Human Development in Context

Human Development in Context

Human Development and Psychological Services

The Human Development in Context (HDC) program, formerly called Human Development & Psychological Services, explores how human development is influenced by family, schools, community, and the workplace. HDC courses focus on theories of individual development and family, group and organizational dynamics. The interdisciplinary program draws from current practice and research in counseling, personality psychology, and human development. It also draws on the disciplines of psychology, sociology, gender studies, communication studies, cognitive science and anthropology to give students the opportunity to combine theory with practice and develop pragmatic skills grounded in a deep understanding of human psychology, growth and adaptation throughout the life span.

Real-World Practical Experience

HDC students acquire knowledge, skills, and flexible ways of thinking and working with people and understanding their development. All HDC students complete a one-quarter practicum internship for academic credit during their junior year, during which they put into practice the skills and knowledge introduced in the classroom. The experience also includes conducting social science research. The program is offered year-round in Chicago and during the summer in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

This knowledge can be transferred to many different fields and professions. Frequently, students seek their first jobs in community counseling centers, human services organizations, research studies, programs for youth, case management and human resources.

Recent HDC practicum sites have included the following:
  • Rape Crisis Program, YWCA
  • Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital
  • Thresholds Residential Treatment Program
  • University of Chicago Eating Disorders Research Study

Flexible Coursework

In addition to core courses in life span development, research and statistics, students have the flexibility to tailor the program to their unique interests by creating an interdisciplinary specialization. Many students choose to double major or minor while maintaining human development in context as their primary focus.

Courses use lectures, class discussions, assigned readings, and written work, as well as clinical case studies, application of theory to interpret development, the practice of fundamental counseling skills, participation in group processes, use of assessment tools and experiential assignments.

Many undergraduate students also participate in research apprenticeships and independent studies with faculty in the School of Education and Social Policy. Members of the faculty conduct research on a variety of topics, including the psychobiology of stress, school reform, motivation across the life span, family systems, narratives, and life stories, and youth programs.

Concentration coursework addresses topics such as:

  • History of mental health care
  • Understanding people in biological, social and cultural contexts
  • Motivations of human behavior
  • Long-term change in people and social environments
  • How individuals relate to the groups of which they are members
  • Evolution of human services in the United States



Contact Us

Undergraduate Office

School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-3790