“Knowing how to develop and engage in healthy growth-fostering relationships is essential for the student affairs practitioner. This pursuit is central to our master’s program. Mental health concerns are more prevalent than ever among college students. By situating this program in a psychology department we offer students a versatile set of tools and in-depth theoretical understanding to handle the range of challenges they will see.”

-Harriet Schwartz, PhD, MA in Student Affairs program chair

Helping Students, Engaging Communities

Student affairs professionals can affect the success of individual students and even the culture of an entire campus, sometimes both in a single day. They must be able to work one-on-one with a student with ease, while also having the ability to inspire entire communities.

In the Master of Arts in Student Affairs, students become practitioner-scholars, fostering growth and success in college communities. The program offers a foundation in counseling and theory, while elective options allow students to explore interests that supplement their studies. Students will be able to pursue interests in working with LGBTQ, first-generation, and students of color. In addition, students can pursue other specific areas such as addictions, trauma and crisis response, advanced counseling, and management.

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Program Background

The Carlow University MA in Student Affairs emphasizes relational practice and leadership, providing a unique model for training student affairs professionals. Relational practice in education and relational leadership are based on Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) (Jordan, 2010; Miller & Stiver, 1997) which suggests that people grow through relationships rather than in isolation. 

RCT also requires us to consider the cultural context in which both education and leadership exist. Educators and students live, learn, and work in a cultural context that is shaped by constructions of race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, religion, ability, and other aspects of identity. A relational approach helps practitioners understand and remain cognizant of these forces as they influence work on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Additionally, with clear implications for both education and leadership, RCT also provides a framework for rethinking the culturally-dominant power-over model and instead working toward a power-with model of both education and leadership, one that retains the complexity of the need for educators and other leaders to maintain the responsibility of their roles and yet reduce the hierarchy in higher education and other organizational settings. 

References: Jordan, J. V. (2010). Relational-cultural therapy (1st ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Miller, J. B., & Stiver, I. P. (1997). The healing connection: How women form relationships in therapy and in life. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.


Degree Options


MA in Student Affairs


The MA in Student Affairs is a 36-credit program that can be completed part or full-time. This program includes core courses, electives, internship, and an optional supervised research project.

MA in Student Affairs/MS in Professional Counseling

Dual Degree Option

Students who wish to work in a college counseling center and/or pursue professional licensure to potentially work in other mental health settings or private practice are invited to pursue the dual degree option (60 credits). Earn your MA in student affairs and MS in professional counseling, complete with all coursework, practicum, and internship needed for licensure.

MA in Student Affairs

Featured Courses

STA703  Foundations of Student Affairs

The heart of students affairs work is being in relationship with others. In this course, students will begin to explore relational theory and practice.  This course also traces the history of the student affairs profession and its evolving role within higher education. Current and future trends in student affairs practice will be examined.  Special attention will be paid to the social justice mission as it is practiced and modeled within student affairs. 

STA704 Relational Practice and Leadership

Students will explore mentoring and relational practice literature to develop greater intentionality regarding their work with students and their role as positive contributors in the workplace. Students will also explore leadership with special attention on social action and change. Students will reflect on their own leadership style and professional ethics and study relevant professional discourse. Students will also consider their own career development, self-care, and other challenges for new and emerging professionals.

STA711 Legal Issues and Administration of Student Affairs Programs

This course examines the current legal issues in student affairs practice and teaches students basic tools to navigate the ever-changing legal landscape.  Students will learn the basics of the major laws that apply to student affairs work (Title IX, Clery, Campus Save, HEOA, FERPA, etc.), and how to write compliant campus policies that safeguard student rights and responsibilities as well as protect the institution.  Students will examine the student affairs role within university-wide compliance and crisis response teams and create crisis and compliance plans for a student affairs division.  Students will also learn to use legal and public resources to keep up with evolving legal requirements.

for details about these classes and more, please visit the Course Catalog section of our website. For a list of every course available in the MA in Student Affairs program, click here