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Higher Education Student Affairs Program


About the HESA Program

Program Overview

Location: Cullowhee - Main Campus

Prerequisite: GRE not req. with 3.0+ GPA

Full-Time or Part-Time

App. Deadline: March 1

Time to Complete: 21 Months

97-100% Job Attainment Rate for Graduates

Virtual Open House

Tuesday, August 6, 2024: 5-6:30 p.m.

Join us at one of our upcoming virtual Graduate School Open House events on Zoom! You'll have the opportunity to learn more about Western Carolina University,  understand the Graduate School application process, and meet key program representatives.

Register Today

Program Description

The Master of Education in Higher Education Student Affairs Program is designed to prepare students to become student affairs professionals. Specifically, graduates will work in positions that promote the intellectual, social, emotional and personal development of college students. These professionals work with colleagues, faculty, administrators, and staff to provide college students with a wide array of services that enhance their educational and campus experiences.

Our Mission

“The M.Ed. in Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA) has a strong focus on developing practitioner-scholars by integrating academic coursework and theoretical constructs with supervised professional experience. Our goal is to prepare learners to be competent student development specialists in all areas of university life and to cultivate practitioners who are committed to the growth and development of all students."

What Makes Our Program Different?

WCU's HESA Graduate Program is student-centered. Just as we teach the importance of holistic student development to aspiring student affairs professionals, we practice what we teach by facilitating meaningful classroom experiences and engaging out-of-classroom professional experiences (Internships and Graduate Assistantships).

We are an intentionally small program (cohort-based) designed to:

  •  Maximize faculty-student interaction
  •  Foster significant scholarly learning experiences for students
  •  Offer guaranteed paid Graduate Assistantships (professional experience) to all qualified, full-time students

 The HESA program is committed to the work of self-improvement, reflection, and action related to identity development and the work of social justice. At this time, we center the work of racial justice and antiracism. Please see a list of Resources on Racial Justice and Antiracism related to this endeavor.

Admission Requirements

  • Three online recommendation forms submitted by former instructors and/or supervisors, who are in a position to judge the applicant’s aptitude for graduate study. (Applicant will add the recommenders’ email addresses within the application system, and a recommendation form will be sent to them).
  • A recent resume or CV.
  • A statement/essay of interest addressing three prompts:
    • What are your career objectives and discuss how a degree in Higher Education Student Affairs will prepare you to meet these objectives?
    • Why is Western Carolina University’s Higher Education Student Affairs graduate program of interest to you?
    • What do you believe you can contribute to the Higher Education Student Affairs learning community?
  • If you would like to be considered for a Graduate Assistantship, please download the application. After you complete the Assistantship application, upload it as "Other Materials" within your admissions application (March 1 deadline).

Admission Timeline

  • The program has a priority application deadline of March 1. Applying by this time will increase consideration for funding, graduate assistantships, and admission by being in the first round review cycle.
  • Application process for applications completed by March 1
    • Initial review of applications and consideration for admission will occur in early March. During this review the program admissions committee will be building a cohort of up to 15 full-time students for the following Fall term start
    • Virtual interviews may be a part of the admissions consideration process.
    • Offers for admission to the incoming cohort will be made by approximately April 1.
    • Graduate Assistant interviews and selection will occur April 1 – May 1
  • Application process for applications received after March 1
    • Applications received after the priority deadline will, generally, be reviewed on a rolling basis as they are completed and as room in the incoming cohort is available.
    • Applying after March 1 may impact availability of graduate assistantships.
  • There is a firm application deadline of June 1. After that time applications will be considered for the next year’s cycle.

Transfer Credit Information

Upon approval of program advisor, up to six (6) semester hours of graduate credit with a grade of B or higher may be transferred from other regionally accredited graduate schools. There are limitations that apply. For further details, contact the Program Director.

We are an intentionally small program (cohort-based) designed to:

  • Maximize faculty-student interaction
  • Foster significant scholarly learning experiences
  • Offer paid Graduate Assistantships (professional experience) to all *qualified, full-time students

*Qualified candidates are required to have a 3.0 GPA or higher and must maintain enrollment in at least 9 credit hours per semester (full-time status).

Graduate Assistantships serve as professional apprenticeships for graduate students and enhance their academic courses. They give our students the opportunity to put what they are studying into real context, thus allowing them to further connect to the curriculum. Additional benefits of serving in an assistantship include: job experience, working in a multicultural setting, a sense of contributing to their assigned area, responsibility, networking opportunities, an addition to their resume, as well as a paid stipend (approximately $8,500 - 12,000/year).

Full assistantships require a student to work 20 hours per week at their assigned placement. However, in some cases, splitting an assistantship or opting for a part-time position of fewer than 20 hours may also be an option. View additional information

View a list of all GA placement options, descriptions, and associated stipends

 Financial aid is available in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. 

  • The WCU Financial Aid Office is here to assist you with the process of applying for financial aid. 
  • For scholarship opportunities please apply at October 1 through February 1.
  • Out-of-State Tuition Remissions are available for non-North Carolina permanent residents. These competitive remissions do not waive tuition costs; rather, they offer tuition at the in-state rate. There is a separate application for this remission, which is disseminated by the HESA Program Director to qualified students who have met the admissions deadline and are then successfully admitted to the HESA program.

Pedagogical Philosophy

As a learning community, knowledge acquisition and the co-creation of meaning heavily relies on each person’s attendance and engagement in the course work and discussion. Faculty members take on the role of a facilitator, a “guide on the side” (as opposed to a “sage on a stage”), who encourage students to pull from their own and others’ lived experience to interpret course materials and co-create meaning.

About the HESA Curriculum

The M.Ed. in Higher Education Student Affairs requires 39 credit hours of graduate study (27 semester hours of core courses, 6 semester hours of internships, and 6 semester hours of electives). Courses incorporate content that is appropriate for working in student affairs in a variety of two- and four-year higher education settings. Students complete a common core of courses that integrate theoretical constructs and applied practitioner experiences.

The curriculum is organized on a WHAT-HOW-WHY model. Students take courses within the first semester and year that lay the foundation of the field – the WHAT. The middle semesters, students take courses that delve into specific applications of the field – the HOW. Finally, the students’ internship experiences and a capstone course serve as the culminating experience to their holistic education – the WHY. Starting with a broad foundation and narrowing the focus as the students progress through the program fosters a contextually educative experience rooted in a deep understanding of the field, which allows research and theory to then guide their practice.

The HESA Graduate Program at WCU adheres to the national CAS Standards for graduate preparatory programs.

HESA Course Sequence

HESA Curriculum Map

HESA Dispositions and Competencies

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