Helping others is not simply what human services majors do on the weekend. It’s going to be their job.
The human services program, one of three programs in the sociology department of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, is more than 20 years old. The major was originally designed for nursing students who wanted a bachelor of arts. In January 1995 the program was moved from the School of Education and Human Development to the Columbian School because the school of education began offering graduate rather than undergraduate coursework.
“I couldn’t think of a better major because its sole purpose is to promote social justice,” said senior human services major Matt Kernkraut. “I think that is very unique and uncommon of all majors.”
Kernkraut said the human services program helped to develop GW community service efforts including the Office of Community Service, which directs students to different volunteer opportunities, and the Neighbors Project, which coordinates volunteers in local areas. The freshman advising workshop was also developed from human services.
“Students that are going into this (major) knowing that it might not lead to a lucrative career path, but when you know it’s going (to help others), GW students know it’s the right path,” Kernkraut said.
The program’s reach was apparent as recently as last week during Volunteer Week, as former human services major Elizabeth Cox organized Friday’s “A Night to Give Back” to raise about $1,600 for the Red Cross.
Nashman said many students in the human services program are involved on campus.
Last year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. service award-winner Jeff Marootian was a human services major. He is now attending graduate school at GW.
Each of the core human services classes require students to “learn and serve” for at least three hours a week, Nashman said. Students participate in various non-profit organizations by writing grants, fundraising, advocating for the association and helping with public relations.
Senior Matthew Patashnick decided at the end of his freshman year that he was interested in majoring in human services.
“I decided on human services because throughout all of my life I have been involved in helping others,” he said.
Courses focus on human development across a life span and non-profit management, Nashman said.
Kernkraut said he has volunteered with the American Red Cross, Northwest Settlement House, a multi-service pre-school in the Shaw neighborhood and Martha’s Table, an after-school program for children.
“It’s really wonderful to see when you are working with children to see the affection they feel,” Kernkraut said. “The more people that the children work with the better it is for them.”
Students in the human services program have entered careers in education, social work, medical and law schools and have joined clergies, Nashman said.
Pataschnick plans on going to graduate school and majoring in higher education administration. He then would use his graduate degree with his human services degree to work at a university, counseling and developing college students.
“It ties in all different areas, and it leaves you very well prepared to enter into the world and do what you want to do,” Pataschnick said.
Pataschnick’s favorite class was Newsham’s human services 152 course.
The class focuses on issues in human service values and methods of practitioners in the field of human services linking academic study and field experience. He said the class required about 13 to 15 hours of volunteering, which tied the service done into what the students were learning in class.