Human Service Studies

The art and science of helping

The Human Services Studies Department of Elon University provides innovative pathways to prepare students  to address social issues in local, national, and global communities as both  professionals and citizens. The program enables students to understand and intervene in human problems and prepares them for work with diverse communities and populations.

The Human Services Studies Department strives to develop within students a strong commitment to social justice, human dignity, and self-determination. Through the application of knowledge and skills gained in the major, students will be able to implement change with individuals, families, groups, communities, and institutions using a strengths-based approach.

I had such a smooth start in my new job thanks to the HSS department. I was in training with many MSW interns (from both Catholic and Howard) who are interning at different programs, and I knew more about the helping profession than most of them did! We also met with the program developer who was talking about grants and fundraising. He could not believe that I was able to explain a logic model. The past two days, I was in my agency’s mandatory didactic training. We spent two days learning about their comprehensive strengths-based approach. Once again, something I was extremely familiar with. I honestly cannot begin to list every bit of information that has helped me so far, but truthfully I do not know where I would be without the HSS program.

MacKenzie Cooke ’13

Course of study

HSS majors gain an understanding of the many societal, cultural and personal variables that contribute to human problems globally. They learn and apply diverse approaches to addressing and solving those problems.

Elon takes a three-pronged approach to the study of human services. Majors experience the various facets of the field and build skill competency by taking three types of courses: content, skill-building and practice. Content courses include foundational classes such as Counseling Individuals and Families, Working with Groups and Communities, Designing and Evaluating Human Service Programs, Inequality and Social Policy and Research Methods. Students can also pursue specialized electives that focus on populations or areas of study such as Juvenile Justice, Children and Families, Community Development, and Aging.. Skill-building courses include Counseling Individuals and Families, Working with Groups and Communities, Play Therapy and Advanced Interventions, which give students specific tools they will need to work with various populations. Practice courses give students the chance to apply their resources and skills to real-world situations. All majors complete at least 40 service-learning hours, a full-time practicum during one winter term and a full-time, seven-week internship during their senior year.

In the field

Elon is a national leader in engaged learning, and HSS majors receive targeted opportunities to develop their knowledge by working in the field. During service projects and internships, HSS majors work alongside professionals to gain the invaluable training only real-world experiences can provide. Elon students’ fieldwork is closely linked to their classroom studies through seminars and assignments.

Field placements are highly individualized. The Elon HSS field placement coordinator uses professional expertise and knowledge of the various human service agencies in the greater Elon area and helps students obtain placements specifically matched with their goals and interests. Elon HSS majors have completed internships with dozens of organizations, including:

  • Alamance and Guilford County Departments of Social Services
  • Alamance-Burlington Schools
  • Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • Lifespan CDC
  • Alamance Regional Medical Center
  • Family Abuse Services
  • Crossroads Sexual Assault and Resource Center
  • American Red Cross
  • Twin Lakes Retirement Center
  • Hospice of Alamance County
  • Alamance eldercare
  • Lutheran Family Services
  • United Way
  • Head Start

Elon’s HSS program offers unique opportunities through experiential learning. I was able to volunteer for hospice, tutor underprivileged children, work in a guidance counseling department at a local high school, conduct research on teen suicide, and work as an intern at a human services agency for an entire semester.

Marissa Morris-Jones ’06

Research opportunities

HSS majors have many opportunities to conduct original research and present their findings at academic forums on campus and at professional conferences. Elon students have presented papers on topics ranging form the relationship between intimate-partner violence and the risk for HIV, to children’s understanding of AIDS, to teen perceptions of suicide risk factors. Some HSS majors participate in one of Elon’s competitive Fellows programs and in Tau Upsilon Alpha, the human service field’s national honor society.

Active, engaged faculty

At Elon, you will learn from and work alongside dynamic faculty committed to helping you identify your goals and then achieve them. These faculty are experts in experiential learning, and they periodically consult with other academic institutions and agency professionals regarding the most up-to-date skills and training required and anticipated within the discipline. The faculty incorporate this information into the curriculum, ensuring that Elon students will be among the best prepared in the field.

After graduation

HSS majors graduate fully prepared to begin careers in the profession or to pursue graduate study. Almost one-third of Elon’s HSS majors opt to attend graduate programs in social work, counseling, public health, law and other areas. They have been accepted to many of the nation’s premier institutions, including:

  • Columbia University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Wake Forest University
  • University of Chicago
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Georgia
  • Vanderbilt University