Challenges in Childhood and Society

Welcome to Challenges in Childhood and Society! This is a new course cluster available to all Georgetown University undergraduate students. It focuses on intersections among child health and well-being, family life, and the social structures that support the developing child. Below, you will find important information about this new learning opportunity, and its nontraditional structure.

We are excited to announce that the course cluster has received the community-based learning (CBL) designation from the Center for Social Justice. It is also a part of the Georgetown Disability Studies Initiative, a multi-school effort to advance Disability Studies as a scholarly enterprise and a social justice intervention.

We hope you consider enrolling for the Fall semester of 2016 or the Spring semester of 2017! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Cluster Coordinator Lan Le at


Increasingly in the United States and around the world, we are aware of the importance of the social, behavioral, and environmental determinants of young people’s health and well-being that affect their quality and length of life. Yet the challenges faced by children today in achieving positive outcomes are numerous and formidable. These include poverty, racism, single parenthood, drug abuse, violence, early onset chronic physical and mental health problems, and inadequate education and social support structures.

Nowhere are these issues more salient and pressing than among children growing-up in impoverished conditions. Not all youth will benefit equitably from a healthy start in life, making them vulnerable to serious adverse consequences in the short- and long-term. This vulnerability perpetuates substantial disparities in opportunity, health, and development that can last a lifetime--unless prevented and intervened on.

This course cluster seeks to bring new solutions to these pressing problems in ways that complement and enhance Georgetown University’s core educational mission.

As part of the Provost’s Designing the Future(s) Initiative, we are creating a bold new set of educational and research opportunities for Georgetown University undergraduate students and faculty that leverage our University’s well-established expertise and capacities in health, mental health, human development, psychology, psychiatry, public policy, population sciences, and disparities. We developed this new initiative to create linkages among undergraduate students with allied interests in children’s health, mental health, and lifespan development with expert faculty and resources on both the Main and Medical campuses. This is a highly interdisciplinary opportunity, integrating knowledge across the University to benefit education and scholarship.

About the Course Cluster

The Challenges in Childhood and Society course cluster is offered as a series of 1 credit modular short-courses. Each course lasts for about 4 or 5 weeks during a semester. Students may enroll in 1 or more of these courses and have the opportunity to “bundle” 3 of our courses together into a single 3 credit course. All of the courses we offer have been approved for undergraduate elective credit at Georgetown College, McDonough School of Business, School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Walsh School of Foreign Service. Additional courses may also be taken for additional credits.

For Psychology majors and minors in the College, the single 3 credit bundled course can be applied toward an elective.

This class will appear as 1 credit module on your transcript until all 3 modules to bundle a course are completed. At that time please contact your dean so that the modules can be bundled into a course.

Toolkit for Expanding the System of Care Approach

About the Course

Challenges in Childhood and Society begins its 1st module with a required gateway course (UNXD-200) that introduces students to the cluster and its major content. This course focuses on theory and research related to children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral health and the social contexts in which they live, learn, and play. The gateway course is organized around key influences that challenge or protect children during their journey to adulthood: genetic, prenatal and environmental factors; family, peers, and significant adults; educational and health systems; mass media and community exposure; and political, socio-cultural, and economic forces. The course introduces students to these complex and interacting pressures on children’s development, their biopsychosocial origins, and their impact on educational, economic, health, and mental health outcomes.

In the 2nd module, students are expected to enroll in the community-based learning course (UNXD-201). This course brings students out into the Washington, DC community to youth- and family-oriented educational settings and social service agencies. Course faculty travel with students to these placements. While on-site, students and faculty engage in direct observation and field study of children in context and under the guidance of expert professionals. Community-based learning is an innovative and immersive educational experience. The course seeks to foster students’ understanding of children’s unique health and psychological needs, and emerging social relationship structures in an up-close manner with ample opportunity for learning and reflection.

In the 3rd module, students are expected to enroll in the policy course (UNXD-202) where they return to the campus classroom setting and integrate their experiences across theory, research, and community-based learning into a cohesive whole. This course combines the analysis and evaluation of programs and policies serving children and families in a systematic nature. Its purview includes the origin and effect of health and social policies on children and families, as well as policy goal development.

As part of the course cluster’s 3rd module, students may also enroll in one or more special topic seminars we offer. These seminars focus on contemporary and pressing issues in children’s health, mental health, family life, and society at large. They are intended to offer students a deeper exploration of risks and resiliencies navigated by children and society. Seminar topics can range from school and community violence, to cyber-bullying and suicide prevention, to homelessness and LGBTQ youth, to pediatric chronic health conditions and quality of life, to learning differences and special education, to adolescent substance use and prevention, and more. In the Fall of 2016, the seminar focuses on autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities.

Module 1: UNXD-200-01: Principles in Childhood and Society (1 credit)

Module 2: UNXD-201: Community Engagement in Childhood and Society (1 credit)

Module 3: UNXD-202: Policy in Childhood and Society (1 credit)


Module 3: UNXD-203: Contemporary Issues in Childhood and Society (1 credit)

About the Faculty

About the Center

The Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development is an interdisciplinary academic unit of the Medical Center campus. For over 40 years, this Center has engaged in research, training, policy, and outreach focusing on children and youth with mental health and developmental challenges and support for their families.