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Home > Academics > Academic Programs > MHESA > Unique Features

Unique Features

As an academic discipline, higher education is a graduate-only field that is both an interdisciplinary and applied field of study, with most programs requiring some level of immersion in practica, internships, assistantships, or other professional experiences as part of the learning process.  The academic research and literature in the field integrates educational traditions like teaching and learning with other disciplinary perspectives on topics like psychological and social development of students, intercultural relations and diversity, the sociology of who attends and pays for college, public policy and political issues related to higher education, as well as research methods and assessment. 

Higher education is a distinct academic and professional degree field within education.  Although there are certainly some overlaps with traditional K-12 teacher preparation and educational policy programs, higher education as a discipline has its own history, intellectual traditions, literatures, and academic journals.  Faculty and students in higher education programs research and examine history, theory, policy, law, and research literature related to colleges and universities to consider how knowledge can be applied to current problems and critical issues in both the academic field and in practice in our institutions.  The field also studies higher education institutions as organizations and incorporates management and administrative studies, leadership models, professional guidelines, and also practical skills like project and program management. 

The program at Madonna will have an emphasis in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), placing it firmly within the realm of higher education programs that incorporate elements from both College Student Personnel programs and those that strongly emphasize leadership, management, and administration of institutions.  Programs within the field of higher education can fall within a spectrum of purposes and disciplinary traditions ranging from psychology to common higher education professional preparation programs, and from programs that are more management/ leadership focused, to  some that are traditional education leadership degree programs.  Those on the left side of the figure below are programs grounded in psychology and focused on delivering training in counseling—some even with a clinical certification. The opposite end of the spectrum represents programs that are tightly integrated with traditional educational leadership programs. The middle incorporates management perspectives.

Student and adult development programs can involve a focus on counseling and the scholarship of development, but not lead to clinical certification.  Higher education administration programs can be focused on the leadership and management of colleges and universities, with some programs also integrated into business and non-profit management departments. By focusing on the HESA emphasis, the program at Madonna can focus on providing training in both the helping and administrative aspects of the profession—while stressing that graduates will help students through their knowledge and experience.

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