Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) Master’s Program

Program Overview

The Masters of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) is designed for students seeking a career in one of a variety of education and service areas constituting student affairs administration within a postsecondary setting.  The SAHE program is a 45 credit-hour program, offered through both residential and online learning formats, and is designed to be completed within two years for full-time students and within three years for part-time students.  The curriculum is designed to foster the development of foundational competencies focused on the theory and practice of student affairs administration, student learning and development, organizational management and change, diversity, equity, and inclusion, human relations, assessment, and the application of theory to practice.  A comprehensive portfolio project serves as the culmination of students’ program and illustrates their proficiency in the ACPA & NASPA Professional Competencies.

SAHE Mission

To prepare well-rounded, competent, and equity-conscious student affairs practitioners who can effectively apply theory to practice related to student affairs administration, student learning and development, and organizational management.

SAHE History

Founded in 1967, the residential component of the Student Affairs in Higher Education Program at Colorado State University is in its 50th year. The program has graduated over 850 students, and has experienced many changes through its continuous evolution. The successful history of the SAHE program was built on the commitment of scholar-practitioners who have gone beyond the parameters of their practitioner and administrative roles to serve as instructors, advisors, and mentors for the graduate students in the program. There are currently over 50 scholar-practitioners teaching and advising in the SAHE program. For the first time in the program’s history, we now have a dedicated, full-time, tenured faculty member hired by the School of Education for fall 2017. The SAHE program typically admits between 20-22 residential students and 22-27 online students each year. Applicants are from nearly all 50 states and numerous countries. The residential program has become increasingly competitive and has received 275-300 applicants each year over the past five years. The online program continues to build, with approximately 45-50 applicants each year.

Originally named the College Student Personnel Administration Program, it graduated its first students in the spring of 1968. Members of the class of 1987 were the first to earn their Masters of Education in Professional Studies from the School of Education within the College of Applied Human Sciences, now the College of Health and Human Sciences. In 1990, a new curriculum was approved that included specific research courses and additional credit requirements. Consequently, the degree name changed from a Master’s of Education to a Master’s of Science. At the same time, the program name changed to Student Affairs in Higher Education.

Over the years, the SAHE program has been fortunate to have strong and dynamic leadership, through the service of primarily practitioner program chairs. The following individuals have served as SAHE program chairs over the past 50 years: Dr. Bob Hubble, Associate Dean of Students (1967-1970); Dr. James Kuder, Assistant Dean of Students, Associate Director of Student Relations, and Director of Student Relations (1970-1984); Dr. Rich Feller, Professor School of Education (1983-1990); Dr. Grant Sherwood, Director of Housing and Food Service, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (1990-2003); Dr. Linda Ahuna-Hamill, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs (2004-2006); Dr. Linda Kuk, Associate Professor, 2006- 2008; and Dr. David McKelfresh, Executive Director of Assessment and Research, 2008-2015. Dr. Jody Donovan and Dr. McKelfresh served as SAHE Program Co-Chairs from May 2015 through June 2017. Dr. Jennifer Johnson began serving as the Online SAHE Program Chair beginning May 2017. Dr. D-L Stewart joined the SAHE program in 2017 as its first full-time faculty member in the School of Education as a professor. From 2017 to 2020, Dr. Stewart and Dr. Johnson served as the program co-chairs with Dr. Pamela Graglia, a long-time core faculty member, coming on as a non-tenure track faculty member for 2018-2020 before returning to an administrative position. In summer 2020, Dr. Carmen Rivera, Assistant Vice President of Talent Management for Organizational Development in the Division of Student Affairs, joined Dr. Stewart as SAHE’s Co-Chair.

SAHE Innovations in Online Education

The online SAHE Master’s program began in spring 2012. The online program is equivalent to the residential program in credit hours, course requirements, and culminating experience. All courses are taught asynchronously so students can engage the material each week as it fits their schedule. Approximately 20 students are admitted each year, with nearly 100 active students currently enrolled in the online program. Students hail from numerous states in the U.S. and many countries around the world. The online program celebrated its first graduates in the summer of 2016 with five students successfully completing their portfolio and graduating.

In addition to the online SAHE Master’s degree, CSU Online offers four online certificates in Student Affairs Administration, Campus Crisis Management, Student Affairs Management of Auxiliary Enterprises, and Postsecondary Access and Success.  These certificates allow students to build skills and knowledge to advance in the field or to enter the student affairs profession.  Lastly, we offer one free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Exploring the Student Affairs in Higher Education Profession.  This course provides general content as a service to the field to enhance practice and help broaden awareness of the student affairs profession.

SAHE Continued Evolution

The program’s curriculum has changed over the years to address the changing needs of the student affairs profession. In 2004, the program adopted a competency based curricular model. Faculty reviewed and revised the entire curriculum to comply with the CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards) guidelines for master’s level student affairs preparation programs and added a portfolio as the final project. The curriculum was aligned with the professional competencies to ensure that they effectively supported the program’s intended outcomes. Students, faculty, and assistantship and practicum supervisors regularly assess student progress toward developing their professional competencies. Advisors work with their students to assess the culminating professional portfolio using a set of rubrics.  In 2017, the program faculty adopted the ACPA & NASPA Professional Competencies and a lengthy mission, vision, values, and curriculum revision was completed in 2018 for students admitted in 2019 and beyond.

The program has gained a solid reputation for offering a well-integrated theory to practice educational experience that has provided its graduates a strong foundation for stellar careers in the student affairs profession. Virtually all of the full-time graduate students receive an assistantship in an area within student affairs or in other student support areas in the colleges and administrative units in the university.  Students are strongly encouraged to use the summer to gain additional practical experiences at other institutions, professional associations, and/or international experiences.

A vibrant legacy illustrating the quality and commitment of the program’s students, faculty, and alumni is the peer reviewed, Journal of Student Affairs.  Now in its 27th year of publication, it is one of only two student-orchestrated student affairs journals at the Master’s level in the United States.  Other examples of SAHE’s commitment to student learning and professional development have included student organizations such as, GO SAHE, the Student of Color Network, the Sexualities and Genders Alliance, and the Chi Sigma Alpha Honorary. These student organizations, initiated by student desire and interest, assist in fostering an equitable and supportive environment in the program. Students affiliated with these groups serve as ambassadors among students, faculty, and alumni of the program.

Conclusion

An academic program’s quality and success is often measured by its job placement rates, alumni career trajectories, and student and faculty diversity. The SAHE program certainly can point to a number of these common metrics: The residential program has boasted a 100% placement rate for several successive years. Our alumni include college and university presidents, chief student affairs officers, graduate preparation faculty and program directors, and student affairs professional association leaders across the United States and the world, as well as leaders in corporate businesses and non-profit organizations. Our student and faculty diversity, across multiple aspects, is robust and rivals that of other graduate programs at both CSU and across the field of student affairs. This compositional diversity is a mark of our commitment to equity and inclusive excellence. We also embrace the challenge this brings the program to make meaningful enactments of our espoused values in support of sustaining a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just learning community of scholar-practitioners.