University of Vermont

Human Development and Family Studies Program

Human Development and Family Studies

Students and faculty in the Human Development and Family Studies Program explore the ways people grow and develop, form relationships and families, and cope with the common events of life. In some courses we focus our attention on the study of individual development, in an attempt to discover how people develop throughout their lives from infancy through old age. In other courses, we examine the contexts in which individuals develop; here we are concerned with personal relationships, families and communities, gender and sexual identities, and societal institutions. In all our work we take an ecological perspective, which means we look at the complex interaction of individual psychology and biology, social relationships, families, communities, societies and cultures.

Our ecological and interdisciplinary perspectives make Human Development and Family Studies a distinctive major. Because we value highly the importance of a broad-based liberal arts education at the undergraduate level, our students are required to take courses in the behavioral and social sciences, the humanities, physical and biological sciences, and multi-cultural education. These liberal studies provide our students with the vital knowledge and perspectives they need to fully appreciate the more specialized focus on human development issues across the life span.

An additional defining element of the HDFS program is the great importance we place on supporting our students as they move into and through their college years at UVM. Students have many decisions to make during their college years that pertain to both their personal and professional development, and our faculty work very hard to help them in both areas of their lives. Our unique introductory service-learning seminar enables students to explore their own interests and directly contribute to the community as they volunteer in a social service setting. Students share and reflect on these experiences through writings, class discussions, and other class activities in the context of a small seminar conducted by a faculty mentor.

As our students move beyond their first year they encounter an increasing array of courses and experiences that allow them to explore further what they are learning about themselves, about human development, and about the contexts within which development occurs. By their senior year majors are well prepared to engage in an internship in one of a variety of public and private agencies. With a semester-long commitment of about twenty hours a week, students serve in agencies such as family centers, battered-women's shelters, centers for abused and neglected children, family courts, legislative offices, child and adolescent treatment centers, boys and girls clubs, programs for elders, community mental health programs, and public and private schools. One of the important features of this required internship is that our students sometimes choose to complete it during the summer in a location distant from Burlington. This option permits students to gain experience in urban or rural settings that offer a richer and more diverse multi-cultural setting than does Chittenden County, Vermont. In recent summers students have completed internships in Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C. and in upstate New York.

Graduates of the Human Development and Family Studies Program continue their personal and professional development along a variety of paths. Some enter a human service profession directly, choosing to focus on the problems of one age group or segment of society. Others gain professional credentials by entering graduate programs in counseling, human development, family therapy, social work, family law or education. And still others work to improve the quality of the workplace in the private sector. But whatever their eventual professional life brings them, our graduates report back to us that their HDFS major prepared them well for the work of supporting human development among diverse individuals and across a variety of developmental and social contexts.

Last modified May 16 2011 03:10 PM

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