Leadership, MA

Leadership, MA

Fall Term Final Deadline: July 1st

The priority deadline for the Masters of Arts in Leadership program is June 1st, 2023. The final deadline is July 1st, 2023.



Learn cutting edge leadership skills that help you foster better collaboration, contribute your best, and skillfully navigate the complex challenges our organizations are facing.

Our highly regarded and pioneering Master of Arts in Leadership degree provides you the flexibility, practical skills, and personal enrichment you seek in a graduate education program. Learn contemporary leadership theory and practice in peer networks of working professionals from public, private, and non-profit sectors. Acquire a wide range of competencies and skills that allow you to advance and succeed in today's dynamic and complex world. 

Learn More

We're here to help you navigate the application process every step of the way. Here are some resources to give you more information about what you'll need as you get started.


Program Duration

Graphic of a calendar and a clock

18-month program


Learning Environment

Graphic of a school campus

In-person Executive Weekends with asynchronous online work in between


Average Class Size

Graphic of students at desks

15-18 learners per cohort. Cohort members in the program form a learning community. Your success starts with connections.

a student and a cwac tutor talking

Meet With Us

Going back to school is a big step - our team is here to help you through it. To find out if our program meets your needs, fill out a quick form to schedule a meeting with an Admissions Counselor!

Why the Master of Arts in Leadership?

"The program increased my desire to work collaboratively with people ... It helped me to identify what I like to do, and pointed me in the direction where I can be most effective." - Carlo Beckman, Alumnus

We recognize that there are many different definitions, theories and perspectives of leadership and different programs are designed around this varied landscape of leadership. Our MA in Leadership program at Saint Mary's College is situated in the midst of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region known for being a hub of dynamic and creative activity in an increasingly diverse, complex, and interdependent global world. We provide an understanding and practice of leadership that is reflective and responsive to this world.

Most leadership education programs for working professionals emphasize developing competencies in role–based managerial leadership. Our program includes developing competencies in relational and collaborative leadership. In this way, leadership is something in which every stakeholder participates, not something that only emanates from the personality traits and actions of designated leaders.

By developing a depth and breadth of capacities and skills, our graduates are more able to effectively respond to the unique challenges and opportunities of an evolving world.


Considering an MA in Leadership and a traditional MBA?



Leadership Alumni


"As someone who’s attained both a MA in Leadership and an MBA, I can say both are important and serve a purpose. The MA in Leadership provided a foundation for me to continue my graduate studies in a more thoughtful and substantive way. [Then] matriculating to Duke’s Fuqua School of Business (MBA), I found myself totally prepared to attack multi-faceted business cases in a way that was different from my classmates that was directly influenced by the MA in Leadership. Now that I have finished my formal education and I am practicing all that I learned in both programs, I recognize that the MA in Leadership provided the foundation for my grasp of complex business problems and solutions, both quantitative and qualitative."

John Coleman, MA in Leadership '08

Both degrees are important and serve a great purpose. SMC's School of Economics and Business Administration offers MBA programs that pair well with our Master of Arts in Leadership Degree. Read more about the differences and compliments of SMC's MA in Leadership and a traditional MBA. 


Program Highlights

The Master of Arts in Leadership at Saint Mary’s College was launched in 2001. At the time, leadership was relatively new as a distinct academic discipline and we were one of approximately 15 graduate leadership education programs in the U.S. As one of the pioneer programs we continue to evolve along with the field of leadership that leverages the assets of higher education toward fostering meaningful change in one’s work and life. We are now one of hundreds of leadership programs across the globe.

What makes us unique in this growing and diverse field of academic leadership education programs is that we are informed by the values of the Three Traditions of Saint Mary’s College, which reflect a commitment to justice, service and whole person learning. Our hybrid online/in-person program provides a transformative education in collaborative leadership for working professionals responsive to the complex and emerging challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Initially focused on public sector leadership, by 2003 we expanded our focus to include professionals from private and not-for-profit sectors. Today, program participants are not just from all three sectors, but represent diverse industries, levels of responsibilities, ages, ethnicities, and vocational aspirations. Our graduates consistently report that the program has been life-changing for them, both professionally and personally. They tell us that their employers, colleagues, family and friends recognize their increased competence and confidence in building relationships, navigating and facilitating change, working effectively under pressure, and creating the conditions for more productivity and well being in both work and life. They also tell us that they are more capable identifying and deploying their unique skills and gifts that improve their lives and the organizations to which they belong.

Post-Grad Success

Graduates from the MA in Leadership program range in age from their mid-twenties to their early seventies, hailing from all sectors of the economy and representing all levels/titles of positional authority. It is the remarkable diversity of participants who are drawn to this program that creates what graduates describe as the “secret sauce” of this transformative experience.

If you would like to speak with a graduate who shares your background and interests, please let us know by sending us an email: leadership@stmarys-ca.edu.

Key milestones for the MA in Leadership program over the past 15 years include:

  • 2003 - First MA in Leadership cohort completes its program of study
  • 2005 - Over 100 students graduate
  • 2006 - The MA in Leadership undergoes a redesign
  • 2008 - The Leadership Center is launched
  • 2012 - A social justice concentration is added
  • 2014 - Over 500 students graduate
  • 2018 - 44 cohorts of students have enrolled in the MA in Leadership program (and counting!)
  • 2019 - New Curricular Update Incorporating Added Leadership Coaching and Social Justice Elements

A Leadership Learning Portfolio

The learning portfolio is comprised of four elements: a personal Leadership Development Plan, Reflection Papers, Leadership Project Paper, and a Graduate Self Assessment.

Leadership Development Plan

The creation of the leadership development plan (LDP) starts during the first course and continues throughout the program. There are five primary activities for the learner in creating the LDP:

  1. To develop a personal aspirational definition/perspective of leadership.
  2. To track its formation and emergence over the life of the program.
  3. To identify the theory and values informing this definition.
  4. To identify the capacities and skills needed to enact this definition/perspective of leadership in one’s field of practice.
  5. To create actions and practices that promote the development of this leadership in one’s work and life following completion of the program.

Reflection Papers

At the end of each course you will be asked to write a reflection paper discussing how you are connecting the learning between courses and how you are applying the learning. The focus of the Reflection Papers will vary following each course and are intended to support your learning throughout the program — write about what has meaning for you; timely completion of the weaver reflection papers is a requirement for your learning portfolio for graduation.

Leadership Project Paper

The Leadership Project is a culminating and integrating component of the Program. As a capstone spanning the last ten months of the Program, the Leadership Project (also known as the Synthesis Project) invites you to integrate, demonstrate, and synthesize 21st century leadership practices as you identify and carry out a research project for which you have a great passion. You will design, implement and report on a participatory action inquiry and change strategy in response to a problem, issue, opportunity or question within a specific group, institution or community. The project offers you the opportunity to develop new processes and practices for sustainable leadership at the personal and organizational level. You learn through creating the conditions for a collaborative change process and engaging 21st century leadership practices. The Leadership Project Paper describes the research project design, implementation, outcomes, and learnings.

Graduate Self-Assessment

During the final module of the Leadership Program, learners write about their learning experience during the course of the program. The program learning outcomes serve as an organizing frame for the first section of the paper. The other two sections include an assessment of the learner’s personal learning goals and a reflection on the experience of membership in the cohort learning community.