Provide faith-based leadership and evidence-based care to a hurting world. Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership (M.A.)

Disasters, refugees, human trafficking, and poverty are among the biggest moral and biblical justice issues facing the Church and society. Are you called to learn how to faithfully do good better as you help people and respond to issues like these? Our M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership equips you to take on complex problems to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

Credential Type

  • M.A.

Major Credits Required

  • 36


  • 10 months to 3 years


  • Hybrid or On Campus

Schedule Options

  • Full-time, part-time
Rubble after Earthquake

306 Million People World-Wide

With hundreds of millions of people around the word in need of humanitarian assistance, careers in this field continue to grow.

49.6 Million Affected by Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a major global problem, and Christian humanitarians are needed now more than ever to help.

27.1 Million Refugees

Humanitarian aid workers and leaders help displaced individuals and families around the world.

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Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership MA Cohort 23-24

Serving People in Their Time of Need Why Wheaton for Your Master's in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership?

Christian humanitarians are needed now more than ever. According to the United Nations, natural disasters have increased by nearly 400% globally in the past 40 years. This program, the first of its kind, will help you to meet this challenge.

Our M.A. in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership prepares Christian professionals to care for and empower those affected by crisis, disasters, and poverty in service of Christ and His Kingdom through faith-based humble leadership and evidence-based practices.

Our interdisciplinary curriculum was developed with expert input from employers, academics, managers, and front-line staff from numerous Christian relief and development organizations. During the program, you will build technical skills, learn best practices, hone your leadership abilities–and also cultivate your faith and learn to integrate it professionally in service of others.

We are a community of compassionate practitioners driven by a shared desire to love God, love our neighbors, and make a meaningful difference in a hurting world. 

Learn & Serve With a Leading Humanitarian & Disaster Research Center

Wheaton College is home to the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI), the country’s first faith-based academic research center of its kind. Our graduate program is housed within HDI, which provides our students great research opportunities and practical learning experiences.

Cutting Edge Research

At HDI, scholars and students (both in-person and online) grow close relationships and delve into high-level, impactful research together. Students collaborate with professors on projects that explore many aspects in the humanitarian and disaster fields, across disciplines.

Recent research includes:

  • theories of change for urban Chicago grassroots organizations
  • humble leadership
  • spiritual growth after natural disasters
  • social determinants for volunteering in response to humanitarian crises
  • practical theologies in addressing human trafficking
  • Evangelical perspectives on care for immigrants

Address Global Needs. Serve the Global Church.

In this brief video, you'll see how we integrate faith and best practices from the field to prepare you to serve the world's most vulnerable populations.

Our Curriculum

The M.A. in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership combines coursework in the social sciences, leadership, community psychology, and sector expertise. You'll put this learning into action during a crisis leadership capstone course.

Please see the graduate course catalog for current requirements as well as the most up-to-date course numbers, titles, and descriptions.

Sample Courses

Your graduate coursework will include classes such as: 

  • NGO Leadership
  • Transformational Development
  • Disaster, Crisis & Trauma Intervention
  • Refugee & Forced Migration Issues
  • Organizing Emergency Humanitarian Assistance


Our Faculty Compassionate, Experienced Scholars & Practitioners

Among the Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership faculty you will find experts on some of the world’s most pressing issues in the field of relief and development. They are award-winning scholars and educators with recognition from or affiliation with FEMA, the American Psychological Association, Mutual of America, Outreach magazine, and other organizations and publications.

Kent Annan Headshot

Kent Annan

Director of Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership
Jamie D. Aten, Ph.D. Headshot

Jamie D. Aten, Ph.D.

Blanchard Chair of Humanitarian Disaster Leadership, Executive Director of Humanitarian Disaster Institute, Professor of Humanitarian Disaster Leadership
Jamie Goodwin, Ph.D. Headshot

Jamie Goodwin, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership
John McConnell, Ph.D. Headshot

John McConnell, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

Putting Learning into Practice Engage in Experiential Learning & Personal Development

Whether you're a residential or hybrid student, you'll participate in enriching real-world learning experiences that equip you to effectively serve others. You'll also make important personal and professional connections that will grow your community of like-minded, faithful scholars and practitioners. The learning and community will help propel your career in humanitarian leadership forward.

students volunteering at Feed My Starving Children

Internships & Crisis Simulations

In your crisis leadership capstone, you’ll put learning into action with multi-day simulation to activate self-understanding, leadership skills, and relational practices towards next steps in your career.  Faculty and staff provide valuable insights and advice on how you can also gain real-world experience through an internship in the U.S. or abroad with one of HDI’s partner organizations.


HDL Students at Accord Conference

Christ-Centered Kingdom Diversity

Learn with and from a diverse community. You’ll be enriched by perspectives from around the U.S. and the world. You’ll engage in critical discussion on issues of power asymmetries, localization, and mutual partnerships in the field of relief and development work. In addition to finding great friends and mentors, this will foster humble leadership, inclusion, openness as part of partnering in serving God’s diverse kingdom coming.


HDL Field Operations 2022 Dixon Valley

Alumni & Professional Connections

HDI students benefit from strong industry partnerships and a worldwide alumni base, for professional mentoring and career opportunities. Collaborative networks among HDI cohorts nourish one another during the program and for years to come. Our Chicagoland location and relationships with leaders worldwide put you within reach of diverse organizations and populations, and our annual lectures and conferences can expand your knowledge and network.


Success After Wheaton Careers in Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Leadership

Humanitarian work and disaster relief are significant, growing professional fields as crises affect an increasing number of people worldwide. Our graduates focus on faith-driven leadership, high-level scholarship, and best practices for work in humanitarian and disaster sectors.


Since the inaugural cohort in 2018, our alumni have found success serving in humanitarian and disaster work, both domestically and globally in fields such as: 

  • International humanitarian aid
  • Human Rights
  • Domestic disaster relief
  • NGOs and community benefit organizations
  • Refugee care
  • Justice-related work
  • Emergency management
  • Disaster ministry
  • Anti-human trafficking
  • Community development
  • Policy

This degree is also excellent preparation for future doctoral studies in a variety of disciplines.


Our graduates faithfully serve in a range of roles at NGOs, agencies, and other organizations that do humanitarian and disaster-related work. Examples include: 

  • American Red Cross
  • World Vision USA
  • Watts of Love
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • Hesed House
  • Samaritan’s Purse
  • Lions Club International
  • FEMA
  • World Relief
  • Re:new Project

Better Samaritan Podcast ArtThe Better Samaritan Podcast 

The Better Samaritan is a podcast with our faculty Kent Annan & Jamie Aten where we’re learning—along with you—how to more helpfully love our neighbors, from everyday acts of kindness to navigating complex humanitarian challenges facing the church and society. Join us as we interview experts with insight on learning to do good, better.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

 HDL Graduating Class at Commencement
Investing in You

Financial Wellness

The Wheaton College Graduate School Student Financial Services team can help you understand how much your graduate studies will cost and what financial aid options -- such as graduate assistantships, loans, payment plans, and scholarships -- may be available to you.


Financial Scenarios

Next Steps

Looking for a career that makes a world of difference for people affected by natural disasters and humanitarian crises? The unique M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College might be right for you—whether on campus or hybrid (online except for two one-week intensives during the program). Request more information or start your application today.

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