Master of Arts in Leadership Studies

Department of Leadership Studies


Program of Study


The MA in Leadership Studies is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in a wide variety of organizational contexts. Students build skills in assessing organizational dynamics, creating systemic interventions, leading groups, consulting, strategic planning, and developing leadership in others. The program is highly customizable - half of the program consists of elective units, which students select in consultation with their advisor. Students may choose to focus on Organizational Leadership and Consulting, Coaching or an Individualized option which may include coursework from other graduate divisions (including counseling, education, peace studies, business and law).

Some students in this program plan to use the skills they build in this program in practice, through work in administration, consulting, education or business, and do not plan to pursue further study. Other students complete this program with the goal of applying to doctoral programs in leadership.

Learning Outcomes

Leadership and Development Theories
Master's 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 the information to issues of leadership.

Organizational Systems and Group Dynamics 
Students will demonstrate an understanding of key theories of organizational behavior and change, and to apply these theories 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 in working with groups.

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.


Leadership Core Curriculum (15 units)

LEAD 545 Survey of Leadership Theory 3
LEAD 550 Integral Leadership and Practice 3
LEAD 551 Human Relations for Leaders 3
LEAD 555 Leadership & Ethics 3
LEAD 559 Organizational Theory & Change 3

Research Core (3 units)

LEAD 549 Research Methods 3

Internship (3 units)

LEAD 598 Leadership Internship 3

Capstone* (3 units)

Students will register in a one unit capstone seminar in their final 3 semesters.

LEAD 589 Capstone Seminar 1
LEAD 589 Capstone Seminar 1
LEAD 589 Capstone Seminar 1

* Substitutions will be allowed for 3 units of LEAD 589 with LEAD 595 for students writing a thesis.

Electives (12 units)

Students complete 12 units of electives. Electives are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and may be drawn from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, 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.

Examples of elective courses include, but are not limited to:

LEAD 501 Nonprofit Sector and Management Fundamentals 3
LEAD 504 Human Relations for Leaders 1
LEAD 507 Community Partnerships & Civic Engagement 3
LEAD 511 Strategic Planning and Positioning 2
LEAD 512 Beyond Collaboration 1
LEAD 513 Advocacy Skills and Strategies 2
LEAD 514 Public Speaking 1
LEAD 522 Theories of Organizational Leadership and Cinematic Analysis 3
LEAD 530 Creative Leadership - Assessment, Challenge & Support 1
LEAD 533 Foundations of Executive Coaching 3
LEAD 535 Models of Participatory Leadership 3
LEAD 552 School Law for Aspiring Leaders 3
LEAD 556i Culture, Leadership and Organizations 3
LEAD 557 Leadership and Spirituality 3
LEAD 565 Dynamics of Race, Gender and Culture in Higher Education 3
LEAD 566 Coaching and Mentoring 3
LEAD 569 Meaning Making and the Collegiate Experience 3
LEAD 571 History and Philosophy of Higher Education 3
LEAD 572 Leadership and Contemporary Issues 3
LEAD 574 Gender and Leadership 3
LEAD 577 Higher Education Policy 3
LEAD 578 Higher Education Administration 3
LEAD 579 Experimental Topics 3
LEAD 585 Leadership for Change 3
LEAD 595 Thesis Supervision 1-3
COUN 515 Multicultural Counseling 3
PJS 510 Religion and Conflict Transformation 3
PJS 550 Conflict Theory and Analysis 3
PJS 552 Conflict Resolution in Communities & Organizations 3
PJS 588 Human Rights Advocacy 3

Exit Requirement

All students will be expected to complete an applied project and present it to the faculty and their peers.

Program Planning Forms

Current students can find resourses for program planning on the Current Student Gateway Handbooks, Forms and Policies page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the program take me?

Full-time students complete their degree in 2 years. Part-time students complete their degree in 2.5-3 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 2 hours and 50 minutes. Summer and intersession classes typically hold more frequent class meetings. Students typically take 2-3 classes per semester as well as 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.