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?

      We recommend that you enroll in three courses prior to applying to YSI (Feb. 1 deadline of first or second year):

      FALL 2020:

      • EDHS 1120 So You Want to Change the World: Foundations of Community Engagement (offered fall & spring) – Interact with youth in our community and discover how to engage with youth and their broader communities.


      • EDLF 2050 What the Innovators Do: Strategies to Transform the Lives of Youth (fall only) – “Meet” innovators and investigate the process by which educators, entrepreneurs, and policy makers design innovations to combat inequalities in education.

      SPRING 2021:

      • EDLF 3000 Research Design for Social Innovation with Youth (offered fall & spring) – Through this introduction to the research methods used to study youth development and to evaluate innovations for youth, increase your confidence in reading research with a critical eye so that you get the most out of your YSI courses.

      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.”
      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