Appalachian State University

Reich College of Education

Human Development and Psychological Counseling

Student Affairs Administration

  • M.A.
Program Emphasis: 
  • Administrative Leadership
  • Student Learning & Development


151 College Street
337B College of Education, Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

Program Statement

For 50 years, the Master of Arts in Student Affairs Administration (SAA) at Appalachian State University has prepared reflective scholar practitioners to work in various areas of student affairs to serve students and institutions of higher education through collaborative, equitable, and inclusive practice. Our in-person, cohort-based, 45 credit hour program has four overarching learning intentions, each with several components:

(1) Students will expand and challenge their thinking about themselves, others, and student affairs through theory, research, and reflection.

  • Students will define the historical roots and philosophical assumptions underlying the formation of the student affairs profession.
  • Students will describe student development theories as a way to explain human growth and development.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the legal foundations influencing student affairs practice. (d) Students will learn how to design, interpret, and conduct basic educational applied research, program evaluation, and assessment.

(2) Students will experience multiple functional areas of student affairs practice through practice and reflection.

  • Students will describe the various student affairs functions and discuss current issues of significance to select functional areas.
  • Students will describehow basic campus environmental factors (i.e., human aggregate, physical, and organizational) promote or detract from student growth and development.
  • Students will identify high impact practices associated with deep learning.

(3) Students will develop their professional philosophies, values, pathways, and communities.

  • Students will identify and follow professional ethical standards when interacting with students and other constituents.
  • Students will assess personal strengths and areas of growth as scholar-practitioners in student affairs and commit to an on-going professional development plan.
  • Students will collaborate with peers, supervisors, faculty, and the broader field.

(4) Students will develop their abilities to be change agents in higher education.

  • Students will demonstrate an appreciation for students across identities, backgrounds, and cultures and an understanding of the associated needs of a variety of student populations.
  • Students will demonstrate effective group facilitation skills.
  • Students will identify ways to advance equity and inclusion in student affairs.
  • Students will develop their ability to lead in ways that advance equity and inclusion in student affairs within a frame of integrity and ethical decision making.

Aligning with these intentions, we center our pedagogical practices around the mission to prepare reflective scholar-practitioners through a theory-to-practice framework. Our program complies with the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Guidelines for Master’s Level Higher Education and Student Affairs Professional Preparation Programs (2019) and frames the curriculum around the ACPA/NASPA (2015, 2016) Competencies for Student Affairs Educators. We are known for our applied learning emphasis.

Courses are 3 credit hours each and focus on providing a generalist preparation aligning with the ACPA/NASPA (2015, 2016) Competencies for Student Affairs Educators. Courses include but are not limited to as advising and supporting, administration (e.g., organizational theory, budgeting, supervision), assessment and applied research, introduction to student affairs, law and ethics, social justice, and student development theories. The curriculum requires at least three different practice-based experiences (assistantship, practicum, internship), with the option to engage in two additional experiences (second practicum, summer experience), to infuse an applied learning element that allows students to graduate with over 1700 hours of working with students, colleagues, and groups.

Further, the program's culminating project (called the Comprehensive Product of Learning, or CPL) provides students with an opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning by blending professional competency growth with their own interests to cultivate a holistic development experience within the master’s program. The cornerstones of the comprehensive product of learning include: Holistic Development; Experiential Learning; Critical Thinking; and Reflective Thinking. Completing the professional development, reflection, and assessment activities associated with the comprehensive product of learning prepares students for the job search process because the process invites students to pause and make meaning of their experiences. Students will also have content from which to determine career pathways, address strengths and areas of growth, craft cover letters, and prepare for job interviews. In short, the comprehensive product of learning is a tool to aid in students’ career preparation and pathway in student affairs and higher education.

Our faculty and educational partners (e.g., supervisors of GAs, practicums, & Internships) infuse critical theory and social justice content across the program curriculum and experiences. Specific ways we do this include but are not limited to: incorporating readings from scholars with minoritized identities, inviting in guest speakers/lecturers who hold different identities than our faculty, creating assignments which require students to examine their own identities, power, privilege, and positionality and reflect upon how identity impacts their work as student affairs educators. Further, we have a specific course on social justice that employs critical social theory and invites systemic analyses, and we strive to recruit a diverse cohort of master's students.

Cohorts typically range from 15-18 students, most of whom are enrolled full-time. Students identities are typically reflective of the broader university student demographics, which can be found at We strive to recruit as diverse of a cohort as possible.

Recent graduates have secured employment in Academic Advising, Career Development, Diversity & Social Justice, First Year Student Programs, Fraternity & Sorority Life, Leadership Development, Orientation, Residence Life, Service Learning, Student Activities, Student Conduct, Student Learning Center, Study Abroad, and many other areas. We consistently receive positive feedback from employers about our gradutes' preparation for and success in their roles and the broader field.


Our full-time faculty include:

Cathy Clark, Ed.D. (she/her/hers) received her bachelor's, master's, and doctorate from Indiana University and has taught at Appalachian State University for 24 years. She has been as an interim department chair, is a certified leadership coach, works with the Leadership Education and Development office on campus, and is a member of the Leadership Minor Advisory Council. She has also served as a co-lead facilitator for LeaderShape of 25 years. Cathy is passionate about understanding the college student experience and in supporting and mentoring graduate students. In her spare time, Cathy volunteers as an EMT with a small rural fire department and enjoys the outdoors and coffee!

Diane Waryold, Ed.D. (she/her/hers) is in her 17th year of teaching at Appalachian State University. Prior to joining the faculty ranks, Waryold was the executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity and Program Administrator for the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, among other roles in her 20 years of service as a practitioner. She is a founding and charter member of the Association for Student Judicial Affairs (now called the Association for Student Conduct Administration or ASCA), and served as president in 1995. Waryold has presented programs, published, and consulted on campus student conduct, sexual misconduct, campus safety and campus policing, and academic integrity throughout the country. She recently released a second edition of her co-authored book, Student Conduct Practice: The Complete Guide for Student Affairs Professionals. Outside of her university work, Waryold actively volunteers with Disaster Services for the American Red Cross.


Our admissions process requires two applications - one for the academic program and one for graduate assistantships. Each are described below.

The academic application is through the Cratis D. William School of Graduate Studies and requires the following:

  • All academic transcripts, including one which shows conferment of a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university;
  • a 3.0 GPA overall or in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework;
  • a resume showing one or more years of student employment, engagement, and/or involvement;
  • three recommendation letters.

The priority deadline for academic applications is January 15. Learn more at

The graduate assistantship application is through the Division of Student Affairs and includes:

  • a survey indicating interest levels across open positions;
  • a cover letter expressing interest in one or more positions;
  • a resume showing one or more years of student employment, engagement, and/or involvement; (4) a list of at least three references.

The priority deadline for graduate assistantship applications is January 15. Learn more at

To defray costs, our program requires students to hold graduate assistantships and students can apply for fellowships, financial aid, scholarships, and professional development/travel funding. For more information on financial aid, please visit

Meets ACPA Commission for Professional Preparation Standards: 
Meets CAS Standards: 

Number of Program Faculty

Full Time: 
Total Program Credit Hours: 
Average Time to Degree: 
2 years

Visitation Program

  • February 11, 2023 to February 13, 2023


Entrance Exam: 
  • None Required
Assistantship Required: 
Assistantship Placement Assistance: 
  • Full time
Program Delivery: 
  • In-person
Course Schedule: 
  • Day
  • Evening
Comprehensive Exam Required: