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Gain a deeper understanding of effective leadership in organizations coupled with principles of human behavior and social relationships.

The Master of Science in Organizational Leadership is a graduate degree for those interested in moving into or advancing in leadership positions in the nonprofit, and public sector or governmental organizations and in higher education administration and student services.

What Our Program Offers You

What our students learn/Skills you will acquire

This program prepares you to move from entry-level to leadership roles in a range of professions, especially nonprofit, public sector or governmental organizations and in higher education. With a focus on ethical leadership (not “management”), social relations and public policy, well-grounded and program development, delivery, assessment, you are widely prepared across essential skill sets, with a deep examination of a chosen field of practice.

You will experience active learning with our student-centered, inquiry-driven, problem oriented approach and gain an understanding of human and social factors influences action in organizational settings, grounded in organizational mission. We focus on a “servant-leadership model” and in institutions of public trust. Our flexible program design allows you to customize it to your specific area of interest.

You will explore:

  • leadership in institutions of public trust
  • strategic planning
  • policy and ethics
  • program development and assessment 
  • financial aspects of nonprofit and public sector organizations
  • problem-based practitioner research skills

What kind of issues/problems does this major prepare you to solve?

Most of our students come from human services, public sector and governmental organizations, from higher education institutions (student services and academic support), nontraditional programs and organizations, and public safety/ security services. Our ability to draw from a range of courses both within the School of Education and Human Development and across a number of academic units within the university allows you to design a program that is inter- and trans-disciplinary. This approach allows you to develop a unique approach to your program of study and to creative approaches to providing services in nonprofit and public sector organizations.

Our program prepares you to develop specific rather than generalized approaches to achieving the missions of your workplace, and enabling thoughtful responses to social change in innovative ways.

What makes our program unique?

Our active learning, cohort model allows learning to be enhanced by the experiences and perspectives of others in the cohort, not simply from the instructor to the student. Our goal is to allow you the chance to develop unique and specific approaches programming consistent with the mission of organization of your organization. We focus on being responsive to social change and innovation, and offer advising tailored to your prior experiences and particular interests.

Shenandoah University values the process of instruction (learning to learn) over the end product of education (learning facts). We implement the standards for professional practice in a learner-centered environment that research has identified to be successful.

Individualized concentrations may build on the substantive experience you’ve acquired in a particular professional field, and concentration courses can be completed over a two-year period. Your capstone experience may consist of a Practitioner Research Project addressing an important concern within your area of responsibility, or a Directed Study, allowing you to concentrate on a very specific question important to your field and profession.

Course Requirements

This is a 33 credit degree program.

Program Core

Foundations of Organizational Leadership
Strategic Planning & Evaluation in Public and Nonprofit Organizations
Policy & Ethics in Public and Nonprofit and Public Organizations
Financial Planning & Management in Public and Nonprofit Settings

Inquiry Core

Outcomes Assessment & Statistical Applications in  Programs Assessment
Action Research Methods
Action Research Project

Capstone (choose one):

Action Research Project
Directed Study


Individualized Studies
12 coherent credits related to the topic of leadership approved by the program head.


John R. Goss, III

Professor, Research & Social Analysis
Full Biography »

H. Jurgen Combs

Professor of Education, Leadership Studies
Full Biography »