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MS Education and Community Leadership, program in Community Leadership and Justice

*In Fall of 2015, WISR merged the MS degree in Education with the MS degree Community Leadership and Justice, into one degree:  MS in Education and Community Leadership. However, within this new degree program, there are two programmatic tracks—1) Education and 2) Community Leadership and Justice. The two program tracks will have slightly different emphases, as well as common core content (e.g., in the study of action-research, multiculturalism and social change).

Mission and Objectives of MS Program Track in Community Leadership and Justice

Mission of MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice

This is an exceptionally innovative and extremely distinctive program of graduate level and personalized studies, and it aims to prepare students for positions, careers, and/or community involvement in community leadership and creative change–in the professional fields of human services and community development. This program is also well-suited for those wishing to act as community leaders and change agents in small businesses, grassroots community organizations, and activist groups, and as self-employed or retired engaged citizens.  WISR students are strongly motivated people, who find WISR’s learner-centered methods well-suited to their needs and purposes, and who are confident that WISR can help them to achieve a high level of expertise in action-research and in their chosen field(s)—in community leadership and/or education, and their particular areas of professional practice.

This program, like all of WISR’s educational programs, is suited for learners with many different types of future goals, including but not limited to:  changing careers, pursuing advancement in one’s existing career, becoming more capable and more meaningfully engaged in one’s existing job or career niche, or making contributions to others and to the larger community as an unpaid expert drawing on one’ professional knowledge, skill and talents.

WISR’s MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice is aimed to meet the needs of innovatively-minded people who want the responsibility and opportunity to serve as leaders in educating and joining with others to improve their communities, and to do so,while being mindful of such “bigger picture” concerns as social justice, sustainability, and multicultural and class inclusiveness in decision-making. Special emphasis is given to the role of education–particularly to strategies of adult and community education, in leadership and working with others to bring about constructive changes.  Over the years, WISR students, aiming to prepare or further develop themselves as community leaders, have focused on such issues as: improved health education and access to address health disparities, the unmet needs of low-income elders, the challenges facing youth who age out of the foster care system, violence prevention and gang reduction, the potential of urban farming, Native American rights and cultural preservation, the significant and remaining challenges to achieve equality and civil rights for marginalized groups, workplace bullying, gender inequality, domestic violence, mass media and racial discrimination, prison reform, racial profiling, and community economic development, among others.  Sometimes, WISR students focus on one or more aspects of education—from pre-school through high school to higher education, and especially adult and community education.  WISR has attracted creative, dedicated learners concerned with local, as well as national and global, problems and solutions. Across these various interests, many WISR students, and faculty, have worked in different communities, in different types of organizations, and with people of many varied ages, ethnic groups, interests and commitments. Across these various involvements, there have been some recurring themes:  the importance of working on the immediate tasks as well as the “bigger picture,” finding ways to create constructive solutions rather than merely reacting to the prevailing constraints, and developing an awareness of and commitment to diversity and to multicultural inclusiveness.

WISR’s MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice is especially well suited to those interested in becoming skilled and sensitive leaders and community educators, devoted to solving local and immediate problems, while also working for the longer-term, larger social changes.  The program can be valuable for people pursuing careers in non-profit community agencies, small businesses, activist and grassroots organizations, international NGOs, and as self-employed or retired engaged citizens. In particular, WISR encourages people to apply whose purposes and interests re within the scope of our MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice program’s offerings, and who are aiming to develop distinctive career niches for themselves.

Learning Objectives for Students in the MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice

Major learning outcomes for students in this program include:

WISR student, Agnes Morton, working for change with her Overtown community

Agnes Morton working for change with her Overtown community

  • Beginning to define for oneself, and explore, one or more areas of specialization within the field of community leadership and justice, including competence in using some educational methods as part of one’s work.
  • Develop a solid foundation of theoretical and practical knowledge in at least one area of specialization within the field of community leadership and justice—including, but not limited to the domains of community services and development, non-profit organization leadership, small business development and operation, international affairs, local civic affairs, community and adult education, and self-employed consulting.
  • Familiarity with some of the possible innovations in community leadership, including the roles of leadership and education in supporting organizational reforms, community improvements, and larger social changes aimed at supporting democracy, social justice and multiculturalism.
  • Successfully building bridges for oneself to the next important things that the student wishes to be involved in, and accomplish, in her or his life and career.
  • Ability to conduct major projects which can positively contribute to improved practices and knowledge in one’s area(s) of focus related to community leadership and justice, using methods of action-research, especially, qualitative, participatory research.
  • Significant progress in WISR’s core meta-competencies and areas of learning: 1) Critical, Creative, Compassionate, Collaborative/Communal Thinking and Communication; 2) Becoming a Conscious, Intentional, Improvising Learner; 3) Community Leadership and Collaboration; 4) Experience, Competence, Talent, and Knowledge in One’s Chosen Area(s) of Specialization; 5) Participatory Action-Inquiry and Qualitative Research; 6) Awareness of Issues of Justice, Sustainability and Social Change; 7) Multicultural Perspective.

 Admission, Transfer of Credit, Orientation

Admissions

Entering students must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Students with undergraduate degrees from unaccredited institutions may apply for special admission—by submitting evidence of the quality of their previous academic study (e.g., copies of papers, or recommendations from academicians who hold accredited doctoral degrees).  Such applicants may also submit information about successful community projects in which they have played a key role, as well as professional or scholarly papers or projects that they have produced. In these cases, we are looking for evidence that suggest that their previous undergraduate study, and their resulting competencies, are at the level expected of accredited programs. In some cases, such students may be admitted provisionally, and  be on probation for a six-month period, during which time they can demonstrate their preparedness for study in WISR’s MS in Community Leadership and Justice program.

In addition to transcripts of previous academic work, and an affidavit where they attest to the details of their high school graduation or passage of the GED, all applicants must submit a one-page application form, and a brief statement of their interests and reasons for wanting to study in WISR’s MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice, along with two letters of recommendations from academicians, professionals, or community leaders familiar with the student’s accomplishments and abilities.  Quite importantly, all applicants must have an interview with WISR’s President or a faculty member in the MS in Education and Community Leadership and Justice—to determine if WISR’s program will address the student’s needs and purposes, and if there is a good fit between the student’s desired approaches to learning and the “WISR way.”

Transfer of Credits

Entering students may submit for faculty approval, up to 6 semester units of previous Master’s level work, for transfer. Such credit will be subject to the same process and criteria of review that was discussed above under “Admissions.”

Orientation to WISR

All entering MS in Education and Community Leadership students must enroll in a three semester unit course on “Learning the WISR Way.”  In this course, students read articles about WISR’s approach to learning, including self-directed, learner-centered education; discuss these articles with WISR faculty; interview alumni and currently enrolled students to learn more about WISR’s approach to learning.

Description and Goals: “This is an introductory course, required of WISR students in all degree programs, which is designed to enable students to progress more effectively toward the successful completion of the degree program at WISR, so that students can get the most from their WISR education—in pursuing their learning passions and career interests, in developing the core meta-competencies valued at WISR, and in building bridges for themselves to the next significant things they wish to do in their lives.   Students read and study the methods of “Learning the WISR way”–studying the theories and strategies of WISR’s approach to transformative learning for professional and community leadership, as well as learning from stories and specific examples drawn from the experiences of other WISR students.

WISR student, Shyaam Shabaka, with youth at EcoVillage Farm

WISR student, Shyaam Shabaka, with youth at EcoVillage Farm

Also, students are introduced to methods of note-taking and writing in their own voice, as well as the use of professional conventions in formal writing and strategies of effective online research. In this course, students reflect on, discuss and write about what they are learning in the course, and the culminating papers are a reflective autobiographical essay, a preliminary educational plan and a self-assessment inventory of strengths, challenges, needs, and opportunities in the pursuit of their future goals and learning.”

In writing these papers, students must include a statement of how and why WISR’s self-paced, learner-centered methods are appropriate for them—with fewer hours in traditional, large classrooms, and more time spent for 6 or more hours per week in one-on-one mentoring sessions and small group seminar discussions.

Distance learners must include in their autobiographical statement, learning plan, and self-assessment, an analysis of how and why distance learning at WISR is feasible for them, and will result in their being able to meet their needs and accomplish their goals.

These statements are to be discussed, reviewed and approved by at least one member of the WISR faculty.

Finally, this course is also used to introduce and orient new students to 1) WISR’s career center and resources, and 2) WISR’s library resources, the library resources of other libraries and online databases which WISR will enable or help students to access.

Regulations regarding WISR’s MS Program Track in Community Leadership and Justice

Length of Study

The vast majority of WISR students are mature adults with significant work and family responsibilities, time demands and commitments. Most students will progress at a rate approximately equivalent to half-time enrollment.  WISR’s tuition is very affordable, even in comparison to other private institution’s rates for half-time enrollment. All WISR students pay the same tuition, and those students who are able to pursue their studies with an intensity and at a pace comparable to students who are seriously engaged full-time students will very likely be able to graduate in 40 to 50 percent of the estimated time for studies in WISR degree programs.

For many students pursuing a MS degree in Education and Community Leadership the length of study at WISR may be expected to be about 4 years, unless they are able to study at the intensity of a seriously engaged full-time student.* In all cases, faculty will strive to support students in their efforts to complete their degree in a timely manner, while also benefiting from their studies at WISR in ways that will help them build bridges to the next important life goals.

*These program length expectations do not include any time off for leaves of absence due to matters resulting from health issues, family responsibilities or periods of financial hardship.  Each leave of absence must be for a minimum of six months, during which time the student does not pay tuition, and during which time the student may not receive credit for any efforts related to their studies at WISR.  The student pays a $600 re-enrollment fee when resuming their studies.

Faculty review of student progress

An Executive Committee of at least three WISR faculty, will review each student’s progress semi-annually, in consultation with the faculty with whom the student has been most closely working.  The purpose of these reviews is to help students make timely progress toward their degree and their personal and professional career goals.  In conducting these reviews, faculty will be mindful that during the first year or so of study, students at WISR do not typically complete courses at the same rate as they do after that.   When faculty have concerns about a student’s progress, they will negotiate with that student a progress plan for the next six months.  The purpose of the plan will be to enable the student to make better progress, and to assess whether or not it is realistic for the student to succeed in completing the program in a timely fashion.  If, after the end of the six-month progress plan, WISR faculty do not believe that it is realistic that the student can complete the program within reasonable time frame (specifically, 6 to a maximum of 9 years for the doctoral program and for the MFT/LPCC programs, 4 to a maximum of 6 years for the other MS programs, and depending on previous undergraduate work completed, 6 to 9 years or less for the BS  program), then the faculty committee reviewing student progress will recommend that the student be disenrolled.  (Note:  students enrolled prior to July 2014 will have a longer period of time to complete their studies, but they will still be subject to disenrollment if they do not show continual progress.) The student may appeal any decision to WISR’s Board of Trustees. If the student is disenrolled, they will be given an opportunity, after a period of at least six months, to re-apply for admission, if they can make the case that their circumstances and/or ability to complete the program have improved.  If re-admitted, they will be given one six-month period to demonstrate good progress, and they must continue to demonstrate good progress in each subsequent six-month period.

Course Descriptions and Structure of MS Curriculum, for program track in Community Leadership and Justice

 Basic format

Each of the required courses will have some assigned readings designed to give the student an overview of key ideas and issues in that area.  In addition, there will be some recommended readings, and the learner will be asked to write a brief essay or two to discuss their most important thoughts and insights from the readings.  This will constitute about 30% of the course.  The second, and larger, phase of the student’s studies in each course, will grow out of the student’s special interests, resulting in an individually designed project (research and/or action) that focuses both on a topic of strong interest to the student and on some topics addressed in the particular course.  The student will write a substantial paper growing out of the project, and will do a personalized self-assessment that describes and self-assesses the student’s learning in the course.

40th Anniversary w-out 2015

 Course Requirements:

36 semester units of required coursework, electives/independent study/practicum, and thesis.

Required Courses:

MS 501: Learning the WISR Way: Introduction to Transformative Learning for Professional and Community Leadership (3 semester units)

This is an introductory course, required of WISR students in all degree programs, except for the MS in Psychology (leading to the MFT and/or LPCC license), which is designed to enable students to progress more effectively toward the successful completion of the degree program at WISR, so that students can get the most from their WISR education—in pursuing their learning passions and career interests, in developing the core meta-competencies valued at WISR, in fulfilling the learning objectives for their chosen WISR degree program, and in building bridges for themselves to the next significant things they wish to do in their lives.

MS 511: Action-Research Methods for Educators, Other Professionals and Community Leaders  (5 semester units) 

This course involves an in depth study of action-research methods, including specific techniques and the overall logic and perspectives used. It includes qualitative and community-based participatory research for expert use by educators, other professionals, change agents and community leaders. The ultimate goal of the course is to enable the student to learn how to, and also  to be successfully engaged in independently designing and conducting his or her action-research projects, either on her or his own or with a lead role in collaborating with others. This course will explore a variety of ways in which research can be combined with action—for example, in reflecting on the effectiveness of one’s professional practices and community improvement efforts, including how to do program evaluations and community needs assessments, as well as the use of research in formulating new programs and policies. The course will involve a thorough and critical analysis of  key ideas in the logic of research design, including the concepts of validity and reliability—examining parallels between the criteria for rigorous research in the natural sciences and action-research used in professional practice and leadership in areas related to human services, education, community improvement and social change. It includes advanced study of methods of data gathering and analysis using participant observation, interviewing, story telling.

MS 521: Contemporary Issues in Leadership, Justice, and Multiculturalism (5 semester units)

The study of a variety of contemporary issues in community leadership. How do people assume a role of community leader, or of professional or organizational leader? How do leaders address issues of social justice and multiculturalism? What is the value of different types of leadership, expertise, and knowledge? What are the main issues and disagreements about issues of social justice and change, environmental sustainability, racism and multiculturalism? What is the role and nature of leadership in a democratic society, and what does this have to do with concepts such as equality, justice, meritocracy, elitism and excellence. What are current reform movements, and current debates and what are the competing interests and philosophies involved? The course will consider community control, Federal standards and authority, and corporate influence, among other competing interests. What is the impact of the mass media, technology and the internet on leadership and how can good leadership use these constructively?

MS 539: Education, Multiculturalism, Justice and Change (5 semester units)

This course involves a study of formal education, as well as “natural” learning processes in the fabric of societies and cultures, in relation to how education and learning promote or impede multiculturalism. The course engages students in asking questions, such as “what is multiculturalism” and what does this have to do with social justice and optimal human development. The course examines the role of the cultural context in what transpires both in educational institutions, and also in everyday life—and how this impacts learning and human development. It includes the study of the impact on education and learning of such societal forces as colonialism, imperialism,racism, prejudice, sexism and population diversity. Also, the study of the role of education, and liberating learning methods, in addressing such forces. Specifically, critical analysis of ideologies such as “tolerance” and the “meritocracy” as well as an understanding of the dynamics of learning and unlearning racism, and the relevance of the psychological dynamics involved in “internalizing oppressor consciousness.” Finally, the course provides the opportunity to learn multicultural perspectives and experiences about current issues and historical events.

MS 561: Education and Community Leadership in History and Society, and for Social Change (5 semester units)

This course involves the study of theories, methods and practices of community leadership and education in the context of the “bigger picture”—history, society, social philosophy, and the future prospects and challenges for social change. It includes the study of American history, including themes of democracy, social injustices, and multiculturalism, and the relevance of education to these trends and concerns. More specifically, it involves the study of such important topics as globalization, climate change, racism, feminism and societal conflicts. This course draws on enlightenment philosophy, progressive era ideas such as those of John Dewey, the work of Paulo Freire, and the ideologies and philosophies in action of those who have promoted other competing visions for American society. In this context, the course examines the roles of community leadership and of education—as they have been, and as they could be, and students are encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the role of education in creating a better tomorrow.

MS 599: Master’s Thesis (8 semester units)

The Master’s thesis is an in depth study of a topic of strong interest to the student, and one that generally helps the student build bridges for him/herself to the next important things she or he wishes to do with her/his life—as a professional, and a leader. The student makes use of what he or she has learned at WISR about action-research methods to do a serious and substantial inquiry that involves some original data collection by the student. It is an inquiry that is based on action and/or that has action implications of some significance to the student and/or others. In particular, Master’s thesis makes a worthwhile contribution to the professional field.

 

Electives (at least 5 semester units of electives are required):

MS 522: Contemporary Issues in Education (5 semester units)

The study of a variety of contemporary issues in education. How do people learn? What is the value of different types of learning, expertise, knowledge and “intelligence”? How is learning assessed and how can such assessments contribute to or impede learning? What are the main issues and disagreements about successful forms of, and approaches to, education and learning? What is the role and nature of education in a democratic society, and what does this have to do with concepts such as equality, justice, meritocracy, elitism and excellence. What are current reform movements, and current debates and what are the competing interests and philosophies involved? The course will consider community control, Federal standards and authority, and corporate influence, among other competing interests. What is the impact on education of the mass media, technology and the internet?

MS 531: Learner-Centered Education (5 semester units)

The study of learner-centered approaches to education—among adults and children, within schools and colleges, as pat of professional education, and in non-institutional settings in the community and larger society. Includes an examination of such theories and philosophies of education as those of Freire and Dewey. How can educators become more attuned to individual differences, to the needs, purposes and styles of learning of each learner. What strategies and varied practices support learner-centered education?  

MS 581: Community or Professional Practicum/Internship (1 – 6 semester units)

Professional or community practicum/internship. This course gives students the opportunity to gain direct experience in their profession and/or by working in the community further developing their expert professional level skills. Students might work in a community agency, a professional organization, a school, a small business, a public agency or some other, appropriate setting. As part of their internship, the student will also study, critically reflect on, and write about their professional and/or community involvement experiences. As an option, students may also create their own project—for example, providing needed services, training, or assistance to others, under the supervision of a WISR faculty member, and also in some cases, under the supervision of another expert.

MS 585: Directed Independent Study (1 – 5 semester units)

This course gives students the opportunity to study topics that fall within the domain of the MS in Education and Community Leadership at WISR, but that cannot be easily incorporated into existing WISR courses. Or, such study gives students the opportunity to pursue a topic from one of the previous courses in greater depth. The form of independent study projects may vary—they can include, among other methods of learning—library and online research, interviews and observations in the community and other practice settings, creative writing, the use of multimedia, action-research projects, and projects or studies involving technology, among other possibilities. Regardless of the learning modalities used, as part of their independent study, students will critically reflect on, and write about their process and outcomes of their learning. Students have the options of pursuing collaborative projects and studies with other students.

 

Assigning Academic Credit to Courses in WISR’s MS program track in Community Leadership and Justice 

Credit is assigned based on the extent to which a student is expected to demonstrate a substantial level of learning and accomplishment, in a course, thesis or independent study project or practicum, in two broad realms—1) The quantity and quality of the student’s engagement in learning at WISR, and 2) the learning outcomes and competencies demonstrated by the student, based on faculty assessment of student learning–through mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and projects completed, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.

WISR’s expectations for the quantity and quality of student engagement in learning at WISR approximate that of the traditional “Carnegie unit” which grants one semester unit for each 45 hours of participation in learning.  It deviates slightly from the Carnegie unit in that WISR provides approximately 6 hours instead of 15 hours of classroom instruction for each unit earned.  Instead of having large classes and lectures which are less effective than more personalized, learning-centered instructional methods, students at WISR  are typically engaged in at least two hours of personalized mentoring each month, along with four hours (or more, if the student wishes) of small seminar participation–usually a half dozen or so students meeting face to face and/or by phone or video conference with one or two WISR faculty.

In addition to this substantial, high quality engagement in learning at WISR—similar to the well-known Oxford model of education—WISR faculty only award credit if the student’s work indicates learning and competency accomplishments comparable to what students would typically receive for that number of semester units (typically 5 semester units, at WISR) in an accredited program performing at a grade of “B” or higher.  As a further frame of reference, for example, a student earning 5 semester units of credit, must demonstrate that they have completed almost 1/7th (5/36ths) of WISR’s MS in Community Leadership and Justice program.

In addition, in assessing student work, WISR faculty use the above stated programmatic learning outcomes, as well as the outcomes for each particular course, to evaluate student progress as demonstrated by evidence from mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and projects completed, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.

More Information on:

Grading and Awarding Academic Credit

Required Seminar Participation and Annotated Bibliographies

Graduation Review Boards and Assessment of Student Progress