Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC)

“Ten years ago, I moved across the country to enroll in the new M.A.S.C. program. I describe my experience as the path enabled me to live into my deepest humanity.”

Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, 2008 MASC Graduate and Research Scholar

Are you called to be an agent of change? Starr King School for the Ministry can help you grow in your vision, skills, and spiritual grounding to make a difference in the world.

Our Master of Arts in Social Change (M.A.S.C.) was launched in August 2005 and was the first of its kind in the world. Starr King was among the first institutions of higher learning to formalize a counter-oppressive pedagogical focus in the form of a master’s degree. M.A.S.C. is a professional, 2-year degree program that prepares students to become spiritually grounded agents of social change and transformative leaders.

MASC degree programs are individually designed to integrate spiritual practice and professional development in response to your particular interests and gifts. MASC emphasizes not only theological knowledge but also practical experience in honing the transformational leadership skills you will need to excel in your vocational path.

The MASC program aims to foster your personal growth, spiritual practice, and deepened commitment to justice making. Graduates of our program leave prepared for spiritually-grounded leadership in organizations, institutions, movements, and communities that work for justice and social change.


Degree and Residency Requirements

  • A minimum of 48 units of credit.
  • No residency requirements.
  • The Educating to Counter Oppressions (ECO), required within the first six months of the program.
  • Participation in at least one Symposium (including remote participation)
  • A Threshold Self-Assessment (in the first semester)
  • A Mid-Degree Portfolio Conference
  • A combination of coursework, fieldwork, independent study, experiential learning and special projects to achieve competency in Eight Threshold areas:
    • Life in Religious Community and Interfaith Engagement
    • Prophetic Witness and Work
    • Sacred Text and Interpretation
    • History of Dissenting Traditions and the Thea/ological Quest
    • Spiritual Practice and the Care of the Soul
    • Thea/ology in Culture and Context
    • Educating for Wholeness and Liberation
    • Embodied Wisdom and Beauty
  • A Community Internship (5 units minimum) and
  • Community Intern Reflection Class (1 unit).
  • MASC Project (3 units): a creative project representative of the student’s learning during the program, chosen and prepared in consultation with Dr. Gabriella Lettini, MASC Program Director, and with the support of one’s advisor.

8 Thresholds

The ability to act with integrity and knowledge in all these areas is foundational to religious leadership in society. Competence in religious leadership is not limited to academic ability or professional skills. It will also foster personal qualities and habits, such as mature judgment, self-awareness, spiritual practice, integrity, responsibility, sensitivity and ethical discernment. Learn more about Thresholds.

  • Life in Religious Community and Interfaith Engagement
  • Prophetic Witness and Work
  • Sacred Text and Interpretation
  • History of Dissenting Traditions and the Thea/ological Quest
  • Spiritual Practice and the Care of the Soul
  • Thea/ology in Culture and Context
  • Educating for Wholeness and Liberation
  • Embodied Wisdom and Beauty


  • Educating to Counter Oppression (ECO) Course (3 credits)

Educating to counter oppressions and to create just and sustainable communities is a priority. There are four guiding principles: 1) To be what we want to see in the world; 2) To shelter prophetic witness in the world; 3) To counter white supremacy; and 4) to work for the common good. You meet the ECO requirement by taking an ECO-focused course as suggested by the academic advisor.

  • Community Internship Reflection Seminar (1 credit)


The MASC degree recognizes that individual students have particular interests and abilities. During the first year, M.A.S.C. students, in consultation with their advisor, identify an area of specialization to focus on, such as:

  • Anti-oppression work, including racial, gender and GLBTQI justice
  • Global economics and economic justice, including poverty scholarship
  • Restorative or transformative justice
  • Immigration issues
  • Moral injury and war
  • Environmental justice
  • Fostering democratic community
  • Medical ethics
  • Food justice
  • Chaplaincy
  • Preparation for the doctoral work or scholarly activism

Portfolio Conference

Portfolio Conferences are an assessment process designed to review your program of study and spiritual growth approximately mid-way through the degree program. You and your advisor determine when the conference should happen. You coordinate its planning (time, participants and location). The conference should be done well before you petition to graduate.

Community Placement

During the second year of study, students participate in one term of community placement (20 hours a week), designed to integrate spiritual leadership and practical skills in the service of social change. Community placements may be local, national, or international and include supervision from a seasoned progressive activist.

Examples of community placements include prison chaplaincy, at-risk children’s advocacy, interfaith programs for the homeless, urban farming, using arts for healing and social transformation, teaching for social transformation, grassroots organizing, and many more.

MASC Project

The MASC Project allows you to offer a creative integration of your learning while also often serving as a steppingstone towards your future work as a graduate. MASC Projects can take different forms, from writing a traditional research thesis, to organizing a conference, creating a curriculum, preparing an art exhibit on arts and social change, writing a memoir on one’s activism or a novel grounded in spirituality and social change. You will work with the director of the MASC program and your advisor.

Readiness to Graduate

Readiness is assessed through conversation with your primary advisor, who will help determine if your degree requirements have been met and review your written self-assessment of readiness, including a final Threshold Assessment. Next, your advisor makes a recommendation to the core faculty that votes on the recommendation and presents a list of approved students to the Board of Trustees. The Board votes to confer degrees.

Professional Roles Graduates Might Assume

You will graduate from the M.A.S.C. degree program prepared to assume a professional role in institutions and organizations that work for progressive social change. The employment field includes non-profit organizations, social service agencies, political action organizations, administrative and leadership positions in denominational bodies and religious associations, church staffs, educational programs, health organizations, community centers, interfaith organizations and research institutes.