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The WCOLUMBUS, Miss. – In fall 2014, Mississippi University for Women will offer its master of arts in women’s leadership, which will give students the opportunity to use knowledge of women’s issues as a force for change in today’s world.


“This graduate degree will be interdisciplinary and although students will study theoretical backgrounds, it will emphasize application and experiential learning,” said Dr. Bridget Smith Pieschel, director of the Center for Women’s Research and Public Policy and of Women’s Studies. “At the heart of this degree is a women’s leadership practicum requirement.”

“A commitment to improving the social, economic and public policies supporting women is a more important admission criterion than a background in a particular academic discipline,” Pieschel added.

The practicum will offer opportunities beyond the classroom in women’s centers, businesses, non-profits, community arts councils and museums, legal offices, domestic violence shelters and more.

The interdisciplinary program will provide research opportunities and educational exposure to leadership theory, multiple perspectives and cross-disciplinary scholarship modeled by faculty at The W who are already experienced researchers and writers on women’s issues in health, education, law, history, literature, management, entrepreneurship, medicine and government.

A subcommittee of women’s studies graduate faculty, including at least one faculty member from the graduate program in educational leadership, will interview all applicants to the program, will plan and develop seminars, coordinate course offerings, approve internship applications, thesis proposals and theses.

Applicants must meet the admissions standards set by the MUW Office of the Graduate School.

Students are required to complete 33 graduate hours including three hours in a practicum/field experience and three hours in a capstone project report/thesis. Some of the core courses include Leadership Inquiries, Research Methodology; Leadership Principles and Change Theory; Special Topics Seminar in Women’s Issues; Gender Issues in Health; Cross Cultural Management; and Educational Leadership.

The master of arts in women’s leadership is a part of the university’s overall efforts to redesign its offerings to expand leadership training to students across disciplines and across campus.

According to Dr. Kate Brown, director of the Office of Outreach and Innovation at The W, the university is engaged in a process of defining a leadership framework that can benefit more students.

“It is an exciting opportunity to involve the business community, as well as our own faculty, staff and students, in determining goals and structure going forward,” she said. “At this point, we are only limited by our imagination in the goal of broadly involving students in leadership development activities.”

She said their first step was to involve all key stakeholders in the process.

“We wanted to consider the needs and expectations of the employers who hire W graduates as well as the leadership development interests of students,” Brown explained.

Both an external advisory committee and an on-campus committee are at work to define key skill sets, as well as curricular and professional development opportunities in what Brown expects to be a two-year process of developing new programs.

This past summer, The W also hosted the Mississippi NEW Leadership residential program on campus.

In partnership with the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service, based in Starkville, Mississippi NEW Leadership  is a nonpartisan program designed to develop foundational leadership skills for college women. The national program was developed by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and now is at 17 universities nationwide.

Students enrolled in the new master’s program will be given the opportunity to work with existing programming at The W, including Mississippi NEW Leadership.

Brown said the results of every university self-study over the past 25 years show that leadership development is a unique and valued element of a W education.

“Every student who studies at this institution should have opportunities to gain leadership skills that help them understand and negotiate the demands of a rapidly changing workplace,” she said. “The W provides outstanding academic preparation, and a strong and broad-based program in leadership development will ensure our graduates have value-added skills to make them stand out to future employers.”

The degree was approved by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning at its monthly meeting in February. The program start date is pending acceptance by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Learn more about the Master of Art in Women's Leadership program at www.muw.edu/womensleadership.