Program of Study

The MA in Leadership program at Saint Mary's College offers a highly regarded, rigorous, and innovative education designed for working professionals from all sectors.

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While the MA in Leadership curriculum is in itself innovative, our program features make it truly unique and valuable.  We offer:

  • A strong focus on practical application  

  • An innovative hybrid learning model for working professionals

  • A cohort model that draws professionals from diverse sectors, industries, backgrounds, and levels of responsibility 

The MA in Leadership provides a supportive, challenging, and transformative learning experience to develop effective leadership needed in today's global world.  Our curriculum consists of 10 courses, or modules.  These courses span theory, skills, and practical application in the area of coaching and facilitation.  The area of emphasis takes leadership philosophy and practice that is right for you and your work, all within the liberal arts traditions of creative analytical thinking, shared inquiry, collaboration, service, social justice, and social responsibility.

The 19-month program requirements include the completion of 10 courses (30 units) and submission of a learning portfolio.

To learn more about what the program offers, check out the following:

An Innovative, Hybrid Online Educational Design

Our courses (modules) are six-to-eight-weeks in length and begin and end with in-person two-day weekend classes.  The format is ideal for learners with work, travel or family commitments that prevent them from attending weekly class sessions.

The online portion of the courses is accessed via a web-based learning management program.  The activities include discussion on readings, individual and small group projects, short reflections, academic papers, and discussion with peers and faculty.

The in-person classes are held on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm.  There are three two-day weekend classes per trimester.  Check out a sample calendar to get a sense of the flow of the program.  The program concludes with a three-day residential executive weekend.

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A Learning Community 

You will join a cohort of learners who move through the 10-course sequence together, allowing you to develop professional and community networks.  The cohort learning community becomes a practice field for the leadership skills and capacities you are learning in the program.  The diversity of the cohort ranges across professions, level in organizations, and social identities, all of which contributes to robust discussions and learning.  

Lyone Conner, one of our graduates, describes her learning community experience in this way: “The learning community was crucial in my leadership development.  The success of my program completion is in part owed to sharing the journey with a diverse group of adults whose mutual initial goal of earning a Master’s degree has blossomed into a personal commitment and concern for humankind.”

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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; and (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.

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MA in Leadership Curriculum

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Module I

Practice of Building a Learning Community

In this course, learners will focus on deepening their skills in the areas of critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and reflection. Learners will also develop their capacity to attend to how they influence others—and are influenced by others, and other elements of becoming a viable learning community.

Module II

Values in Action

Globalization, multiculturalism, technological advances, and the ever-turbulent nature of organizational life require new kinds of knowledge and skills on the part of leaders.  This course seeks to provide foundational knowledge toward developing practical knowledge in leadership suitable to the 21st century through the exploration of personal values, beliefs and worldviews and the role they play in our individual and collective lives.

Module III

Leadership and Systems Change

This course lays the groundwork for understanding and practicing a new paradigm of leadership; one that promotes meaningful systems change to transform people and their institutions toward a state of flourishing.  Incorporating several key ideas, experiences and practices from the previous two courses, this course provides a deep and expansive exploration of contemporary leadership frameworks and theories, their underlying values and world-views. By delving more deeply into established leadership theories and perspectives, learners enhance their practice of leadership, taking to heart the oft-quoted view of the pioneering social psychologist Kurt Lewin, who said, “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” 

Module IV

The Art and Science of Coaching: Principles, Processes and Competencies

This course draws upon the variety of disciplines that inform the practice of coaching, such as psychology, adult learning, communication, and human performance to acquaint the learner with the theories, models, and skills needed to effectively coach individuals and/or groups. The course offers ample opportunities for learners to explore the craft of coaching, to develop their skills, and their unique style. The course also focuses on the practice of coaching in organizational life and leadership, as a particular expression of leadership and a pathway for developing others. Attention to how coaching links with organizational goals and culture, as well as designing and learning from results­ oriented actions, is explored as well.

Module V

Building Cross Cultural Capacity

The purpose of this course is to 1) deepen our awareness of the complexity of cross-cultural issues and develop skills to engage other people successfully across these differences; and 2) develop capacity to value and approach differences requires a willingness to move across a line, or boundary, which defines that difference.

Module VI

Team Coaching and Group Facilitation

In this highly practical course, learners become acquainted with the theories, methods, and techniques of effective facilitation in meetings and in groups. The course examines the various types and ingredients of facilitation, and the role of group dynamics and development involved. By engaging the learner's experience and opportunities for practice, the course helps identify and enhance one's unique approach to group and meeting facilitation, while increasing one's competence and confidence. Attention to how to design agendas, make appropriate interventions, address conflict, and foster collaboration are also explored. In addition, the course introduces a framework for ongoing practitioner development in effective group and meeting facilitation.

Module VII

Sustainable Organizational Change

This module is designed to provide learners with the assessment, learning, and research tools necessary to effect sustainable change in their own organizations.  Participants will learn in greater depth about two specific inquiry strategies - action research and cooperative inquiry—and will have the opportunity to practice one of them.

Module VIII

Applied Leadership

The Applied Leadership course invites learners to integrate, demonstrate, and synthesize 21st century leadership practices as they carry out a research project in which they have a compelling interest. Continuing the work in the course Sustainable Organizational Change, learners will design and implement a case-study project using an action learning for leadership (ALL) methodology on a topic that addresses a need, problem, issue, opportunity, or question within a specific group, institution, or community. While drawing on the processes, values, skills, and theories learned in the M.A. in Leadership Program, the project offers the opportunity to practice 21st century leadership at the personal and organizational level. The case-study project  serves to enhance the learner's exisiting practice of leadership in their life and work, as well as prepare them for new opportunities to expand their practice of leadership in new roles and fields.

Module IX

Leadership, Systems and Interdependence

As an integrative course near the end of the MA in Leadership program, Leadership, Systems and Interdependence draws upon elements from many of the courses that precede it, including:  Leadership and Systems Change, Building Cross-Cultural Capacity, Sustainable Organizational Change, The Art and Science of Coaching and Team Coaching and Group Facilitation.

Module X

The Future of Leadership

In this module learners examine ways of implementing change in their organizations, with an emphasis on employing the 21st Century Leadership practices. As an alternative to leader-driven change, learners will explore ways of using various strategies of engagement based on genuine human participation and interaction on both a micro and a macro level.


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