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Human Development in Context

The Human Development in Context (HDC) program examines how people develop, influence, and shape their social settings–families, communities, educational institutions, and the workplace–across their lifespan. HDC courses focus on theories of individual and family development; the local and global dynamics of learning; and cognition, social relations, and policy. This interdisciplinary program draws from current and actionable theory, research, and practice from areas as diverse as psychology, sociology, intercultural studies, gender studies, economics, and policy science.

Curriculum— 42 units

  • Distribution requirements—10 units
  • SESP Core—8 units
  • Foundations courses—1 unit
  • Concentration cluster courses—5 units
  • Extension courses—7 units at any level, 3 units 300-level courses
  • Electives—8 or fewer as needed to complete the 42-unit degree requirement

For an in-depth breakdown of these requirements, please visit the Academic Catalog or reach out to your academic adviser in the SESP Student Affairs Office.

Real-World Practical Experience

HDC students learn flexible ways of thinking and working with people to better understand development at every stage of life and across diverse contexts. All HDC students complete a one-quarter practicum internship for academic credit during their junior year to apply the skills they developed in the classroom. The program is offered year-round.

Our graduates can step into many different fields and professions. Students often begin working in human resources, customer success management, curriculum development, psychological research, teaching/education, social work, crisis intervention, outreach, and community education.

Recent HDC practicum sites have included:

Flexible Coursework

Students are challenged to think of human development from multiple perspectives. In addition to core courses in life span development, research, and statistics, students have the flexibility to tailor the program to their own special interests. Many students choose to have a second major or minor while maintaining HDC as their primary course of study.

Many undergraduate students also participate in research apprenticeships and independent studies with faculty in the School of Education and Social Policy. Faculty members research a variety of topics, including the psychobiology of stress, educational policy and change, motivation across the lifespan, economics of health and happiness, and community-based participatory engagement.

After SESP

With their strong academic background and real-world experience, HDC students are well-prepared for many postgraduate opportunities across diverse contexts. Students work in human resources, customer success management, curriculum development, research, teaching/education, social work, crisis intervention, outreach, community education, and many other areas. Approximately 25 percent of HDC alumni attend graduate school immediately after earning their bachelor's degree from SESP, and others pursue graduate work later in their careers. HDC provides an excellent foundation for graduate work in many areas, including education, psychology, social work, law, medicine, public policy, and counseling.


  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • Capgemini Consulting
  • City Year
  • Epic
  • Kirkland and Ellis
  • LinkedIn
  • Morgan Stanley
  • NorthShore Pediatric Therapy
  • Special Olympics
  • Teach for America

Graduate School and Fellowships

  • Columbia University - Social Work
  • Fulbright Fellowship
  • Loyola University Chicago - School Counseling
  • Northwestern Public Interest Program
  • Northwestern University - Management Studies
  • University of Texas at Austin - Developmental Psychology