Olutosin Burrell, MS Organization Development, 2014

"The MSOD Program has focused my career trajectory to align my gifts with how I can best serve the world and make it a better place."
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The AU MSOD Experience

The AU MSOD classroom is a dynamic, challenging space where students learn from scholar-practitioner instructors, each other, and through reflection on their cohort's experiences and their own use of self. The MSOD program is built on a rigorous academic curriculum enriched by hands-on, experiential learning. In recent years, the MSOD curriculum has been expanded to include international fieldwork experience for each cohort, along with active and engaging online learning outside of the classroom for each course.

It takes about 20 months to complete the 11-course curriculum. To accommodate working professionals and out-of-town students, most courses meet on AU's northwest DC campus for two three-day weekends a month apart. The coursework addresses foundations and skills essential to 21st century OD practice and ends with a series of real-world consultative experiences. Beyond the residential "Becoming A Learning Community" retreat at the beginning of the program, there are two residential sessions for intensive learning: Use of Self in Professional Practice and International OD Consultation.

Benefits of an AU MSOD Degree

An AU MSOD degree is for change makers who want to empower positive change at multiple levels of human systems: individual, group, organizational, and societal. This transformational experience deepens each student's leadership capacity and brings intentionality to their personal presence and power as they engage in change work. When considering this program, reflect on the following:

Prestigious Leader in the Field of OD Education: Instructors throughout the program are leaders in OD with a full breadth of practice and knowledge, spanning classical theory to the development of pioneering concepts and models on the forefront of the field. Our faculty embody the scholar-practitioner model, with all holding advanced or terminal degrees while also consulting or working within organizations across the globe.

Unique Curriculum Strengths: An AU MSOD offers a rigorous theoretical and practical course of study for students from all industrial sectors: corporate, nonprofit, social, entrepreneurial, and government. The program uniquely focuses on:

  • The importance of the practitioner's own presence or use of self in professional work
  • The pivotal role of groups and teams in creating and leading sustainable organization change
  • The action research and process consultation approaches to system change
  • The importance of diversity, cultural competence, social justice and values in the ethical practice of transformational change

The Cohort Model: Students complete the curriculum as members of a cohort, which becomes a powerful learning community and experiential laboratory in which human behavior and group dynamics are intentionally explored. The cohort provides academic, professional, and personal support and serves as a dynamic model for the study of groups and teams.

Flexibility: The AU MSOD Program has always recognized that life happens. Our students are working professionals, mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, caretakers, community leaders, corporate executives, activists, non-profit directors, in-demand consultants, and more – so how do they balance work, school, family, and everything else that life throws at a working graduate student? The AU MSOD Program strives to support our professional students at every step throughout their curricular experience. Frequently, students take a break, join another cohort, stay with their cohort while catching up on a missed course with a more junior cohort, work with executive and writing coaches to acclimate to graduate education, receive disabilty accommodations, and coordinate with faculty when life presents them with the unexpected. With over 1700 alumni spanning nearly 40 years, the AU MSOD Program is committed to supporting working professional students throughout their graduate learning journey.

International Component: The AU MSOD's International Residency is one of the most innovative and powerful programs for learning about cultural competence and the consulting skills needed for capable international OD work. The experience prepares students for work in global and multicultural systems through immersive, real-world group consultation with real clients in countries around the world. Graduates consistently find inspiration from their IR experience to publish in peer-review journals and often leverage this experience to develop their own international and cross-cultural consulting practice. 

Theory-based Tools: The AU MSOD program builds on the action research approach developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin. AU MSOD students learn to question assumptions, exercise curiosity, and to apply sound research strategies in data collection and diagnosis. They also work in depth with emergent theory and practice like Dialogic Organization Development, Humble Leadership, Appreciative Inquiry, Behavioral Neuroscience, and other new forms of large-scale intervention and change.

Powerful Alumni Network: More than 1,700 AU MSOD alumni work in the corporate, government, social, and non-profit sectors. AU MSOD graduates are distinguished by their ability to empower personal and organizational change within complex organizations facing rapid change, with a particular focus on the unseen, covert forces that impact group dynamics, human behavior, and organizational leadership. These accomplished alumni provide a powerful network for current students as they advance in their OD-related careers. Every student engages with numerous program graduates along their MSOD learning journey.

Program History

The AU Master of Science in Organization Development was launched through a 30-year partnership between American University and the NTL Institute, a membership organization committed to systems change, personal growth, and social justice.

The original degree program was founded by then-NTL President Edie Seashore and then-AU Professor Morley Segal. The first cohort began in 1980. Since these early days, the AU MSOD scholar-practitioner faculty have continued the tradition of top-tier, mid-career graduate education in OD. The curriculum is continuously updated, even as it retains an emphasis on the foundations of theory and practice in the OD tradition of change.

82 percent of recent graduates have obtained positions in their desired career path within 1 year of graduation or actively using their degree within their current positions

39 plus years of excellence in experiential adult education