American University of Beirut

The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU)

Director: Hamadeh, Shady
RCODE Coordinator:Chalak, Ali
​Interdisciplinary RCODE Committee Members: ​
Professors:Hamadeh, Shady; Zurayk, Rami
Associate Professor:Chalak, Ali

ESDU is an interdisciplinary research and development unit specializing in sustainable rural livelihoods. It was established at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences to promote collaboration on sustainable development initiatives among departments at AUB and with a variety of other institutions and organizations undertaking related activities.

ESDU activities, including research, capacity building, and outreach, aim at the following:

  • Providing opportunities for faculty and students to work on real-life rural development projects
  • Fostering partnerships between research, private and public sectors, and local communities in order to develop community-based solutions
  • Networking with national, regional, and international centers and institutes in the areas of integrated natural resource management and sustainable development

For more information, refer to

MS in Rural Community Development (RCODE)

The Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences offers an interdepartmental graduate program hosted by the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, that leads to the degree of Master of Science (MS) in Rural Community Development (RCOD, thesis or non-thesis).

Graduates of the program will gain knowledge to improve prospects of rural development and build their capacities in community development to better design, manage, follow up, evaluate and monitor projects either in the public or private sector, locally, regionally and internationally.

The program combines theoretical and experiential courses from the university at large. The MS in Rural Community Development focuses on the following:

  • The major theoretical and conceptual approaches to Rural Development
  • The elaboration and implementation of sound rural development policies and projects
  • The capacity of conducting research in the social, economic, political and environmental dimensions of Rural Development
  • The qualitative and quantitative instruments of social enquiry to effectively pursue studies in Rural Development

The core program emphasizes community and participatory development, sustainable livelihoods, rural and agricultural policies, agrarian change, gender issues, social analysis of communities, environmental transformations, design and planning, program development and non-profit management, and community action research and skills for community change. Elective courses provide the desirable flexibility to enhance the breadth of the program and its multi-disciplined approach from registered programs at the FAFS and other faculties. Such courses allow specialization in environmental and natural resource management, community nutrition and food security, project planning, sustainable agriculture, communication and development, and community health.


All relevant requirements and regulations of the University and the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences for the master’s degree apply to the MS in RCODE.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from AUB or its equivalent from a recognized institution of higher learning.

Eligibility for admission is the same for both the thesis MS and non-thesis MS options. The students, for reasons commensurate with specific interests and required training, may change from the non-thesis to the thesis track and vice versa, subject to approval by the department supervising the major chosen.

Thesis and Non-Thesis Options

The degree offers both thesis and non-thesis options. The program has six core courses. These cover issues related to the theory, methods and practice of rural community development and offer the opportunity for practical experience as well as research in rural community development. Two or three specialization electives can be selected from a list of approved courses to provide further insight into specific issues in rural community development from registered programs at the FAFS and other AUB faculties.

The successful completion of the degree will require 33 credit hours. At least 27 of the total 33 credits must be earned within the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS); among these are 21 credits (for thesis students), and 18 credits (for non-thesis students). Additional 6 credits (for thesis students) and 9 credits (for non-thesis students) must be selected from the list of approved electives within FAFS. The remaining 6 credits are free electives which may be earned from courses in FAFS or AUB at large as per the below table:

​Core Courses
​FAFS Electives
​Free Electives
​Project / Thesis
​Thesis (cr.) ​15​6​6​6​33
​Non-Thesis (cr.)​15​9​6​3​33

Core Courses

Specialization Electives: 9 credits for non-thesis option and 6 credits for thesis option

A minimum of three courses needs to be selected from the following list for the non-thesis option and two courses for the thesis option.

Free Electives: 6 credits

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