A graduate program focused on public leadership, community/labor organizing, and social economy

Housed within the CU Denver Political Science Department, the New Directions program offers a Master's Degree in Political Science, and graduate level certificates in Public, Non-Profit, and Community Leadership, Labor & Community Organizing, and Social Economy. We offer a practice-based, civic engagement curriculum with three broad tracks of study:

  1. Local public leadership - in the fields of public policy and local government administration.  
  2. Community and labor organizing - including developing expertise in labor unions and community-based organizational leadership.  
  3. Social economy innovations - such as worker-owned cooperatives and community land trusts, focusing on creative strategies for achieving economic growth with social equity.

All of our programs and courses develop our students' political acumen, enabling them to be effective leaders and agents of social change in neighborhoods, governmental jurisdictions, labor unions and community-based organizations.

Highlighted Program Features

  • Weekend Intensive and Online Courses.  All courses in the program can be taken in an intensive weekend-retreat format, allowing completion of a class in just three separate weekends of work. The program also offers a growing range of online graduate courses. This class format consisting of weekend and online courses allows substantial flexibility to our students, many of whom work full-time or have other personal and family obligations.
  • Practical, Professional-Development Curriculum.  In addition to taking traditional graduate seminars, students in the program are encouraged to build their studies around internships and independent study partnerships with local non-profits, labor community partners, community-based organizations and government agencies. Final masters projects are typically designed in consultation with community partners so as to have real-world relevance and impact.
  • The Cathy Shipley Best and Brightest Internship Program.  This program features funded professional internships with local government jurisdictions in small and rural jurisdictions across Colorado, available only to Masters students in qualified programs like New Directions. These internships place masters students in positions such as assistant town manager or town sustainability officer, and offer a salary and benefits package of approximately $42,000 a year.
  • Community Leaders Scholarship Program.   Partnerships with Denver-area non-profits and community-based organizations allow select students to obtain Community Leaders Scholarships, which provide students with financial support to develop a program of study around the real-world needs of a specific community partner. 
  • Alumni Network. The Center for New Directions has a long record of educating masters students who have moved on to leadership positions across Colorado, serving as elected government leaders, town managers, university officials, non-profit directors, and public policy researchers and advocates across the state. This alumni network is a resource that has proven beneficial to many of our graduates seeking opportunities both during and after graduate school.

About Our Students

Students in the Center's masters program are a mixture of recently matriculated undergraduates looking to jump-start community development and government careers, working professionals in the public and non-profit sectors, elected officials, and community activists.  Our students come from a wide range of demographic, occupational, and personal backgrounds.  We recognize that many leaders and activists in community organizing and development fields many have been out of college for some time and might face challenges compiling a traditional application portfolio with letters of recommendation from professors, or recent academic writing samples. To honor the diverse backgrounds of our student applicants, we consider a broad range of personal and professional experiences as relevant to your graduate application, and we accept letters of recommendation from employers or community leaders. Additionally, we do not require the Graduate Record Exam.