Photo collage new directions Department protest and students in classroom

New Directions Program Curriculum
30 academic credits total
(9 graduate seminars + a Masters capstone project)


Our curriculum is built around enhancing public leadership, civic engagement, and community development skills. A few courses include Public Policy and Leadership, Community Organizing and Development, Budgetary Politics, Social Economies Strategies, and Organizational Change Agents.

We offer three general tracks of study.  Students may tailor their studies around one of these three tracks.

1. Local Government Leadership

2. Community Organizing and Development

3. Social Economy Innovations

Students typically finish in 2-3 years graduating with a Master's Capstone Project for their portfolios. 

  • With just 2 graduate courses every semester - including summer - students can complete their seminar coursework in one and a half years.  

Students may take a limited number of relevant courses from other departments or universities, transferring those credits into the New Directions program. The final master's project capstone is a student-designed final research project that typically takes about six months to complete. 

The master's project is typically an advanced research project that responds to a real need in the jurisdiction, organization, or community the student has chosen to work with or focus on. Projects are meant to be applied and relevant to real-world concerns.

Sample masters projects in previous years include:

  • Designing a Recycling and Sustainability Transition Plan for a small jurisdiction
  • Cataloging best practices in affordable housing policies across Colorado and Proposing Local Policy Changes
  • Producing an Organizational History and Case-Study Showcase Report for a Local Non-Profit, for use in Educational and Fund-Raising Efforts
  • Conducting and Analyzing Surveys of Homeless Residents in the Denver Area, to Inform Local Advocates and Policy Makers
  • Developing and Proposing Plans for Better Community Outreach and Volunteer Engagement by Government Officials and Community-Based Organizations
  • Analyzing the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle Problem and Proposing a Proper Policy Response
  • Developing an Affirmative Action Plan for a Local Jurisdiction
  • In Partnership with Community-Based Organization, Surveying Immigrant Domestic Workers About their Job Experiences, Developing a Public-Release Report and Proposing Policy Changes to Better Protect Domestic Workers

Flexible Weekend & Online Courses

  • Weekend intensive classes allow students to complete a full graduate seminar in 6 days of retreat-style classes spread over 3 weekends that are spread out over several months
  • Online and independent study allows for additional flexibility
  • Seminars provide opportunities to learn from and network with peers, including active professionals in local and state government, non-profits, and community-based organizations

Sample Course List

  • Politics, Public Policy, and Leadership
  • Community Organizing and Development
  • Ethical Responsibilities of Leaders
  • Urban Politics:  Growth with Equity
  • Organizational Change Agents
  • Politics of Non-Profits
  • Social Economy Innovations: Politics and Policy
  • American Politics
  • American Political Thought
  • Introduction to Political-Economy
  • Labor Politics
  • Politics of the Budgetary Process
  • Comparative Politics and Public Policy
  • Immigration Politics
  • State Politics: Focus Colorado
  • Urban Social Movements
  • Professional Internship

Innovative Teaching, Community Partnerships, & Experiential Learning
Our faculty members encourage students using cooperative, innovative, and experiential learning techniques, including role-playing, small-group dynamics, field tours and research. Students are encouraged to build civic engagement internships into their studies where possible, and the program has a host of community partners who are willing to take on student interns.

Our faculty are active in research and publication, but many are also working professionals in the field, serving as town managers, government officials, and leaders of community organizations. Our teachers build the professional skills and career prospects of all students, but their first responsibility is rigorous teaching in the classroom—an area in which the department has won local and national excellence awards.

Our program balances conceptual rigor and professional competence with supportive relationships among faculty, students and government and community partners.

What Do Our Students Say?

The flexibility and affordability of the New Directions program allowed me to continue working full-time while furthering my education. The program provides a solid foundation, the opportunity to learn from outstanding practitioners in the fields, and puts you on the path to making a difference in this world.”

-- Heather Geyer

Administrative Services Director,  City of Wheat Ridge

Graphic of New Directions Weekend and Online Course Flexibility