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M.Ed. Higher Education

Program Components

Core Courses (16 credits)

The core of our program emphasizes social justice and the multifaceted and critical role that postsecondary institutions play in a democratic, pluralistic, and complex society. Required courses for all students are as follows:

  • ED 640G - Diversity and Social Justice
  • ED 630G - Higher Education in American Society
  • GRAD 590 - Capstone
  • Applied Social Justice Course (4 options to choose from)

Areas of Concentration and Electives (12 credits)

Leadership and Organizational Development
  • Student Development
  • Counseling and Advising
  • Financial Management in Higher Education
  • The College Student Experience
  • First Generation College Student
  • Financial Management in Higher Education
  • Leadership Theory and Practice
  • Organizational Theory and Practice in Higher Education
  • University-Community Relations 

Students in the Fellowship program work 25 hours a week (average) in their assigned fellowship setting. Fellows also meet regularly in a seminar with an experienced practitioner to reflect upon the experience and document skill and competency development. Fellows will receive 4 credits for their Fellowship and seminar (2 credits each semester), and will select one additional elective to complete their program.

Students who are not participating in the Fellowship program will select two (2) additional electives to complete their program.

Traditional students (part-time or full-time) who do not currently work in a higher education setting are required to participate in an Assistantship for 10-12 hours per week and accompanying seminar and will receive 2 credits per semester for this work. The Assistantship provides students with hands-on experience that directly relates to their academics and may serve as the platform for the capstone.


All students will complete a capstone experience – an original research project designed in partnership with a relevant campus office or service. Your capstone can be practice- or policy-focused. Each student will choose an area of interest related to their career goals, and focused on creating change in Higher Education. The capstone course is the culminating experience of the master’s program.

Program Sequence

To help students plan their courses in the Higher Education program, below is a chart of expected offerings of required courses and electives.  A minimum of ten (10) students is required for a course to be offered.  Required courses are designated with an asterisk (*).

ED 610G - Research Methods      x  
ED 620G - College Student Retention and Success       x
ED 630G - Higher Education in American Society *   x    
ED 640G - Diversity and Social Justice * x x x  
ED 667G - University-Community Relations x      
ED 671G - Theories of Adult Learning and Development       x
ED 676G - College Teaching and Learning       x
ED 680G - Introduction to Community Colleges (not offered in 2017)      
ED 683G - Gender in Education       x
ED 691G - Community Engagement: Theory and Practice      
GRAD 590 - Capstone *       x
HED 505G - College Student Development & Theory     x x
HED 516G - Financial Management in Higher Education       x
HED 540G - Higher Education Law & Policy     x  
HED 546G - Leadership Theory and Practice in Higher Education       x
HED 555G - College Counseling & Advising     x  
HED 565G - First Generation College Student Experience     x  
HED 570G - Internationalization of Higher Education x      
HED 575G - Organizational Theory and Change in Higher Education     x  
HED 585G - Higher Education Policy and Practice in Ireland       x
HED 560G -  Fellowship/Assistantship      x  x
ED 580G - Directed Study     x x

Course Descriptions

ED 610G - Research Methods 

This elective course introduces students to the process of educational research. Students will learn about the characteristics of specific research designs, including qualitative and quantitative research, mixed-­methods and program evaluation. The course will have a heavy focus on conducting effective literature reviews and designing research studies, and will provide students with foundational knowledge in research methods for higher education.

ED 620G – College Student Retention and Success 

As the higher education landscape changes in response to shifting college student demographics, rising tuition costs, reduced levels of public funding and increased student debt, institutions must adapt and change to meet new challenges. In response, colleges and universities have moved from a focus on providing access to an emphasis on students’ success in reaching educational goals and attaining a degree. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to analyze the historical and scholarly context of college student retention and success, describe how public and institutional policy influence college student retention and success, explain the external pressures on colleges to retain and graduate students, the importance of change leadership and the strategies institutions can take to improve student retention and success.

ED 630G -­ Higher Education in American Society 

This required course examines key contemporary issues in higher education, focusing primarily on the American higher educational system. The course provides a historical context and emerging trends, with topics ranging from mission and vision, structure and governance, the funding of public and private institutions, demographic trends, characteristics of faculty, students and curricula, public perceptions of higher education, and the increasing regulatory role of government and accrediting agencies.

ED 640G - Diversity and Social Justice

This required course will focus on social justice education (SJE) in the PreK-16 educational system. Its purpose is to develop a theoretical, conceptual, pedagogical, scientific and curricular foundation for SJE across all educational-­type settings. Students examine systemic and curricular approaches to SJE in educational settings and develop a framework for implementing social justice programs across schools and communities.

ED 667G - University-­Community Relations

This course is an exploration of patterns of communication, interaction, and relationships between institutions of higher education and their local and regional communities. The course examines how historical, social, cultural, and political forces impact such relationships and interactions, and how various iterations of power and influence play out between colleges and communities. We will think about such relations within the context of the media and the press, the goals of community development and change, and the role of the university in its engagement with the public sphere.

ED 671G - Theories of Adult Learning and Development

Community Engagement Course, permission needed to enroll

This course examines the research of adult learning theories, including such topics as aptitude, motivation, cognitive development, psycho-­social development, intelligence, and learning styles through the prisms of gender, ethnicity, race and social class. The course looks at implications for the teaching and learning process, curriculum design, and instructional practices. The course also provides an overview of relevant developmental issues, with specific implications for applied settings.

ED 676G - College Teaching and Learning

Spring This course provides an introduction to the teaching strategies and learning paradigms typically used in postsecondary education. Issues addressed in this course include curriculum design and development, assessment, syllabus construction, and the implications of multiple factors -­ such as technology, student diversity and backgrounds, online environments, and the changing nature of faculty work as it relates to teaching in the college classroom. Students in this course will participate in a weekly practicum with faculty in the College, and will co-­teach an undergraduate course where they will participate in instruction, assessment, and course planning activities.


ED 680G - Introduction to Community Colleges

This course explores the purposes, functions, curriculum, organization and administration of community colleges in the United States. Given that the community college is a significant element in the structure of higher education in America today, this course examines both internal dynamics – student life, faculty work, administrative structure – as well as external dynamics with key stakeholders such as K-­12 schools, 4-­year institutions of higher education, and the school-­to-­work pipeline.

ED 683G - Gender in Education

How does gender affect our experiences with education? What educational environments support the growth and development of students of all genders? What differences does gender make with respect to teaching and learning, and both inside and outside of the classroom engagement? These questions are central to understanding the role that gender plays in education. This course will examine educational theory, practice, and policy through the lens of gender identity and equity across the K-­16 spectrum, and will focus on creating educational interventions for sexual assault awareness week. This class is cross-­listed in Women’s and Gender Studies (EDU 4683) for both graduates and advanced undergraduate students

ED 691G - Community Engagement: Theory and Practice

Community Engagement course, permission needed to enroll

This course examines the contemporary community engagement movement, e.g., service learning, civic and community engagement, community-based research in K-­12 and higher education. It explores key programmatic issues such as course development, student outcomes, and community partnerships as well as core theoretical questions, such as whether service learning should be mandated. (This is a required course for the Community Engagement program; limited spaces will be available to Higher Education students.)

GRAD 590 - Capstone

The required capstone project serves as the culminating academic project within the masters of education pathway. It offers an opportunity to explore a key educational issue (PK-­16) through an in-­depth research paper wherein prior coursework or classroom based experiences allow the author to synthesize and deepen his or her understanding on that topic. The Capstone Project may be theoretical, practical or action research-­based. More details about this course will be covered in the fall.

HED 505G - College Student Development Theory

The college years are a time of significant personal, psychosocial, and cognitive growth for students, as they encounter and navigate various challenges typical to emerging adulthood. This course will familiarize students with the major theories of college students’ development, and explore the creation of environments and contextual factors that facilitate this growth. Multicultural identity development will also be a focus of this course.

HED 516G - Financial Management in Higher Education

The fiscal management of higher education is determined by a complex process of prioritization, resource acquisition, and resource allocation. This course will introduce the major concepts and practices related to the funding of higher education, and engage students in applied methods of budgeting and financial management.

HED 540G - Higher Education Law and Policy

What is the role of American higher education in a democracy? This course will seek to locate this inquiry in the major developments of educational law and public policy, with a particular emphasis in 20th and 21st century case law and its implications for colleges and universities. Major case law pertaining to educational access, academic freedom, college and university liability, and campus civil unrest will be the emphasis. Public policy and college/university practice implications of case law will be explored.

HED 546G - Leadership Theory and Practice in Higher Education

Leadership in higher education is dynamic, often defying simple theoretical explanation or consistently applied platitudes. The diversity of leadership roles in higher education demand a wide variety of styles and strategies. Students will be acquainted with leadership theory in higher education as it is practiced by governing boards, administration, faculty, and other stakeholders, and will develop a leadership philosophy reflecting the core components of visionary leadership in the face of change.

HED 555G - College Counseling and Advising

Student affairs educators are frequently called upon to support students as individuals during times of personal and academic challenge. In order to facilitate learning, agency, and growth, basic counseling skills (e.g. Active listening, motivational interviewing, and values clarification) are essential to good practice. This course will introduce students to introductory counseling theory and methods and will include practical exposure to identifying college students’ presenting concerns, responding appropriately and developmentally, and making referrals.

HED 565G - First Generation College Student Experience

First-­generation (G-1) college students are defined by the National Center for Education. Statistics as “undergraduates whose parents never enrolled in a postsecondary education.” This course is a practical and theoretical overview of what it means to be the “first in the family” to go to college. Students will be exposed to the practical perspective to university life of G-1 students, highlighting the many resources available on college campuses necessary for G-­1 students to succeed. Topics covered will include the challenges of balancing life and school; financial aid and financial literacy; educational and experiential learning goals; importance for students to understand academic discourse and university in order to succeed as first generation students; family dynamics; cultural and social capital; and imposter phenomenon.

HED 570G - Internationalization of Higher Education

In this course students will identify the significance of internationalization and global engagement in higher education and explore their own local and global citizenship. We will begin by examining current trends, challenges, and opportunities related to student mobility in the United States, including study abroad and international student services. We will then discuss best practices and design innovative strategies to internationalize colleges and universities with intentionality through: supporting and engaging international students, increasing participation in meaningful study abroad experiences, and fostering opportunities to develop global awareness and appreciation and intercultural competency. We will approach these issues through various lenses, including: enrollment management; academic affairs; student affairs; fiscal affairs and organizational structures.

HED 575G – Organizational Theory and Change in Higher Education

This course will introduce the theory and practice of how colleges and universities are organized and administered, including an overview of predominant leadership theories, group dynamics theories, strategic planning, and change management practices. The course will emphasize public college and university governance, and applied practice through case studies and tabletop exercises.

HED 585G - Higher Education Policy and Practice in Ireland

Short-term study abroad

In this course students will learn about higher education policy and practice in Ireland. During spring break, students will visit to three to five higher education institutions in Ireland – Dublin, Galway and Cork. Students will learn about the national structure of higher education in Ireland and driving national policy. We will examine issues of access and equity, student engagement and experience, community engagement, resident life, and student services and affairs in Irish higher education. We will have an opportunity to see how students are supported through visits to student affairs offices at the National University of Ireland, Galway, University College Cork, Trinity College, Dublin City University and Dublin Institute of Technology. We will learn about policy through visits to the Higher Education Authority, which is the national regulatory body as well at the Irish University Association, the representative body for Irish Universities. Students will draw comparisons between higher education policy and student affairs practice in Ireland and in the United States. *NOTE: Students self-­fund the study abroad component of this course.

HED 560G - Fellowship/Assistantship in Higher Education

Required for fellows and those in Assistantships

This course is designed to provide a dedicated space and time for discussion of issues related to the higher education fellowship. The focus of the course, in addition to the 12-­25 weekly hours spent in the fellowship or assistantship setting, is to reflect upon the experience of working in higher education, and to enable students to learn from one another in exploring the challenges and accomplishments of their work. The focus for the Spring term is to prepare students for their job search and beginning their first professional positions. Additionally, each fellow is required to meet with the instructor and their supervisor twice during the course of the semester: at the beginning and mid-­term point.

ED 580G - Directed Study

Qualified students may, with the approval of the Higher Education Program Faculty, enroll in a directed study that fulfills the requirements of a course in their approved program. A final project that demonstrates the student’s proficiency in the topic will be required. This will be done under the direction of a faculty member of the Graduate Education Department. Students must apply to undertake a directed study and receive approval from the department.

Take it to the next level - the graduate level - at Merrimack.