MA in Higher Education Leadership

Department of Leadership Studies

Program of Study


The MA in higher education leadership is a 36-unit program of study designed for students working in, or with a career preference for, higher education. Students may choose to focus on higher education administration or student affairs, or they may take coursework in both areas. Students planning to pursue a career in student affairs are urged to consider graduate assistantships made available through the Student Affairs/SOLES Collaborative, a partnership with the Division of Student Affairs.

Learning Outcomes

Leadership and Development Theories
Masters candidates will articulate prominent leadership theories in leadership studies, analyze and critique these theories, and apply these theories in the course of addressing a variety of organizational issues and problems.

Critical Thinking and Analytical Approaches
Students will select relevant information, organize and evaluate the information, and apply it to issues of leadership.

Organizational Systems and Group Dynamics
Students will demonstrate an understanding of key theories of organizational behavior and change, and effectively apply them in an organizational setting.

Cultural Competency Global Understanding
Students will critically examine culture other than their own, and apply the knowledge gained in their personal and professional lives.

Graduates will have an ability to reflect upon their own skills and limitations as leaders, evidenced by performance working with groups.

Higher Education Practical Application
Make explicit connections to higher education practice and apply various theoretical constructs in the context of workplace.
Understand the unique characteristics of students and student culture in higher education.

Higher Education Policy and Historical Trends
Understand historical trends in higher education and their implications for contemporary policy issues.

International Experience

At SOLES, all masters and doctoral students participate in an international experience designed to support the growth of cultural competency. Our goal is to inform best practices in working with culturally diverse populations locally, nationally and globally.

For many students, this experience will include a one- to two-week, faculty-led course abroad. For students who prefer to stay in southern California, this experience may be fulfilled through research or coursework on international issues. Service trips and site visits across the border in Tijuana are offered regularly.

Visit the department website for more information on the Department of Leadership Studies' International Experience to view the options for fulfilling the requirement. 


Effective Fall 2015*

Leadership Core Curriculum (12 units)

LEAD 550 Integral Leadership and Practice
LEAD 551 Human Relations for Leaders
LEAD 555 Leadership & Ethics
LEAD 559 Organizational Theory & Change

Research Core (3 units)

LEAD 547 Action Research Methods I

Internship (3 units)

LEAD 598 Leadership Internship
LEAD 594 Student Affairs GA Seminar

* Student Affairs GAs will enroll in LEAD 594 - Student Affairs GA Seminar (1.5 units) each semester for a total of 6 units.

Higher Education Core (12 units)

LEAD 569 Making Meaning and the Collegiate Experience

Select 9 units from the following:
view course schedule

LEAD 565 Dynamics of Race, Gender and Culture in Higher Education
LEAD 569 Making Meaning and the Collegiate Experience
LEAD 571 History, Theories and Philosophies of Higher Education
LEAD 576 Community College Leadership
LEAD 577 Higher Education Policy
LEAD 578 Higher Education Administration
LEAD 594 Student Affairs Graduate Assistant Seminar  (repeatable)
COUN 515 Multicultural Counseling

Electives (6 units)

Students complete 6 units of electives.  Electives are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and may be drawn from SOLES, the School of Peace Studies, the School of Business and the School of Law. Electives drawn from other programs may require instructor approval in order to enroll. All students must complete 36 units to earn the MA degree.

*Students entering the program prior to 2015 should consult the Graduate Bulletin and their program handbook for degree requirements.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the program take me?

Full-time students complete their degree in two years. Part-time students complete their degree in two and a half to three years.

How many units are included?

This program consists of 36 graduate units.

When are classes scheduled?

Each class typically meets once per week at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. for two hours and 50 minutes. Summer and intersession classes typically hold more frequent class meetings. Students typically take two to three classes per semester and may take summer and intersession coursework.

Please note that electives taken in other departments may not follow this class schedule.

Can I work while completing this program?

Yes. Classes are scheduled in the evenings and occasionally on weekends. Many students work full-time or part-time while completing this program.

Is this program offered online?

No, this program is offered on campus at the University of San Diego only. There is no online, hybrid or distance learning option available.