In the summer of 1954, Vanderbilt University established a Summer Institute on Economic Development to offer students from developing countries additional training in the area of economic development.
The U.S. Government agency that funded the institute selected Vanderbilt because of its strong reputation and its location in the South--to help demonstrate that the United States still had problems of economic development not dissimilar to those found in other countries across the globe. Field trips to nearby "developing regions" in the South highlighted the commonality of such problems in the United States.
After three summers and 200 participants, Vanderbilt was asked by the U.S. Government to inaugurate a comprehensive, year-round program designed to meet the training needs of officials in developing nations involved in setting development policy. In response to this request, the Graduate Program in Economic Development (GPED) was formally established in the fall of 1956.
Since then, some 1400 students from 125 countries have participated in the program and have become part of the worldwide GPED family. Many have gone on to distinguished careers in public service in their home countries, as finance ministers, ambassadors, heads of central banks and other important posts. Many have taken positions in international development organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations. Others have pursued doctoral studies at Vanderbilt as well as other universities. Recent years have seen a rapid increase in graduates pursuing careers in the private sector, joining or starting companies in the non-profit or for-profit sector of their economies.
The first Director of the Program was William H. Nicholls. He was followed by Rendigs Fels, Reynold E. Carlson, Anthony M. Tang, James S. Worley (who was director for more than a quarter century), Samuel Morley, Andrea Maneschi, Kathryn Anderson, James E. Foster, Suhas Ketkar and currently Kamal Saggi. Many other distinguished faculty have been associated with the Program over the years, including Jeffrey Williamson, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Gian Sahota, Clive Bell, and Kaushik Basu, among others. Currently faculty members in the Department of Economics teach courses taken by GPED students, along with several others from the Master of Public Health Program, the Owen Graduate School of Management, the Engineering School, and the School of Education.The Program has benefited over the years from the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as from numerous agencies sponsoring students across the globe.