “at least” because many interns prove to be so valuable, you won’t want to let them go!

Head over to our Work with MEDI webpage for more information, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to flesh out an idea.


During the redesign process, the program consulted with various stakeholders (employers, current students, alumni, instructors) via surveys, interviews and online and in-person discussions. All of the changes have been very well-received and we’re really proud of the new Master of Economic Development and Innovation.

If you’ll be in the Toronto area on November 30th, come celebrate the relaunch with us! We’re hosting an alumni and networking night at Hotel Ocho. It’ll be a great opportunity to learn more about the changes and pitch your project ideas.


About the author

Michelle Madden, Ec.D., is the editor of Higher ED. She is also the Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Local Economic Development program (now the Master of Economic Development & Innovation).  She has authored many Higher ED articles sharing information relevant to economic development practitioners. She has published several of her own blogs on as well. Follow her on Twitter at @michelle_mad.

About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1987, the Master of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) is one of the only graduate programs in Canada focused exclusively on economic development. Students learn economic development theory and practice, and are exposed to leading edge knowledge, tools, and approaches to address contemporary challenges in cities and communities across Canada and internationally.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.

One response to “The Higher ED Blog: You need to know about this master’s program (even if you’re done with school)”

  1. […] was approved to relaunch as the Master of Economic Development and Innovation, complete with a new format and course content refresh. The Higher ED Blog had a great year too, reaching new highs on total page views (with views from […]