Youth & Social Innovation Major

Interested in an exciting career working with or on behalf of youth?

The Youth and Social Innovation major is designed for undergraduate students who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of youth.

About YSI

The YSI curriculum is built around three core areas:

1) Youth Development (primarily ages eight to 25 years, but also younger children): understanding dynamic processes of biological, social, emotional, and cognitive development, with a focus on how youths’ assets and school/community settings influence youth outcomes

2) Social Innovation: enhancing youth development through systematic approaches to developing and refining youth experiences or programs, with attention to what works for different youth in diverse settings and contexts

3) Policy: understanding how regulations and rules that affect schools and organizations serving youth are developed, and understanding the effects of those policies on youth outcomes

Experiential learning is a key component of the major. Our students work with youth in the community, join faculty-led research, and design innovations addressing issues youth face.

Considering a YSI Major?

Interested students should attend a School of Education and Human Development information session to learn more about the program, requirements, and application process. 

Request Information About This Program

You are invited to apply to the YSI Major as a first or second year. Our application deadline is February 1.

The YSI Major can be completed in your third and fourth years, even if you have not taken any YSI courses in your first or second year. However, we encourage you to enroll in at least one YSI course to help you determine if the YSI Major is the right one for you. Here are the courses we recommend and a short description of each:

EDHS 1120 So You Want to Change the World: Foundations of Community Engagement
Interact with youth in our community and discover how to engage with youth and their broader communities. EDHS 1120 meets a YSI Major core requirement.

EDLF 2050 What the Innovators Do: Strategies to Transform the Lives of Youth
“Meet” innovators and investigate the process by which educators, entrepreneurs, and policy makers design innovations to combat inequalities in education. EDLF 2050 meets a YSI Major core requirement.

EDLF 3170 Introduction to Adolescence
Gain a working knowledge of adolescent development, foundational to the YSI Major. EDLF 3170 or EDLF 3150 meets a YSI Major core requirement.

EDLF 3150 Introduction to Child Growth and Development
Gain a working knowledge of child development, foundational to the YSI Major. EDLF 3170 or EDLF 3150 meets a YSI Major core requirement.

EDLF 3000 Research Design for Social Innovation with Youth
Are you past the exploratory stage and eager to select the YSI Major? This introductory course on research design will provide you with conceptual knowledge that will help you get the most out of your future YSI coursework. EDLF 3000 meets a YSI Major core requirement.

Opportunities to work with youth: We recommend students applying to the Youth and Social Innovation have experience working with youth. Click here for suggested ways to engage with youth in your community.

Students considering a Teacher Education major in Early Childhood, Elementary, or Special Education: While students interested in a teacher education degree may pursue the YSI undergraduate major and then pursue a one-year graduate degree in teaching (MT), students will not be able to double major in YSI and a teacher education undergraduate major. If you are undecided about whether to pursue YSI or a teacher education undergraduate major, you may apply to both programs by the February 1 deadline. Be certain to tailor each application to make it clear why each program would be a fit for you. If you are admitted to both programs, you will need to choose one offer to accept.

What Are Students Saying?

We pride ourselves on creating a family feel within the Youth and Social Innovation major. To make positive, substantive change for youth, we are stronger together. We connect our students with alumni, people “in the field,” and with each other to grow a network of those trained and committed to making the world better for youth. Here's what our students say they love most:

  • “The freedom to shape the major based on what I am passionate about learning and changing in education.”
  • “Interacting with my peers in small and open settings.”
  • “Opportunities to have conversations—informed by theory, research, and our personal experience—about issues we care about that concern youth.”
  • “Being empowered by a network of faculty, community programmers, and students who are invested in every individual’s drive to create social change.”

Social Justice Statement

One of the Youth and Social Innovation program’s core values is social justice. YSI faculty believe in the value of all people along with the critical analysis of oppressive forces and structures in society such as racism, sexism, misogyny, queerphobia, ableism, and religious intolerance. Throughout your time in YSI, you will be assigned readings or engage in discussions about these topics. We encourage your thoughtful participation in our classes, throughout the School of Education and Human Development, and across UVA.

Within the School of Education and Human Development, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Diversity Action Committee (DAC); and SEEDS4Change are three entities that consistently address these kinds of issues in our school and work towards social justice. If you are interested in actively participating in equity and social justice efforts we encourage you to become involved with one or more of these entities or to work with other organizations across grounds with a similar focus. If you are interested in creating a YSI initiative, let us know how we may support you.

  • Turning a Passion for Education Equity into Action

    In high school, Alexis Allen experienced education inequity firsthand. At UVA, she found her academic home in the YSI program and turned her frustration into action.

    Read Alexis's Story
  • First-Generation Students Are Rising Together

    A mentoring program led by YSI student Bryan Christ pairs UVA students with local high-schoolers, many of them working to be the first in their families to go to college.

    Read More

Program Details

  • Application Due Date

    Complete applications are due by February 1st of each year for the following fall term start date. See Admissions for instructions.

  • UVA Student Financial Services

    For information on financial support for UVA students visit UVA Student Financial Services.

  • Course Overview

    Information on courses required for the major can be found in the Undergraduate Record.

  • Sample Jobs

    Some of our recent YSI Graduates' accepted positions in:

    Master’s Programs (School Counseling, Commerce, Social Work, Public Policy, Mental Health Counseling, Law, Drama Therapy, Teaching, Public Health)
    Ph.D. Programs (Education Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Social Psychology)
    Youth-Based Organizations (Project Coordinators & Project Managers)
    Youth-Focused Research (Research Assistants)
    Legal Aid Justice Center (Community Organizer)
    Office of the Appellate Defender (Client Services Coordinator)
    Virginia College Advising Corps (College Advisors)
    Peace Corps & AmeriCorps

    Potential Employers:

    • child welfare/family services
    • colleges/universities
    • community centers
    • educational corporations
    • government agencies
    • juvenile justice system
    • mental health agencies
    • office of elected official
    • physical health organizations
    • policy organizations
    • public schools (teaching license required for teaching positions)
    • religious organizations
    • social service agencies
    • think tanks
    • youth agencies and associations
    • youth development organizations
    • youth services

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at