Master’s degree strengthens leadership skills for S.D. teachers

student studying in front of fireplace

Leadership and Administration program offers veteran faculty, online format

ABERDEEN, S.D. – When South Dakota teacher Meghan Wounded Head wanted to pursue a master’s degree in leadership and administration, Northern State University was the obvious choice.

She had already completed one master’s program at Northern – teaching and learning in 2012 – and it was a wonderful experience.

“What I remembered about that was Northern's program fitting so well into my teaching life,” said Wounded Head, who teaches English at Sioux Falls Washington High School. “As I started the leadership program, it was just like I remembered – it was a smooth fit into my schedule as the online platform complemented by job demands. From my first master's, I knew the professors and the program, and I knew to enroll in this program would be the best fit for me and my professional goals.”

Wounded Head graduated this spring from the NSU Master of Education in Leadership and Administration program, a program that has graduated 76 students in the last 10 years alone. Now, she joins the ranks of education administrators across the region who are alumni of this successful program – including 2002 grad Dr. Beth Wentworth, winner of this year’s Teaching Excellence Award for the Nebraska State College System.

When it comes to the reason for the program’s success, NSU Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Dr. Craig Kono said one significant factor was going virtual in 2012.

“The online format reaches out to a larger audience, is user friendly, convenient, saves time and travel, and allows K-12 educators more summer time at home with their families instead of driving to campus,” Kono said. 

The program is also constructed to be straightforward, dependable and efficient, he said, with minimal institutional hurdles. The adoption of the Educational Leadership Constituency Council (ELCC) standards for school principals also led to challenging new coursework that provides essential, practical knowledge, and contemporary information for today’s leaders.

There’s also the fact that the program carries the Northern State University name.

“People look to NSU to find strong professional educators and leaders because they know our long tradition of excellence in education,” Kono said. “We are NSU and K-12 education is in our DNA.”

Supportive, Experienced Faculty

Kono said the program also has a veteran faculty with many years of experience in K-12 education and school administration. 

Wounded Head said the professors were the best part of the program – specifically, the fact that they were teachers, just like her.  

“They understood that obtaining a degree while working as a teacher is a lot to take on – but I knew that they understood what I was balancing,” she said. “Professors were supportive, communicative, and organized. The online platform was also beneficial as I could manage and balance both schedules of my job/school and coursework.” 

Fellow 2020 graduate Tara White said the best part of the program for her was the growth in her own confidence to become a leader. 

“My advisor, Dr. Kono, provided a perfect balance between high expectations and encouragement to shape and flourish my leadership skills,” White said. “I also loved being able to complete the entire program online from home while continuing to work full time and be with my family.”

Strengthened Leadership Skills 

White, who teaches third grade at the Agar-Blunt-Onida School District, said she chose to enroll in the program because she was looking to expand her skills beyond the classroom. 

“While I love being in the classroom, working directly with the kids, I would also love the opportunity to become more connected with the entire district and have a larger influence in all of the classrooms,” she said.

Now, her leadership and administration degree has gotten her one step closer to that.

“This program has developed and strengthened my leadership skills beyond what I imagined when I first began,” White said. “I feel much more confident in my role as a classroom teacher, making daily decisions with my colleagues and students, handling behavioral issues, and assisting our administration when asked to fulfill leadership roles.” 

Wounded Head is also on her way to becoming the educational leader she strives to be, thanks to the NSU M.S.Ed. in Leadership and Administration program.

“I would absolutely recommend the program to others as I learned so much from the professors, had great resources given to me, and was able to discuss issues with teachers around the state,” said Wounded Head. “I felt confident in knowing that the professors were there to help me become the leader I am aspiring to be – I would want others to experience this type of supportive learning as well.”

Register Now 

To learn more or register for the NSU M.S.Ed. in Leadership and Administration program, contact the NSU Office of Graduate Studies by emailing

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $55 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.   

Pictured, top to bottom: Kono, White, Wounded Head