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, Graduate of SKSM, Class of 2008, and Adjunct and Advising Faculty Member

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 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.

The M.A.S.C. program is designed to cement your skills in:

  • promoting goals of justice, equity and compassion in society, through religious or secular institutions
  • providing an ethical grounding in ministerial and theological education to pursue your passions
  • improving professional competency in religious and social change

M.A.S.C. degree programs are individually designed to integrate theology, spiritual practice, and professional development in response to your particular interests and gifts. M.A.S.C. emphasizes not only theological knowledge, but also practical experience in community organizing, media relations, non-profit management, political action and social service ministry. In addition, the M.A.S.C. program aims to foster your personal growth, spiritual practice and deepened commitment to social justice. Graduates of our program leave prepared to support and lead institutions and organizations that work for progressive social change.

 Degree and Residency Requirements

  • a minimum of 48 units of credit (at least 6 from courses at other Graduate Theological Union academic entities) distributed among 8 Threshold areas
  • Educating to Counter Oppression Core Intensive
  • Participation in two August Symposia
  • Community placement and Integrative Reflection Course
  • Final project representative of the your learning during the program
  • at least 1/2 of your units of credit must be completed in residency (up to 1/2 of the units for the M.A.S.C. degree may be completed in low-residency mode, online and through field work)
  • a portfolio conference

Immersions abroad count as high-residency credits. This allowance is an approved exception to the ATS Educational Standard, section ES.2.1.1.

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.

  1. Life in Religious Community and Interfaith Engagement
  2. Prophetic Witness and Work
  3. Sacred Text and Interpretation
  4. History of Dissenting Traditions and the Thea/ological Quest
  5. Spiritual Practice and the Care of the Soul
  6. Thea/ology in Culture and Context
  7. Educating for Wholeness and Liberation
  8. Embodied Wisdom and Beauty


  • Educating to Counter Oppression (ECO) Course

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.


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 GLBTQ justice
  • Global economics and economic justice, including poverty scholarship
  • Restorative justice
  • Immigration issues
  • Moral injury and war
  • Environmental justice
  • HIV prevention, education and care
  • Fostering democratic community
  • Medical ethics
  • Food justice
  • Interfaith Chaplaincy (through affiliation with The Chaplaincy Institute)
  • Preparation for the doctoral work or scholarly activism

To accomplish this work, MASC students will draw on Starr King and Graduate Theological Union resources, GTU-affiliated advanced centers for research and study, and the course offerings, libraries, research institutes and faculty of the University of California, Berkeley. Free cross-registration in this array of educational institutions will make possible an individualized course of study, tailored to your professional interests, experience and calling.

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 a six-month community placement (or a year if part-time), 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, genetic research think tanks, teaching for social transformation, grassroots organizing, and many more.

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. 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.