Mar 312009
Authors: Kelley Bruce Robinson

With the addition of its newest, 76-credit-hour doctorate program, CSU is now the first university in the state to offer Ph.D. degrees in Human Development and Family Studies as well as degrees in the baccalaureate and masters level.

The new degree, Applied Developmental Science, is offered through the College of Applied Human Sciences. The department said students will be trained in the fields of school readiness and success, aging and promoting positive social and emotional development in families and communities.

“We really are the only school in the region to have a program like this,” HDFS professor Karen Barrett said. “It’s a growing field and it’s applied. We want to meet the needs of real people and we are tackling issues from a scientific standpoint.”

It also will teach graduates how to prevent violence, addictions, unhealthy lifestyles and risky behavior in an array of developmental stages of human maturation, Barrett said.

Barrett also claims it is one of 14 programs in the country to offer this kind of degree, and is the only program offered west of the Mississippi.

Barrett called the degree pioneering in nature, saying it will further the education of those in careers geared toward youth, community and elderly assistance — such as district prevention programs and statewide health organizations.

It seeks to equip those doctoral students with the skills to understand and record basic research in evidence-based programs and practices. Department leaders agreed it empowers them to research issues such as vulnerable youth and families, care for the elderly, the early school success of children, gang violence and substance abuse.

“Given the accelerating complexity of issues confronting children, families and the aging population today, it is critical to train future leaders who can work toward creating solutions to societal challenges and promote opportunities for healthy and positive development,” Department Head Lise Youngblade said in a written statement. “This new program is on the cutting edge of this effort.”

Barrett hopes the doctorate program will dig deeper and find more viable solutions to social issues and seek to serve careers based in research at universities or private institutions.

“We are drawing upon many interdisciplinary resources to do this,” Barrett said. “This puts CSU on the map for applied developmental sciences, because the degree is about the person. We are focusing on all different ranges of cultures and age groups to appropriately meet the needs of people our students can assist. CSU is unique in its ability to offer such a ground breaking opportunity.”

Staff writer Kelley Bruce Robinson can be reached at

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