MA in Social Innovation Curriculum

Our Curriculum

MASI is a multi-disciplinary program breaking down silos. Students will take classes at several University of San Diego schools, including the School of Business, School of Leadership and Education Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences and the Kroc School. No other master's degree brings together the unique skills and expertise gained at a peace school in collaboration with leadership, humanities, science and business. Our approach complements the cross-sectoral nature of social innovation with a pedagogical model centered on experiential learning in course settings, field-based practicums (domestic and international) and co-curricular opportunities (such as the Social Innovation Challenge, V2 Competition and numerous opportunities through the Changemaker Hub).

Students also learn from global changemakers who visit our campus as Distinguished Speakers. Strolling our halls and packing out our auditorium have been His Holiness the Dalai Lama, environmental activist Jane Goodall and technology visionary Asi Burak.

The MASI is a 30-unit degree program that can be completed in one-year (full-time). Courses emphasize six learning goals, including systems perspective, analytical capabilities to understand the complexities of social issues, experimentation in design, implementation and impact assessment, design thinking and problem solving.

Core Courses


  • SOIN 500 Global Challenges (3 units). This course follows a systems perspective to explain major challenges of the 21st century, which are included in the Sustainable Development Millennium goals: poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, environment and violent conflict, among others. A systems perspective of current challenges and their causes will expand student capabilities for framing problems and designing solutions. In examining social problems, students will learn emerging models of leadership, organization and collaborations.


  • SOIN 505 Social Innovation (3 units). In this introductory field-based course students learn strategies and processes for creating social change through innovation. Students will gain knowledge and experience through engagement with social and political entrepreneurs, managers, activists, and leaders in the San Diego/Tijuana region implementing a wide range of social innovations. Cases of social impact through different organizational platforms – in the market, in government, within the nonprofit sector, and increasingly in the space between these three sectors, will be analyzed and discussed in class and in the field. Theories and frameworks for social innovation are inter-connected with field experiences.

Design & Creativity

  • SOIN 510 Social Entrepreneurship (3 units). How can we translate ideas into sustainable initiatives with social impact? In this course students develop the mindset and capabilities of entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs for social change. Through the analysis and development of projects, students will learn key elements for designing sustainable initiatives that create “a new social equilibrium that is better than what existed before.” Readings, simulations and experiential learning focus on the intersection of problem solving and shared-value creation.
  • SOIN 515 Social Innovation Practicum (3 units). This is a course where students integrate theory and practice to address issues faced by an organization seeking to increase its social impact. Acting as consultants, students will acquire knowledge of real-world constraints and opportunities faced by organizations. The practicum will enhance capabilities in teamwork, management, problem solving, resourcefulness and creativity.

Implementation Project

  • SOIN 520 Innovation Evaluation (2 units). Social innovation must be translated into actionable initiatives to achieve the intended goals. This course provides essential knowledge for program design and management, including needs and impact assessment, as well as logical frameworks for monitoring and evaluation. Students will gain the skills and tools necessary to systematize the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects throughout the project cycle.
  • SOIN 525 Social Innovation Capstone (4 units). The capstone is the culminating experience of the MASI, where students develop a social innovation proposal that reinforces the knowledge and skills acquired throughout coursework. The capstone is about the integration of theory and practice, design thinking and creativity. Students begin by identifying a specific challenge and articulating hypotheses for addressing the problem. Projects might include a plan of action for translating an idea-solution into a sustainable endeavor, a proposal for increasing social impact in a particular case, or a project for impact assessment, among others. Beyond the faculty teaching the Capstone course, the Center for Peace and Commerce’s Social Innovation Challenge will support students in the process.

Sample Workshops

  • SOIN 550 Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting (1 unit). Financial and accounting knowledge are essential to enterprise development. This workshop will provide the fundamental financial and accounting concepts, tools, and techniques for effective decision-making in social entrepreneurship and innovation. It teaches how to interpret financial reports, create budgets, and justify decisions based on costs and ROI.
  • SOIN 555 Design Thinking (1 unit). Innovation and problem solving cannot succeed without a process involving customers or beneficiaries. This workshop focuses on people-centered approach to problem solving. It will enhance skills in listening, user empathy, collaboration, and experimentation.
  • SOIN 560 Pitching for Success (1 unit). Pitching a social innovation idea to investors, funders and collaborators is an art. In this workshop students learn how to engage in conversations that sell. Students will work to develop communication strategies to convey their goals clearly.

Sample Electives

  • Leadership and Organizations
  • Peace, Development and Conflict
  • Financial Management and Analysis
  • Law of the Sea
  • Politics of Immigration
  • Leadership for Change
  • Human Development and Social Entrepreneurship
  • War, Gender and Peacebuilding