M.S.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs


It's about all of you: supporting your personal, academic, and professional success.

Our M.S.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs is designed to provide holistic support and a strong sense of connectedness as you build the foundation toward your career aspirations. Students move together, as a cohort, through the 36-credit hour program. This program provides theoretical groundwork, practical application, and contextual understanding of higher education and the diverse students it serves. You will emerge from the program fully prepared to move toward your professional career goals. Join us as we prepare the next generation of practitioners and leaders in higher education and student affairs.

Program Highlights

  • Social justice and inclusion as foundational elements in the curriculum.
  • Faculty bring diverse experiences, backgrounds, scholarship and expertise from a variety of areas across higher education and student affairs.
  • Holistic student support and development from a faculty committed to facilitating engaging learning experiences in and outside the classroom.
  • A cohort of 15-20 diverse learners who support each other's learning and development.
  • A pathway to degree completion for part-time students .
  • A commitment to access and affordability, opportunities for graduate assistantships which provide stipends and tuition waivers.
  • Opportunities to put theory into action through hands-on learning in graduate assistantships, internships and professional development experiences beyond the classroom.
  • Class content and assignments that are relevant to the evolving field of student affairs and higher education.
  • Opportunities to continue to build your leadership skills by involvement in graduate student organizations and professional development programs.
  • A network of supportive alumni making contributions across all areas of higher education.

Over the span of two-sequential classes, you will not only learn the skills of program assessment, an integral component of any work in higher education, but also the opportunity to apply that knowledge. This applied assessment project, a real-world collaboration with a campus partner, gives students the full experience of designing and conducting an assessment, complete with data analysis and the responsibility of providing deliverables to the campus partner.

In collaboration with our Division of Student Affairs, Academic Affairs and Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we offer graduate assistantships with compensation that typically includes a tuition waiver and stipend. Graduate assistantships are provided in a wide variety of functional areas across the university.

The required internship, which includes at least 120 hours of professional career experiences, allows you to develop an in-depth understanding and working knowledge of a specific functional area in higher education and student affairs. Since most internships for our students are in throughout Chicagoland, you'll have the opportunity to not only work with culturally diverse students but also take advantage of professional development experiences and networking throughout the metropolitan and surrounding areas. You are also free to take advantage of internships on the national and global levels.

Learn more about graduate assistantships and how to apply.

We have intentionally developed a curriculum that prepares our students not only as practitioners in the field of student affairs and higher education, but as advocates for inclusion, belonging and social justice. Our students are equipped to meet the changing needs of an increasingly diverse student body and work in the complexities of today's college campuses – be that a brick-and-mortar or a virtual environment.

This preparation includes the study of student development, ethics, social justice, leadership and administration, community development, educational policy analysis, program assessment and evaluation, as well as adult learning theory. Your studies will culminate with a capstone experience and the development of an e-portfolio.

The e-portfolio allows you to integrate and synthesize your knowledge concepts and principles as well as to connect theory to practice. The e-portfolio is a demonstration of your growth, development and the depth of knowledge you have acquired throughout your time in the program.

Our faculty bring diverse experiences, backgrounds, scholarship and expertise from a variety of areas across higher education and student affairs.

  • Examine different organizations, contexts, and/or leadership in HESA
  • Apply college student development and/or learning theories in HESA practice settings
  • Utilize theory-to-practice models in HESA settings
  • Apply principles of assessment and evaluation to the practice of HESA
  • Engage in professional praxis that promotes inclusion, equity and social justice

Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) Preview Day welcomes those interested in pursuing their M.S.Ed. degree and a career in Student Affairs.

During this full-day on-campus event, participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive an overview of the master’s program and what to expect in the classroom
  • Engage with faculty
  • Participate in professional development focused on how to apply for graduate assistantships, preparing for assistantship interviews and financing your graduate education
  • Learn about the graduate experience from current students in the program
  • Gain knowledge about the Student Affairs profession from dedicated practitioners in the field
  • Optional campus tours and tours of the residence halls will be provided

HESA Preview Day registration opens on November 15. The registration link will be available under Upcoming Events on this page

To apply for the program, you'll need to submit the following application materials:

The following prompt questions will guide the writing of your goal statement. The essay should be single-spaced and one to two pages in length.

  • Why are you interested in pursuing a career in higher education and student affairs? What experience in school, work, or life prompted your interest in pursuing a career in higher education and student affairs?
  • How do you hope to contribute to the field of higher education and student affairs?
  • How do you think the graduate program at NIU, in particular, will help you achieve your goals?
  • Looking at our learning outcomes for the program, what areas are you most excited to learn more about?

The priority application deadline is Feb. 1 with rolling admissions until May 1.

Upcoming Events


"NIU was an excellent fit for my education because it provided the space necessary for me to develop my potential as a student. Being a student at Northern embeds you into an environment to be a modern professional while highlighting intersectionality. We convert from students to professionals and often become role models."by Josiel Marrufo, M.S.Ed., Higher Education and Student Affairs, ’17
Director of Student Projects, City Colleges of Chicago-Harry S Truman College



"The opportunity to work as a graduate residence hall director provided me the experience to bring the student development theories to practice. The skills I gained, such as diligent organization, crisis management and leadership, have been applied time and again throughout my post-graduate career. I also would not be in my current professional role today without the opportunity to have interned abroad in Rome, Italy with CISabroad"by Nicole Stelter, M.S.Ed. Adult and Higher Education, ’16
International Program Advisor, University of Central Florida