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The University at Albany’s School of Education launched its first undergraduate major in human development this semester.

“It’s about knowing that you want to help people, but not knowing how to do it,” Robert Bangert-Drowns, the dean of the School of Education, said about the new program.

The School of Education defines the program as “intellectual, emotional and interpersonal learning, growth and well-being over a lifespan.” The program blends pathways in the psychology department with a heavier emphasis on learning, according to Bangert-Drowns.

“We think that there will be people who are specifically interested in how people thrive over their lifespan,” said Bangert-Drowns, “and that may be very different from somebody who is specifically centered in psychology or social welfare.”

After surveying freshman and transfer students over the summer, the office of Undergraduate Advisement told the School of Public Education that there was a high interest in the program.

Although human development graduate and doctoral programs are not available at the university, some of the program’s concentrations correspond with other graduate programs, according to Beth Skrobela, the director of communications for the School of Education.

“It really it is great preparation for master’s programs and doctoral programs that we have here at the school,” said Skrobela, “You can go onto other things like social welfare or law.”

Currently, 5 students are enrolled in the program and 15 students have declared interest in human development. Over the next five years, the major is expected to grow to 125 students.

At the moment, human development is capped at 25 students per year in an effort for the School of Education to adjust to the program.

“We wanted to grow in a controlled way so we could make sure that what we were doing — we were doing well,” said Kevin Quinn, associate special education professor and former chair of the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology.

Quinn proposed the program in 2014, two years after UAlbany received NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant funding. Other universities in the SUNY system which were awarded $35 million each.

After nearly three years of review, the new program was approved last May. Due to the program opening up late spring, human development faced marketing difficulties.

“Advisement couldn’t tell students, ‘hey, we have this cool new thing’ because we didn’t have it yet,” Quinn said. “That slowed us down.’”

According to Quinn, only sophomores with a 3.0 GPA were admitted to the major. He expects the GPA restriction to bring further talent into the major.

“We felt very strongly that students had to demonstrate that they were capable, responsible and successful before we entrusted them to go out and look after other people’s children or support other people’s children,” he said.


Tyler A. McNeil is the current managing editor for the Albany Student Press. The Capital Region native previously served as managing editor for The Hudsonian, and as an intern for the Times Union and Capital Tonight.

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