Mark Orrs

Lehigh University Sustainable Development Program - Orrs




Director of Sustainable Development
Professor of Practice, Department of Political Science



After 6 years as a candidate in the PhD in Sustainable Development Program at Columbia University, Mark Orrs began as Professor of Practice and Director of Sustainable Development at Lehigh University in August 2012. His primary research interests have been in African economic growth and development, with approaches from the perspectives of health economics and gender and education.

He is co-author of two articles on HIV/AIDS stigma, which were published in major public health journals. At present, he is completing work on his dissertation, which examines the impacts on rural households of vision restoration through surgical cataract extraction, for which he has conducted research in Malawi, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Another of his papers focuses on the effects of a sanitary towel distribution campaign on girls’ attendance, which he conducted in Coast Province, Kenya, in 2008.

In 2003, Mark earned a BS in Sociology from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. After a year of teaching fifth grade in Camden, New Jersey, he studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science, from which he received a Diploma in Economics with Distinction before being accepted into the Sustainable Development program at Columbia. Mark has traveled to Eastern, Southern, and Western Africa multiple times, including in 2006 to film a documentary on street children in Nairobi. He has also worked at a home for HIV-positive AIDS orphans, socio-medical outreach projects into Nairobi’s slums, income generating activities for slum dwellers, and the Millennium Villages Project on multiple, varied initiatives. In 2011 he co-founded the non-profit organization Harambee USA, Inc. (, which cares for and educates former street children.