Antioch University

Across five campuses, Antioch University strives to provide learner-centered education to empower students with the knowledge and skills to lead meaningful lives and to advance social, economic, and environmental justice. Antioch offers two competency-based degree-level programs –- the MFA in Creative Writing and the Ph.D. in Leadership and Change. Both programs are outcomes-based.

The MFA in Creative Writing Program was established in 1997 as a low-residency model. The program is mentor-based and there are no individual courses offered for units of credit. An MFA semester is composed of an intensive ten-day on-campus residency at the Los Angeles campus followed by a five-month online project period during which the student submits monthly packets of creative and critical writing to a mentor who provides extensive written critiques. Students are awarded 12 semester units for the completion of each semester's learning. Instead of demonstrating completion of degree requirements through courses and credit hours, students must demonstrate competencies, including: full participation in five residencies, successful completion of four project periods, collaboration with at least three faculty mentors, and completion of a core faculty-approved field study.

The idea for the Ph.D. in Leadership and Change emerged in the mid-1990s from a university-wide academic innovation team. In designing the program, the faculty first defined learning outcomes and then determined how students would acquire and demonstrate the learning. As opposed to courses, students learn about organizational and systems change as well as research methods through guided readings, sessions at residencies, faculty mentoring and peer consultation. Students demonstrate their learning through required assignments over their pre-candidacy years. For example, during a three-to-six-month period during the second year, each student designs and leads a change project proposal with external and faculty approvals and guidance. Students write final reports including an assessment of goal accomplishment and personal learning. Upon approval of demonstrations of learning by two program faculty, the student is awarded credit. A dissertation is required.

Issues of diversity and equity are also at the core of Antioch University’s educational model. Antioch’s Curriculum Standards Policy governs standards of excellence for all the university’s academic programs, both for current programs and those under development, including any new competency-based models. Over the course of the coming year, Antioch will explore the development of additional competency-based programs at the undergraduate and master’s levels to serve a national market through Antioch University Connected ( As an integrated university with a national and global presence and with programs spanning baccalaureate through doctoral studies -- the institution is uniquely positioned to pilot on many levels.