NOLS Saybrook Master's in Leadership

NOLS Saybrook Master's in Leadership

Earn a Master's Degree in Leadership

NOLS and Saybrook are proud to partner in offering an innovative master’s degree program in leadership. This exciting new degree features an experiential approach in which online learning is merged with intensive outdoor expeditions. The NOLS Saybrook Master's in Leadership is purposefully designed to engage the head, hands, and hearts of students through a unique combination of wilderness expedition, academic theory, and focused reflection and application.  

The experiential approach is achieved through a combination of three residential conferences (2-3 days) and three wilderness expeditions (14-24 days) that travel in remote areas. During these conferences and expeditions, theoretical concepts of leadership learned in the online portion of course delivery will continue to be taught and applied in lectures, group and cohort discussions, and on-site wilderness activities. This experiential learning component includes additional instruction and feedback from instructors and student cohort members. 



Stay tuned for upcoming course dates.


All course information at a glance




365 days

Minimum Age

21 yrs.



Fly in/out


Additional Details

Apply to the NOLS Saybrook Masters in Leadership program: call (888) 308-0032 or visit


Vernal, Utah

Heighten risk management skills through technical canyoneering and canoeing, in environments where your decisions have immediate real-world consequences

Palmer, Alaska

Learn to face adversity in organizations by coping with unpredictable environmental conditions while backpacking.


See Photos and Videos from Students and Instructors

Curriculum and Structure: A Holistic Program

The NOLS Saybrook Master's in Leadership is a 12-month lockstep cohort program completed in three consecutive semesters (including a summer semester) to earn 32 credits to graduate. 

The Master's in Leadership is a holistic and transformative educational process. Students gain professional knowledge and skills through a combination of online learning methods and the immersion experience of wilderness expeditions and associated conferences. The program explores leadership through a variety of contexts, applying a range of theories and practical skills through a systemic and developmental sequence. This modular approach begins with leadership of self and other, expands to leadership at the group level, broadening to the organizational level, and completes at the community level of engagement. This developmental approach touches on many fields of study including systems thinking, coaching, conflict management, cultural intelligence, group dynamics, change leadership, ethics, sustainability, organizational behavior, social change theory, and virtual/distributed leadership.

Central to the Master's in Leadership is developing skills to increase students’ tolerance for uncertainty and adversity, an educational outcome that is best learned in wilderness expeditions. In addition to this emergent aspect of leadership, students also analyze, problem solve, engage stakeholders, and effectively intervene in social systems for the greater good. Students become change-agent leaders through a unique variety of teaching methods that include immersive wilderness expeditions and conferences, research essays, case study analyses, journal reflection activities, peer-to-peer dialogues, Capstone projects, and mentoring. This program also fosters knowledge and skill development through a peer learning network so students continuously engage with peers and instructors, both virtually and face-to-face, to critically explore leadership concepts, practices, and issues. As a result, students can advance their professional careers into leadership positions in business, nonprofit, educational, or government organizations.

NOLS Saybrook Master's in Leadership Program Learning Outcomes

At degree completion, students will be able to: 

  1. Assess and intervene within a systemic framework, at the levels of intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, organizational, and community dynamics (Systemic Facilitator). 
  2. Develop and apply values-based ethical codes to guide their work, judgment, and decision-making (Ethical Practitioner). 
  3. Diagnose and improve the social, economic and environmental sustainability of human and other living systems (Sustainability Change Agent). 
  4. Plan and implement strategies that engage stakeholders to collectively address problems and dilemmas common to groups, organizations, communities, and ecosystems (Collaborative Problem Solver). 
  5. Identify and cultivate awareness of their individual cultural-self and its impact on their thinking, assumptions, biases, and actions, while striving to translate this deeper level of self-awareness into specific leadership actions (Culturally-Self Aware Individual). 
  6. Identify, articulate, and leverage their own unique “Signature Style” of leadership through critical analysis, scholarship, and through repeated action and reflection in the field of practice to promote healthy social systems (Authentic Leader). 

What our grads say

“I feel more comfortable making tough decisions, a sense of ease while teaching topics to a group and the ability to interact with my peers more effectively. Most importantly I feel like I can leave this course and take the knowledge I have gained and put it to use by leading trips into the backcountry professionally.”

About Saybrook University

A nonprofit, regionally accredited university, Saybrook was established on the pioneering idea that for progressive change to take place, it needs to be holistic. Saybrook provides a rigorous graduate education that aims to inspire transformational change in individuals, organizations, and communities toward a more just, humane, and sustainable world. 

For more information about Saybrook University, call (888) 308-0032 or visit

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