Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance

The humanitarian field is growing and changing quickly: the increasing numbers of people in need, humanitarian workers, and budgets have resulted in massive growth of and demand on the system. These shifts mean we need new models of effective humanitarian assistance and more capable humanitarian leaders to develop and implement them.

The Masters of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) is a rigorous academic program that prepares humanitarian practitioners to address today’s humanitarian challenges as leaders in the evolving landscape. 

Learn More About How to Apply

Contact the Program Director

Cutting and Drying Okra

Each year we welcome a small cohort of practitioners to the MAHA program. These practitioners, turned students, bring a rich variety of experiences to each other and the Tufts community at large. Through the one-year intensive program, the faculty and I enjoy the exchange of ideas that helps us all stay in front of our ever changing field.

Daniel Maxwell - Director, Masters of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) Program at The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University


Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree, have significant experience in the field of humanitarian assistance (at least three to five years), and have a demonstrated commitment to furthering their career in the field of humanitarian assistance. Candidates must also be fluent in written and spoken English. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required.

Native English speakers will be required to demonstrate literacy in another language at the end of the program.

Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance

The MAHA is a one-year joint degree offered in partnership with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The program offers an academic setting where mid-career professionals increase their range of skills and analytical abilities in the areas of nutrition, food policy, and economic, political and social development as they relate to humanitarian action in complex emergencies. Students study current and past humanitarian theories, programs, and policies through interactive courses with field experts. For their capstone, students explore a topic related to the humanitarian field in greater depth with the support of an adviser.
The program is administered by the Feinstein International Center, a leading research and teaching center at Tufts University dedicated to improving humanitarian action. The relationship with the center gives students the unique opportunity to work closely with the center’s faculty and researchers.

View Current Degree Requirement Worksheet

Each MAHA student works with two advisers. One adviser helps students to tailor the program to meet their individual interests and professional needs, select the most appropriate courses, and ensure that the program requirements are met. The second adviser also works closely with the students on their capstone projects. 

Mandatory Courses

Students must take all three of these Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy courses:

  • NUTR 223: Seminar in Humanitarian Issues
  • NUTR 229: Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies
  • NUTR 308: Nutrition in Complex Emergencies

Core Electives

Students must take three of the following courses at the Friedman School or the Fletcher School:

  • NUTR 0202: Principles of Nutrition Science
  • NUTR 0207: Statistical Methods in Nutrition Science and Policy
  • NUTR 0210: Survey Research Nutrition
  • NUTR 0217: Monitoring and Evaluation of Nutrition and Food Security Projects
  • NUTR 0222: Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies - cross listed with Fletcher (DHP D232)
  • NUTR 0228: Community and Public Health Nutrition
  • NUTR 0231: Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • NUTR 0238: Economics for Food Policy Analysis
  • NUTR 243: Forced Migration
  • NUTR 0301: Nutrition in the Life Cycle
  • NUTR 0304: Nutrition, Food Security, and Development
  • NUTR 0324: International Humanitarian Response
  • DHP D220: Processes of International Negotiation
  • DHP D221: International Mediation (prerequisite D220 or equivalent)
  • DHP D223: Theories of Conflict and Conflict Resolution
  • DHP D231: Gender and Human Security in Transitional States and Societies
  • DHP D235: Introduction to Research Methods
  • DHP P220: Understanding Mass Atrocities
  • DHP P222: Development Aid in Practice
  • DHP P225: Design & Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming
  • DHP P226: Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners & Donors
  • DHP P297: Engaging Human Security: Latin America
  • DHP P298: Conflict in Africa
  • ILO L210: International Human Rights Law
  • ILO L216: International Humanitarian Law
  • ILO L224: Peace Operations

PLEASE NOTE: Some of these courses may not be offered. Substitutions may be used upon permission by the director of the MAHA program.

Capstone Project

The capstone is a unique opportunity for students to work long and hard—longer than one usually can in professional life, and with more intellectual freedom and rigor—on an issue that they are passionate about. Students draw on their learning at Tufts and previous humanitarian experiences to develop this comprehensive written study. The specific format of the final product is flexible to allow students to achieve their pedagogical aims for the study. Each student is matched with a faculty advisor who will help guide them through the process.

Capstone projects by past MAHA students are available at the Tufts Digital Library website.

Language Requirement

For native English speakers: you must pass a reading and oral foreign language examination in order to graduate.

Non-native English speakers who were primarily educated in English may also be required to demonstrate their proficiency in a second language by completing a reading and oral foreign language examination.

Other Requirements

All students are also expected to pass a short online course on research ethics.

Most MAHA students come from the aid, diplomatic, and military communities. After receiving the degree they return, usually to higher-level positions with management and program design responsibilities. 

Recent graduates are:

  • Running country-level aid programs for major NGOs
  • Filling key advisory posts within donor aid agencies
  • Managing emergency operations for UN agencies
  • Holding ministerial level responsibility for refugee and asylum seeker portfolios
  • Advising on military civil affairs in conflict and post-conflict regions

Graduates join a strong network of MAHA alumni who are working across the globe. The first MAHA class graduated in 1999 and alumni from all classes remain actively involved with MAHAs and the program.  

The Feinstein International Center

The Feinstein International Center administers the MAHA program. The center promotes the use of evidence and learning in operational and policy responses to protect and strengthen the lives, livelihoods and dignity of people affected by or at risk of humanitarian crises. The center takes a practical, solution-oriented approach to research and teaching to address current and future global humanitarian challenges. To achieve its mission, Feinstein builds strong partnerships with academic, international, national, indigenous, private, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world. Through these partnerships, the center uses existing knowledge and develop new evidence to inform and influence those who advocate for and create change.

The center has taken a leading role in working with the United States Agency for International Development/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the United Nations, and nongovernmental agencies to train staff in key areas of humanitarian intervention.

Read more on their web site

The Fletcher School

The Fletcher School is a leading professional graduate school of international affairs distinctive for its collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to theory and practice. Students representing over 70 countries join with an experienced faculty to inform classroom discussions with diverse viewpoints. Immersed in this dynamic environment, broadly knowledgeable and inquisitive leaders develop a thorough and nuanced grounding in the latest political, economic, business, and legal thinking and translate it into practical successful actions that shape international issues and events.

Read more on their web site

Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)

The MAHA program is a member affinity program with PHAP. Through this partnership, PHAP members receive a 10% discount. 

Learn more here