New arts and culture leadership program at U of M

The University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education has announced a new graduate program aimed at Minnesota arts professionals.

The Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership is designed for arts and culture professionals who’ve already been working in the field for at least five years.

Sherry Wagner-Henry, Departmental Director of Graduate Programs for the College of Continuing Education, says the program comes out of several meetings with people in the arts community, who were looking for professional development opportunities.

Through focus groups, surveys and one-on-one conversations, one of the main points we got back was that we needed to offer something for people who’ve been working in arts and cultural leadership for 5 years, and want to build on that.

The masters program, which begins this fall, is being scheduled so that students can keep working full-time, and just take a couple of classes each semester. At this rate the 32 hour program would take four to five years to complete. Wagner-Henry says it costs in the area of $32-35,000 including fees, and so spreading the program over four to five years would makes it more affordable for some.

The U of M’s College of Continuing Education, in cooperation with the Hubert H Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, already offers a certificate in non-profit management, with an option to focus on the arts. But Wagner-Henry says the two programs have marked differences.

The non-profit certificate and the Hubert Humphrey grad program are very proscribed, with a set curriculum. The strength of our program is that it’s flexible, and can be catered to a student’s needs. So if you have five or ten years experience in marketing, there’s no need for you to take basic requirement courses in marketing.

One of the classes Wagner-Henry is excited to offer is a non-profit board practicum. She says people in the non-profit sector often feel like they’re vying for the same small group of people to serve on their boards. The practicum would teach best practices for recruiting new board members, and how best staff and board can work together.

And instead of an internship, common in programs for people with less professional experience, this masters program offers a mentorship, partnering the student with one or two professionals in the community.

Wagner-Henry says it’s about building a professional network and access for the student.

We’re trying to build capacity in community leaders who are working through the lens of arts and culture. We’re helping them to think about how they fit into their communities, how they help build communities, and how to strengthen their organizations.

Wagner-Henry says by the summer of 2013 she hopes to morph the Arts and Cultural Leaderhip masters program into more of an “institute,” bringing in people from all over the country for 2-3 weeks of intensive learning, followed by on-line programs during the academic year. She says this would allow the University to offer the program nationwide, and would also serve to shorten the program from five to three years.

The ACL program tentatively plans to admit 10-15 students per fall and spring term beginning in September 2010. For further information about the Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership, contact the CCE Graduate Programs Office at