Can I create an academic program that doesn’t exist?

When I was searching for a graduate program, I was really attracted to the Human Development and Psychology program at HGSE because it would allow me to continue my studies in developmental psychology. Besides psychology, however, I had a very specific interest in children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. Sadly that’s not a program offered at HGSE. Would it be possible, I wondered before starting here, to concentrate on a topic that wasn’t included in one of the 13 academic programs.

The answer is YES!

When I was applying to HGSE, the first thing I did was to go through the course catalog and pick out some of the courses that were directly related to my interest. After I arrived at HGSE, I tailored the remaining courses to my own needs by applying what we learned in class to my topic and writing all of my papers on that topic. To further create the sense that developmental disabilities is its own program, I connected with other students who have the same interest and then complemented my studies with related volunteer activities and by attending talks.

By far the best part of my year studying developmental disabilities has been connecting to professors who work in my field of interest. In particular, one professor, Joanna Christodoulou who teaches Developmental Disabilities, helped me to create an independent study working at Boston Children’s Hospital where I get to help out at the Learning Disabilities Program. There I get to see how both Joanna and my Reading Difficulties professor, Jennifer Thomson, apply what they teach to the real world.

Putting together my own program has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had at HGSE. I’m so glad I didn’t let the lack of a program in my specific field stop me from attending.