Master of Professional Studies: Community Leadership

The Community Leadership Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) includes five core courses that help each student develop the self-understanding, academic knowledge, practical skills, and professional relationships needed to excel as a community leader. In addition to completing the core courses, students take four elective courses that speak to their experiences, interests, and aspirations. Students work with the Program Director to choose their Program Pathway: a coherent set of electives from the Community Leadership Skills Courses as well as UMBC graduate courses in a wide range of academic departments.

Required Core Courses (18 credits)

CLDR 600: Methods for Community Leadership

This Methods for Community Leadership course is the foundational methodology course for the Certificate and MPS in Community Leadership. In its most general sense, a method is simply a defined way of doing something (i.e., methods). In academic studies and scholarship, methods can also refer to highly specialized approaches to disciplinary research (i.e, Methods). This course will embrace the diversity (and tension) between methods and Methods with the goal of introducing students to a range of tools that are useful for community collaborations that seek to address community-identified questions. CLDR embraces a range of worldviews and ways of knowing and the methods you will learn in this course support the diverse goals of what your community collaborations the methods aim to accomplish not just academic knowledge discovery, but collaborative knowledge construction, and action-oriented applied knowledges for intended community purposes. We intend to extend the tools we will explore together beyond the traditional academic frameworks and into real-world application with real-world impacts. While students will not become “experts” in any single methodological approach, our pragmatic goal is for students to learn and practice diverse methods collaboratively and to leave the course with an applied experience using a range of methods tools to approach complex community-identified questions, and having begun to develop and articulate their own methods toolbox for community leadership.

CLDR 601: Introduction to Community Leadership – Contexts, Models, and Communication

This Introduction to Community Leadership course is the foundational class for the Certificate and MPS in Community Leadership, grounding students in key concepts, skills, and experiences that they will continue to build upon throughout their graduate program and professional development. Students learn the theory and practice of establishing an inclusive learning community with attention to developing leadership skills of self-reflection, deep listening, and facilitation.

Thematic course units investigate core program elements including: (1) Social contexts of community leadership with special attention to urban settings, historical and structural inequity, and asset-based development. (2) Models and metaphors for community leadership, including attention to diverse theoretical and practice-based approaches to leadership with opportunities to explore leaders’ identities and personal strengths. (3) The central role of diverse media platforms and approaches to communication that underpin effective community leadership practice.

In addition to class readings, written reflections, and discussions, students will participate in community experiences to complement their classroom learning. Students will develop a relationship with a community leader and corresponding partner organization. Through regular semi-structured conversations, they’ll have the opportunity to learn and discuss core elements of community leadership. Students will work with community partners to collaboratively design a project that will contribute directly to a need in their partner organization. At the end of this first foundational course for the MPS, students will also create a template for their overall MPS digital portfolio, designing a compelling media platform for planning and demonstrating their best learning and development as they move forward. 

CLDR 602: Legal and Ethical Issues in Community Leadership

Community-oriented organizations and their leaders have a myriad of responsibilities that involve ethical challenges and legal requirements. This course focuses on the ethical and legal issues faced by organizational leaders and how they make decisions that affect their organizations and the citizens they serve. We discuss race, inclusion, equity and justice as essential dimensions of the ethical and legal decisions that organizational leaders make.

CLDR 603: Capstone Seminar and Project

This interdisciplinary capstone course provides participants with a culminating experience in the theory and practice of collaborative leadership, community-centered social capital development, and culturally-inclusive problem solving. The course immerses students in the theories, knowledge, skills, and affective competencies related to building community assets. A key focus of the course is strengthening students’ capacities to assess and address community problems. The course builds on students’ prior courses in the Community Leadership curriculum to provide a field-level application of their diverse leadership tool kits. 

In addition to class readings, written reflections, group discussions, conversations with guest speakers, and visits to different neighborhoods in Baltimore City, students participate in a collaborative community-based research project. Students work in conjunction with a local community partner organization and an instructor to: (1) explore key issues facing a specific community and organization, and identify a particular topic to focus on;  (2) develop and deliver a research-based intellectual product that enhances the student’s professional development as well as the capacities of the community and partner organization. This is a 6-credit course.

CLDR 610: Special Topics: Skills Courses

One-credit skills courses with multiple topics available. To be counted as electives toward the degree, at least three of these one-credit courses must be taken. Students can receive a maximum of six (6) credits by taking one-credit courses (equivalent to two standard electives). See available skills courses.

Certain non-credit articulated courses offered by UMBC’s Institute for Extended Learning (IXL) may be transferred for credit. Contact the Program Coordinator for more information. 

Capstone Course

The required Community Leadership courses feature an applied interdisciplinary curriculum, culminating in a capstone course that integrates the theory and practice of collaborative leadership and builds students’ relationships with effective practitioners. The capstone course builds on prior courses and experiences in the Community Leadership program to engage students in applying their academic knowledge, practical skills and professional relationships to a significant project they develop with their community partner.

Program Pathways

In the first semester of the program, students work with the Program Director to determine a Program Pathway tailored to their success with an additional 12 elective credits. Each student receives help identifying an appropriate grouping of elective courses that connect to their experiences, interests and aspirations. The most popular pathways for M.P.S. students include taking Community Leadership Skills Courses (beyond the required 3 credits), as well as courses in Social Entrepreneurship, Applied Sociology, and Public Policy. The Program Director maintains a continually updated list of graduate courses in a wide range of academic departments that are designated as Community Leadership electives and may fit into your pathway.

Note: Curriculum advertised is effective Fall 2023. Students who matriculated prior to the Fall 2023 semester will have the option of following the old curriculum or adopting the new curriculum. The decision of which curriculum to adopt will be made only after advising from the Graduate Program Director.

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What is an M.P.S. Degree?

An M.P.S. degree is a non-thesis graduate degree designed to provide you with applied and professional knowledge in your area of study. While traditional master’s programs tend to focus on theory and research, a Master of Professional Studies will equip you with specialized domain knowledge and hands-on learning opportunities that focus on developing one’s career. Our M.P.S. programs are designed with your career goals in mind!

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