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Program Title

Master of Arts (MA) in Educational Leadership and Societal Change 

Program Description

The MA Program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change answers the need for global leaders with the practical skills and experience, foundational knowledge, and ethical commitments necessary to achieve lasting and effective societal change within the field of education, including but not limited to the classroom learning environment. Education takes place across a multiplicity of institutions—social, cultural, political, and economic—all of which have a profound bearing on our schools and the type of future citizens they produce. 

The program takes an ecological approach to education, one that, as Lawrence Cremin wrote over thirty years ago, “views educational institutions and configurations in relation to one another and to the larger society that sustains them and is in turn affected by them.” As such, the MA program, like its home institution, Soka University of America, is global in scope introducing students to the comparative and international dimensions of education.

Students study and conduct research into the historical roots of educational policies and problems as well as on the relationship between educational philosophies and practices and contemporary social, political, economic and cultural developments. Related areas of study include comparative and international education, multicultural education, educational psychology, gender and education, school administration policy and practice, and educational law.

Courses include a fieldwork component, including a summer-long research internship that provides students with hands-on opportunities to shadow administrators, analyze organizational dynamics, and evaluate curriculum.  Under the supervision of a principal professor, students integrate their fieldwork and educational research to produce a master’s thesis for graduation.

The program is designed to prepare students for advanced degrees (e.g., PhD or EdD) and for leadership roles in public and private schooling, governmental and non-governmental organizations, or as an entrepreneur, particularly in the growing area of educational media and publishing. Graduates are in excellent positions to initiate leadership in K-12 classroom settings, pursue supplementary state credentialing requirements for managerial positions as principals and vice principals or as administrators at the district-level, and work in public policy institutions around the world. 

 Please note:

This program is not a credential program.  It does not qualify students for the State of California Teaching Credential or for the State of California Administrative Services Credential. Those students seeking teacher and/or administrative credentialing in California or elsewhere may consult the Program Director.

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Program Highlights

In the course of their studies students:


Course Sequence (2014-2016)



Course #

Course Title



YEAR ONE (2014-15)

Fall Block


EDU 501

Educational Leadership and Societal Change: A Comparative Perspective




Fall Semester


EDU 503

History and Philosophy of Education





EDU 505

Leadership: Theory and Practice





EDU 507

Law and Policy in Education




Winter Block


EDU 502

Ethnographies of School Administration




Spring Semester


EDU 504

International and Comparative Education





EDU 506

Democratic Theory and Organizational Change





EDU 508

Educational Research Methods (I)





Six-Week Summer Internship/Field Research



YEAR TWO (2015-16)

Fall Block


EDU 511

Research Methods (II): The MA Proposal




Fall Semester



EDU 515

Psychology of Education





EDU 517

Educational Assessment: Institutions, Programs, and Learners 




Winter Block


EDU 512

Leadership and Societal Change Invited Speakers Series




Spring Semester


EDU 513

Curriculum: Status, Issues, and Trends



EDU 520

MA Thesis







Total units: 40


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Pedagogical Methods

Regular semester-long courses – lecture, group work, discussion, library research, etc. These courses are taught in a more-or-less traditional graduate seminar format in which students read and discuss both common and individual readings, pursue a research project under the direction of a professor/mentor, and provide regular progress-reports to the class as a whole for commentary and input.

EDU 501 Educational Leadership and Societal Change: A Comparative Perspective and EDU 502 Ethnographies of School Administration are both taught in a three-week block period. Students take these courses exclusively; they meet for a required three hours per day in what is essentially a workshop/colloquium consisting of lecture, student presentation, writing-intensive group discussion, and case study development. EDU 512 Leadership and Societal Change: Invited Speakers Series also takes place in the block and is designed to expose students to former and current senior teachers, administrators, research scientists, and other individuals with a proven record of leadership in the reform of schools and society. Students work with a master change agent to develop their own reform models, testing these models against real problems and controversies in the world of education, especially as they affect the larger society.

EDU 520 MA Thesis – independent research combined with library and field research

Mission and Learning Objectives

The SUA Graduate School strives to provide an academic setting that nurtures men and women from a variety of cultures and national backgrounds, who seek to learn from shared experiences. The School also strives to develop critical thinking and learning and to foster a commitment to lifelong learning. To this end, the School emphasizes small class sizes that cultivate close and informal relationship between teachers and students, rigorous academic endeavors, free and open dialogue, and an appreciation for human diversity. 

The mission of Soka University of America’s Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Societal Change program is to provide graduate-level students with the broad interdisciplinary knowledge, research skills, and practical experience for cutting-edge leadership in the all-inclusive world of education, locally, nationally, and internationally.

Upon completion of the MA in Educational Leadership and Societal Change program, students are expected to be able to:

1. Assess and manage barriers to school change—including de jure and de facto legal policies, curricular practices, traditional learning theories, relations between teachers and administrators, parents and schools, schools and society—and develop strategies to overcome them, including case methods of organizational and psychological change that are sensitive to wide variations in local needs and concerns, actors and agents;

2. Take demonstrable leadership, informed by an understanding of the historic relations between school and society, for the improvement of education and educational systems in an increasingly global, interdependent world.  Grounded in the social and psychological relations of education broadly construed, assume leadership around shared learning, teaching, and administrative goals and objectives;

3. Assess and measure the relative strengths and weaknesses of alternate models of school administration and leadership past and present;  

4. Demonstrate in written, oral, and visual forms of communication the knowledge and skills conducive to learning environments that value diversity, life-long learning, the mentoring skills of teachers, innovative and ethical decision-making at all levels, and the successful achievement of all school-aged youth;

5. Conduct advanced research (secondary as well as primary; qualitative as well as quantitative) that can draw lessons, historical or otherwise, for contemporary educational policies and practices, especially as they entail and/or inhibit societal change both nationally and internationally.

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Program Duration

This is a full-time program—i.e., students will be enrolled on a full-time basis (9 or more credits per semester).  It will take 2 years to complete the program, which requires 39 semester credits to graduate. 

New students begin in each fall and do not join an existing cohort, since coursework is sequential.  

The first entering class will start the program in August of 2014.


Program Director

John M. Heffron, PhD

Full and Part-Time Teaching Faculty

John M. Heffron, Professor of Educational History and Culture, Graduate School, Soka University of America; author of Leadership for Development: What Globalization Demands of Leaders Seeking Change and “Toward a Cybernetic Pedagogy: The Cognitive Revolution and the Classroom, 1948 - Present," Educational Theory.

Rebecca Tarlau, Visiting Professor of Educational Leadership and Societal Change. Her research analyzes the relationship between social movements, the state, and education, contributing to debates about state-society relations, participatory governance, international and comparative education, and Freirean pedagogies. Selected publications include “From a Language to a Theory of Resistance: Critical Pedagogy, the Limits of ‘Framing,’ and Social Change,” Educational Theory; “Coproducing Rural Public Schools in Brazil: Contestation, Clientelism and the Landless Workers’ Movement,” Politics & Society; “Not-So-Public Contention: Movement Strategies, Regimes, and the Transformation of Public Institutions in Brazil,” Mobilization.


Visiting Distinguished Faculty

Jeffrey S. Brooks is Professor of Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. He is a J. William Fulbright Senior Scholar alumnus who has conducted studies in the United States and the Philippines. His research focuses broadly on educational leadership, and he examines the way leaders influence (and are influenced by) dynamics such as racism, globalization, distributed leadership, social justice and school reform.

Emily Wolk received her Ph.D. in Education from Claremont Graduate University with an emphasis in research methodology.  Emily taught in both public and private schools for nearly 20 years prior to moving to her current position as an Educational Research Analyst for a large urban school district.    In her current position as a research analyst, she conducts program evaluation and research related to student achievement, English learners and effective instructional practices. She has been teaching at the university level since 1997.   

Fenwick English, R.Wendell Eaves Sr. Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; 2013 recipient of the Living Legend Award from the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration; author of The Art of Educational Leadership: Balancing Performance and Accountability.


Program Cost

The total program cost to graduate students will mirror tuition, room and board fees charged to the undergraduate program, which is estimated to be $28,510 tuition and $11,134 room and board for the 2014-15 academic year.
Highly qualified applicants will be considered for the Soka University of America Scholarship(s). This scholarship is awarded each year based on merit as determined during the admissions process. The top ranking applicant(s) who accepts the admission offer will receive the scholarship award.  Scholarship awards are renewable annually and subject to the student’s continued Satisfactory Academic Progress. Recipient(s) will be informed when the admissions process is complete of any amount they have been awarded.  (Also see Financial Aid Services.)

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