The Program, Human Development and Social Relations | Earlham College
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The Program

Human Development and Social Relations (HDSR) is an interdisciplinary major that draws on the liberal arts to prepare students for engaging with social issues and for effecting personal and social change. Combining the approaches of psychology, sociology, anthropology and philosophy, students learn how to work with individuals and groups within larger organizational settings and to appreciate diverse perspectives and cultures. The program emphasizes practical experience and theoretical perspectives, as well as reflection on the role of values and ethics in professional life.

The Program's foundation lies in a firm understanding of both individual persons and contemporary social systems, an understanding that cannot be attained through the study of a single discipline. By examining social issues and problems in all their complexity, students integrate various disciplines to imagine and work toward a more just world.

Many HDSR courses involve experiential learning within both the classroom and the larger community. In addition, students complete a field study consisting of 200 hours of experience in organizations such as schools, clinics, camps, businesses, government, and other public and private organizations. These field studies provide opportunities to integrate theory gained in the classroom with experience gained in the field setting. Students spend an additional semester reflecting on their experiences and writing a substantial paper that analyzes their field studies using various theoretical tools learned in their core classes.

HDSR is a broadly focused major that supports students' interests in a variety of different educational and career paths.  HDSR graduates have found work in such fields as law, counseling, public administration, medicine, nonprofit management, social work, education and the ministry. Whatever they do, HDSR graduates bring to their work a broad understanding of complex social issues, a creative orientation toward solving problems, a respect for persons, and a commitment to social justice.

A majority of HDSR graduates attend graduate or professional schools, usually matriculating in their first choice program, and believe that their HDSR major made graduate work easier and more successful. According to HEDS data, Earlham is ranked 46th (in the 96th percentile) among 1,469 institutions of higher learning in the U.S. in the percentage of graduates who go on to receive Ph.D.s in the human service professions.

The Major

Core Courses

Students majoring in HDSR complete the following core courses:

  • HDSR 239 Persons and Systems
  • SOAN 345 Social Research Methods
  • HDSR 349 Theory, Ethics and Social Justice
  • HDSR 363 Field Study
  • HDSR 488 Senior Capstone Experience
  • HDSR 489 Senior Seminar

Disciplinary Courses

Students majoring in HDSR complete the following disciplinary courses:

  • In Psychology:
    • PSYC 115/116 Introduction to Psychological Perspectives
  • In Sociology/Anthropology:
    • SOAN 115 Medical Anthropology in a Global Age OR
      SOAN 118 Inequalities, Power and Society

Focus Area

Students majoring in HDSR must complete three courses in one focus area

Focus I: Diversity & Social Justice Focus

  • AAAS/HIST 324 Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.
  • AAAS/HIST 356 The Civil Rights Movement
  • ECON 345 Urban Political Economy
  • AAAS/HIST 369 African American History Since Emancipation
  • PAGS/MGMT 343 Conflict Resolution
  • PSYC 356 Psychology of Prejudice
  • PSYC 362 Cross Cultural Psychology
  • SOAN 215 Identity and Social Movements
  • SOAN 327 Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Justice
  • WGSS 305 Radical Que(e)ries

Focus II: HDSRalth and Wellness Focus

  • PSYC 363 Developmental Psychopathology
  • PSYC 368 Human Sexuality
  • PSYC 374 Counseling Psych
  • PSYC 376 Health Psych
  • PSYC 378 Psychoactive Drugs and Behavior
  • PSYC 379 Community Psychology
  • SOAN 333 Medical Anthropology and Global Health
  • SOAN 335 Heaalth, Medicine and Society
  • SOAN 339 Drugs and Heaalth
  • Students with this focus strongly encouraged to take at least one Biology course

Focus III: Social Institutions Focus

  • AAAS/REL 330 Criminal Justice and Moral Vision
  • CCCE 248 Theory and Practice of Education
  • MGMT 203 Human Behavior in Organizations
  • POLS 342 Congress and Public Policy
  • POLS 343 Legislative Toolkit
  • POLS 366 American Political Thought
  • PSYC 230 Human Development
  • PSYC 366 Cradle and Grave
  • PSYC 373 Moral Education
  • PSYC 37X Raised by the State: Foster Care in the United States
  • SOAN 3XX Surveillance and Society
  • SOAN 335 Health, Medicine and Society

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

Designed for first-year students but open to those considering a major in HDSR. Examines individuals in relationship to society and how different disciplines analyze this relationship and propose solutions to the problems they identify. Students complete an experiential learning group project that involves interviewing staff and consumers of local agencies and businesses.

This course introduces HDSR students to the theoretical and ethical perspectives and tools that they will need to conduct and analyze their field study experience, as well as to prepare for careers in the human services and beyond. Students will build an intellectual foundation in classical and contemporary social theory and will explore various ethical approaches to determining what is fair and just in our global society. Prerequisite: HDSR 239. (D-D, W)

Open to majors and prospective majors only. Explores various theoretical perspectives concerning the nature of individuals, and social and cultural systems. A primary goal is to clarify, evaluate and improve the theoretical frameworks that students use when they attempt to understand social reality. Incorporates instruction on methods needed to complete the field study requirement for the HDSR major.

HDSR 363 FIELD STUDY (0–3 credits)
Provides a first-hand opportunity to integrate theory gained in the classroom with insights into and experience in the workings of an organization. Helps students become more conscious of the relationship of social roles, institutional dynamics and professional development. Students complete 200 hours of work at a site of their choosing, in consultation with the HDSR Program Coordinator. Prerequisites: HDSR 239 and 359.

Designed to help students integrate the practical experience of the field study with theoretical models, particularly those studied in the HDSR core courses. Through class discussion and individual presentations, students share thoughts, ideas, research and experiences. Provides a supportive framework for writing the field study paper. Prerequisite: HDSR 363. (IE)

This advanced interdisciplinary core course introduces the political-philosophical paradigm called “liberalism” that emerged out the European Enlightenment, and which underlies the constitutional democracies of the modern West, including the United States. Next, the rapid ascendancy in recent decades of a particular brand of liberalism – often dubbed “neoliberalism”— and its implications are explored. And finally, the basic assumptions about the roles of individuals, governmental entities, and the “market” (i.e., capitalist economy) that are inherent in both liberalism and neoliberalism are subjected to deep critiques from perspectives such as Marxism, feminism and critical race theory. This course is intended to help students prepare for the HDSR Problem Analysis Presentation, as well as for civic and professional life after college as con­tribut­ing members of democratic and global societies. Prerequisites: HDSR 239 and 359. (D-D, W)   

HDSR 482 SPECIAL TOPICS (3 credits)
Selected topics determined by the instructor for upper-level study.


Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

HDSR 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
Investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty supervisor.

This class provides a context for completing the HDSR Senior Thesis. In addition, it serves as a “bridge experience” to the post-college world of graduate school and career.

The core focus of this course is to help HDSR students meet their second Capstone Requirement, the Reflective Essay. In general, this course and essay will help students reflect on what they have learned through the program and help them be thoughtful and intentional about what they want to do in the future, personally and professionally. Prerequisites: HDSR 488-1.

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
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