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We believe that students' own passions and experiences should guide their learning. Therefore, our courses offer flexibility for students to examine areas of particular interest within each topic. The Master's Project and internship experience(s) give students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the higher education issues that are most important to them.

The master's degree requires twelve courses: five core courses, one leadership course, three courses taken for the master's research project, the internship course (unless waived), and two electives (three electives if the internship course is waived).

MSHE Core Courses (5 courses)

Proseminar in Higher Education

This introductory course focuses on current and ongoing issues in the American higher education system. Students are introduced to a variety of areas of professional endeavor, such as enrollment management, student affairs, athletics administration and others. They explore major issues and policies, including affirmative action, college access, and governance and mission of different institutional types. They also have the opportunity to meet senior-level professionals in a variety of higher education positions.

The College Student

This introductory course explores the characteristics of today’s college students and reviews the literature on student development theory, which describes the developmental challenges (e.g., cognitive, psychosocial and identity) facing college students and how students change while in college. A secondary focus looks at how multiple identities influence student development. Students have opportunities to apply theory to practice.

Law and Ethics in Higher Education

Legal professionals guide students through legal and ethical issues of higher education administration. Topics include the framework of federal, state and local laws that apply to higher education institutions; the legal difference between public and private institutions; tort liability and negligence; constitutional rights; civil rights; discrimination and harassment; FERPA and student privacy; discipline; affirmative action; athletics and Title IX; student disability accommodations; campus crime; homeland security issues; and off-campus study programs.

Higher Education Policy

This course examines theories about the public policy process and their applications in analyzing policy areas of major importance to higher education (e.g., student aid, tax incentives for charitable giving, scientific research and affirmative action). It provides future higher education administrators with a basic understanding of higher education policy and its impact on the institutional policies and operations of colleges and universities in the United States.

Choose One of the Following

Budgeting and Finance in Higher Education

The budget process in colleges and universities is addressed comprehensively, along with the impact of budget activities on all areas of institutional planning and operations. Students enhance their ability to write and speak effectively regarding issues related to budget and finance.

Assessment in Higher Education

Students examine how assessment can be used to improve higher education. The content includes a review of a variety of methodological approaches as well as the public policy context that is bringing assessment to the forefront of the nation’s educational agenda. Students develop a framework for thinking about the circumstances under which assessment and evaluation can be successfully conducted to promote educational quality.

Leadership Course (1 course)

Structure, Governance and Leadership in Higher Education

This course provides students an opportunity to understand the structure and governance of colleges and universities and the characteristics of leadership in these institutions. Students explore the potential and limits of presidential leadership as well as competing and complementary forces, both internal and external.

Developing & Coaching Leadership: Fundamentals of Learning Strategies

The objective of this course is to learn how to develop leadership for students and with others, especially in the context of higher education. It is organized to allow students to answer three questions: (1) What are the fundamentals of effective leadership development? (2) What learning strategies work best for my own leadership development? (3) How can I effectively coach and develop leadership in others?

Advancing Diversity and Inclusion Through Intentional Leadership and Organizational Change

To effectively lead initiatives that support the needs of higher education organizations and their diverse students, faculty, staff, employees, customers, and stakeholders, we must have a solid understanding of how individual identities and institutional/organizational and structural inequities impact experiences. In this course, students are expected to analyze and discuss bias, power, privilege, and marginalization on individual and systemic levels. This course focuses on understanding and practicing the critical elements of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) work through assessment, strategic planning, initiative alignment, and influencing organizational change.

Master’s Research Project (3 courses)

Research I: Question Development and Literature Review

Students identify the central question that will guide their research. Often, the research question grows out of a student's own experiences in college, at work or during an internship. Students then complete a literature review to assess previous research and create a data collection plan to help answer the Master's Project question.

Research II: Research Methodology and Data Collection

Students learn data collection methods, including surveys, interviews, observation and archival analysis. Students then collect data and begin to summarize and analyze that collected data.

Research III: Analysis, Interpretation and Dissemination

Students learn how to systematically analyze those data. The final course of the Master's Project sequence culminates with a written research report and formal presentation of findings.

Internship (1 course)

Navigating the Organization and Your Career

Internships allow you to connect classroom learning to real-world implications in professional practice. Work opportunities can be labeled as Internships or Graduate Assistantships, depending on the office, but no matter what they are called, internships should give you an opportunity to gain practical experience, set goals for your professional development, reflect on your desired professional setting, and prepare for job interviews. The internship course is intended for students to develop professional skills and experiences associated with their internship environments.

Students with previous or current work experience in Higher Education may waive the internship requirement.

Elective Courses (2 or 3 courses)

Electives Overview

Students take two electives (or three, if the internship is waived). While Higher Education Administration and Policy offers elective courses each year, students may also take a variety of graduate-level courses at Northwestern University as an elective, provided they can explain the relevance of the course to their studies. Many students study topics such as athletics administration, organizational development, non-profit management, counseling, sociology, psychology and statistics. Not all elective courses are offered every year, and new special topics courses may be offered.

Crisis Management and Mental Health Issues

This course addresses different crises and mental health issues on university campuses. Students examine the concept of crisis (types and stages), the relationship to legal obligations, communication, and the prevalent mental health issues on U.S. campuses. Real case studies will be discussed using a crisis response model.

Enrollment Management Theory and Practice

Students are introduced to enrollment management as it is practiced in institutions of higher learning in the U.S., with a special emphasis on the admissions process at selective schools. While providing a broad overview, this course will engage students in a “deep-dive” of contemporary and controversial topics including access and equity, college rankings, bias and discrimination, standardized tests and “non-cognitive” variables, race and ethnicity in selective admission, financial aid and enrollment management tools.

Assessment in Higher Education

Students examine how assessment can be used to improve higher education. The content includes a review of a variety of methodological approaches as well as the public policy context that is bringing assessment to the forefront of the nation’s educational agenda. Students develop a framework for thinking about the circumstances under which assessment and evaluation can be successfully conducted to promote educational quality.

Global Issues and Strategic Partnerships

This course examines the "global university" and the role of higher education institutions in addressing global priorities through international partnerships. We analyze the leadership of administrators and faculty in creating the agenda for internationalization and the support of offices throughout campus. Case studies and institutional strategies in theory and practice will focus on transformative partnership models that advance reciprocity and academic quality. Governmental and non-governmental organizations with programs directed to international higher education also will be considered. Recent adjustments made in the field during the COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed.

Additional Elective Choices

Students can also choose graduate-level courses in other Northwestern University schools and programs as elective courses (pending advisor approval, course availability and permission from these programs). Past students have taken courses in areas such as athletics administration, counseling, educational policy, nonprofit management, organizational development, psychology, sociology and research methods.

Next Steps

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