HDFS Graduate Program Description
Among the top programs of its kind, the graduate program in Human Development and Family Studies provides challenging opportunities for advanced study, research and outreach on human development and family studies. HDFS offers an interdisciplinary approach to development across the lifespan leading to the MS or PhD degree. We also co-sponsor the graduate Minor and Certificate in Prevention Science.
The HDFS program is served by a full-time faculty of 13, five of whom hold joint appointments with UW Cooperative Extension, and 7 additional affiliated faculty from other UW-Madison departments. All are professionally active with strong records of national and international scholarship and service. Our work with graduate students is oriented around three fundamental assumptions:
(1) Students benefit from the perspectives of multiple disciplines and an understanding of the social, cultural and historical contexts in which people develop. For this reason, our faculty come from diverse professional and disciplinary backgrounds and possess a wide range of experience and expertise. We also encourage scholarship that takes into account the larger social and cultural contexts in which people live, such as historical change, community, social class, ethnicity, and public policy.
(2) The application of knowledge to real-world issues is central to our program and consistent with the “Wisconsin Idea” of outreach and service. Hence, faculty and students direct their work toward finding solutions to the current challenges facing individuals, families, and communities. Many work closely with policy and community leaders – in Wisconsin and nationally – to gather, disseminate and apply scientific knowledge.
(3) Graduate training is most effective when students work closely with faculty to pursue programs of research and outreach that are tailored to their individual interests and aspirations. For example, students co-author scholarly articles with professors, give conference presentations and professional workshops, collaborate on research and evaluation projects, and work with community groups and policy makers to affect social change.
The program offers courses on development throughout the lifespan and across ecological settings. These courses focus on a range of topics, including risk and resiliency throughout the life span, competent child rearing, positive youth development, development in multicultural and policy contexts, adult development and relationships, adolescence, and aging and the family. Courses that address the applications of research to practice are also part of the curriculum. Recent offerings include courses in prevention science, family policy, youth policies and programs, and bridging the gap between research and practice.
Reflecting the multidisciplinary orientation of the program, faculty and students employ a wide array of methods in their work. Faculty possess expertise in areas as diverse as longitudinal modeling, community-based research, interpretive interviewing, program evaluation, observational methods, survey methodology, action research, and ethnography. The program explicitly values both qualitative and quantitative methods and encourages students to become proficient in both.
There is a high demand for professionals with expertise in human development and family studies. Regardless of whether students end up in academic or applied settings, they are prepared for a life of scholarship and service. In addition to faculty positions at universities and colleges, recent graduates have careers in government, human service agencies, educational and prevention programs, technical assistance organizations, and policy institutes.