Degree Policies & Requirements

Degree Completion Requirements

All requirements for the NPL degree must be completed within five years of the date of the student’s first admission. Generally, the requirements are completed within one year for full-time students and two to three years for part-time students. Students who leave the program for a year or more must contact the Associate Dean of Students in writing before returning to the program.

The NPL degree is awarded to candidates who:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution of higher learning;
  • Have been duly admitted to the School of Social Policy & Practice; and
  • Have satisfactorily completed the prescribed program of study according to the regulations in force at the time of the student’s completion of the program, within five years of the date of his/her first admission to the School.

Credits to Complete the NPL Program

Students in the NPL Program take eight (8) NPLD credit units (CUs) (of which at least four (4) are NPLD core CUs), and two (2) outside elective CUs for a total of 10 CUs. Students may elect to take all ten (10) of their CUs within the NPLD course offerings.

Accelerated students take five (5) NPLD credit units (CUs) (of which at least three (3) are NPLD core CUs), and one (1) Penn elective CU for a total of 6 CUs. Students may elect to take all six (6) of their CUs within the NPLD course offerings.

Evaluation of Leadership Practicum

All NPL students are required to participate in the Leadership Practicum.

Full-time students’ practicums consist of:

  • a supervised mentoring and leadership development experience with either an executive director or senior level leader at a nonprofit or social impact organization;
  • a partnership with the goal of learning about the organization and providing student support on various levels that can include strategic planning, succession planning, branding or marketing, development and philanthropy, or other targeted projects; and
  • a commitment of 180-225 hours of practicum time with the sponsoring organization during the academic year beginning in early October and ending in mid-April.

Working students’ practicums consist of:

  • a mentoring and leadership development experience with either an executive director or senior level leader at a nonprofit or social impact organization; and
  • a partnership with the goal of learning about the organization and leadership within the social impact sector.

The Mentor’s feedback will be descriptive and is used primarily for the student’s learning.

Minimum Grades in Required Courses

The NPL core courses are NPLD 510, 585, 586, 587, 589, 592, 720, 762, 784, 786, 787, 790, 791, 792, 794, and 796. A student in good standing who receives a grade less than a C- in any of these courses must retake the course(s) to graduate.

Academic Advising

An academic advisor will be assigned to each student. The advisor is available to help plan the student’s course of study, assist in course selection, provide consultation on academically related concerns, and monitor academic performance and progress. Group advising conferences with students may be held during the academic year and students will be notified of the dates and times. Students may also request individual advising meetings.

Required Non-Credit Courses

All NPL students are enrolled in NPLD 701 001, a non-credit, no tuition course for the Leadership Practicum that includes resources and monthly meetings.

Waiting Lists

We do not maintain waiting lists for courses that have reached their maximum enrollment (excluding global study abroad courses). If a course is closed, students may monitor Penn InTouch to see if a seat becomes available due to an enrolled student dropping the course. If a seat is available, students may register for it on their own at any time while the registration system is open.

Taking Courses in Other Departments

SP2 NPL students are permitted to take up to two electives in other Penn schools and departments. Courses taken in other schools or departments must be graduate level (500 and above). Courses must be approved by the student’s academic advisor as relevant to the student’s educational plan and must have a value of one credit unit.

Joint Lectures

The NPL program does not have any joint lectures.

Transfer Credits

Transfer credits are not accepted for the NPL program unless through an already approved Memorandum of Understanding between the School of Social Policy & Practice and the transferring university.

Independent Study

Independent studies provide a flexible opportunity for faculty and students to work together in pursuing a topic of special interest that is not sufficiently covered by other courses in the curriculum. The content of independent studies is highly specialized and, as such, requires a plan of study developed jointly by the student(s) and the supervising faculty member.

Plans for independent study should include: a statement of the issues(s) to be studied; a rationale for why the identified issue(s) should be pursued via an independent study; a statement of how the independent study fits into the student’s overall educational plan; a summary of the independent study’s major learning objectives; the methods to be used in carrying out the study; a workable plan; the educational “products” that will result from the study (normally a written report or paper); and the expected date by which the independent study will be completed.

The process for arranging an independent study requires approval of both the student’s academic advisor and a faculty member who has agreed to conduct the independent study. The procedures to be followed are:

  • The student discusses interest in doing an independent study with the academic advisor.
  • If the advisor concurs with the student’s submission, the advisor and student will discuss potential faculty sponsors.
  • If a faculty sponsor can be located, the student and faculty sponsor craft the specific plan, including learning objectives, content, and structure for the course.
  • The academic advisor informs the registrar that an independent study for the student has been approved.

On the rare occasions that a student is unable to schedule a regular School course, the educational advisor makes a recommendation to the NPL Program Faculty Director who will try to identify a standing or adjunct faculty member able to supervise the course delivered as an independent study.

Waiver Exam

The NPL program does not have any waiver exams.

Class and Practicum Attendance

Classroom learning is a fundamental component of professional education. If a student is unable to attend either class or the practicum for other reasons, he/she should notify their class instructor(s) and/or practicum mentor. Most instructors have a strict absence policy; excessive absences can result in a lower course grade or course failure. Students who need to miss classes due to medical or family emergencies or other extenuating circumstances should contact their Academic Advisor as soon as possible.

Return from Voluntary Leave of Absence

Students notify the SP2 Registrar at sp2reg@sp2.upenn.edu with the request to return to their studies.

For a fall semester return, requests should be made before the end of March. For a spring semester return, requests should be made in September. Late requests to return from leave may result in limited course selection.

Students must contact their academic advisor prior to registering for courses.

Student Handbook

The SP2 Student Handbook outlines the policies pertaining to grading, registration, leaves of absence, tuition, finances, and more.

Go to the Student Handbook.

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