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Students at the GVSU Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Photo taken pre-COVID.

Social Innovation, M.A.

The Professional Master of Arts in Social Innovation (PMASI) is designed to prepare individuals to foster and lead innovation throughout their organizations, businesses, and communities in ways that impact daily operations and strategic goals.

The program trains students to critically examine and address complex social problems such as childhood hunger, illiteracy, domestic violence, air pollution, food deserts, contaminated drinking water, racism, poverty, and homelessness.

Visit the program website for more information.

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Meets Skills Demands in Many Fields

Employers post jobs for master's-level social innovation skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication (written and verbal), problem-solving, and qualitative analytics.

The Only Program of its Kind in Michigan

GVSU's professional social innovation program is the only one of its kind in Michigan offering a focus on critical, humanistic, integrative, and interdisciplinary approaches to social issues.

Real-World Experience

GVSU's social innovation program combines internships, global learning, and collaborative projects for a unique experience.

Source: EMSI, 2021

Program Overview

The PMASI program consists of 36 credit hours of coursework. There are no prerequisites and students with any bachelor's degree may be accepted. The program features graduate courses in social innovation, public administration, social work, and management. Courses are offered in a hybrid format, meeting both face-to-face and online. In-person class meetings are held at the Robert C. Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids.

  • Six core courses in social innovation and public administration: 18 credits
  • Three application courses: 9 credits
  • Three synthesis courses: 9 credits

Why Study Social Innovation at Grand Valley?

  • Nationally, employers post jobs for master's-level social innovation skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, critical analysis, and qualitative assessment.
  • It is the only professional social innovation program in Michigan offering a focus on critical, humanistic, integrative, and interdisciplinary approaches to social issues.
  • Internships, global learning experiences, collaborative projects, and problem-based learning create a unique degree experience.
  • Students select application courses and center their synthesis coursework around their own career interests and aspirations.
  • Courses are hybrid, offering flexibility with both face-to-face and online options.

Location & Format

Classes for the program are a combination of online and in-seat at the Allendale Campus and the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus.



Topics covered:

  • Cross-sector innovation
  • Corporate social responsibilities
  • Civic action
  • Community engagement strategies
  • Environmental justice
  • Policy development skills

Students also have the option to combine internships, global learning experiences, study abroad, collaborative projects, problem-based learning, and blending of traditional disciplines, resulting in a unique degree experience.

Career Options

Graduates can expect to be employed in the following industries:

  • Education
  • Government
  • Health and human services
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Sustainability
  • Urban planning

Skills Employers Want

Graduates strive to become change agents and usually work in areas, such as education, government, health and human services, non-profit organizations, sustainability, and urban planning. Here are a few of the job titles they can expect to hold:

  • Sustainability consultant
  • Executive director, nonprofit
  • Project leader/manager
  • Sustainability program director
  • Business development associate or manager

The Social Innovation degree at GVSU will develop the skills you need to land the job you want. The following skills correlate with those pulled from actual job postings:

  • Strategic problem-solving across sectors
  • Stakeholder collaboration
  • Resiliency and systems thinking
  • Strategic planning
  • Participatory action research
  • Flexible/creative thinking
  • Human centered design

Source: EMSI, 2020

Application Deadline

Applications for admission are accepted on a rolling basis with deadline for fall semester June 1; winter November 1; and spring/summer April 1. Applicants after the deadline will be considered on an individual basis. The $30 fee is waived if previously applied to GVSU.

Admission Requirements

In addition to Grand Valley's admission requirements, all students seeking a M.A. in Social Innovation must also meet the following:

  • A grade point average of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale for the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework.
  • Submitting a GRE score is not required. However, applicants who have neither a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework or five years of professional experience may consider submitting a GRE score to strengthen their application.
  • A personal statement of career goals and background experiences, including an explanation of how this program will help achieve educational and professional objectives.
  • Recommendations from at least two individuals who are in positions to attest to the applicant’s successful completion of the program.
  • An official transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution.
  • TOEFL test scores (Test of English as a Foreign Language), or IELTS (International English Language Testing System), or MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery) for applicants whose native language is not English. The following minimum scores are expected: TOEFL is 80, IELTS is 6.5, and MELAB is 77.

Admissions may request additional information or request a personal interview. The Admission Committee is looking for evidence that a candidate will be successful if admitted into the program and considers each applicant as a whole student. 

For More Information

Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies Department | 324 Lake Ontario Hall | (616) 331-8020

Graduate Admissions Office

Program Director

Denise Goerisch, Ph.D. 
(616) 331-8020



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