Brandywine professor receives grant to explore creation of a new minor

With help from the Penn State Center for Engaged Scholarship – Philadelphia, Kristen Goessling is developing a youth development and social justice minor.

MEDIA, Pa. — Thanks to Kristen Goessling, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Brandywine, a new minor may be in the works for Penn State students.

Goessling recently received a $5,000 grant from the Penn State Center for Engaged Scholarship in Philadelphia (PSCES), which she will use to further develop a potential new minor in youth development and social justice.

“Right now, Brandywine has a certificate in youth development and social justice,” said Goessling. “I’m working with my colleagues to develop that a little further into a full minor. We would be the first campus to offer it.”

Creating a new minor takes months of research and hard work, including curriculum development, writing new syllabi, determining course texts and designing assessment models. The PSCES grant will allow Goessling to, among other objectives, design two brand new courses for the potential minor.

“One course will be a 100-level class — a grounding in a historical overview of youth development and social justice,” she said. “It will be a space for students to grapple with questions such as what social justice is and what it looks like by exploring the integral role young people have played in social movements across history to the present.”

The second class, a 300 level, will be a capstone course that encourages students to apply theory to practice in a local, real-world setting.

“For the second course, students would design and implement some kind of engaged scholarship project in their community,” she said. “Part of what the grant will enable me to do is start building relationships with organizations in the region that students might be able to work alongside. I’m doing that through PSCES and its community partners.”

The new minor, if approved, will incorporate both theories of social change and youth development with practical application into students’ courses. Goessling is currently researching ways to link courses for continuity and encourage creativity from students in the classroom.

“My own research focuses on personal and social transformation,” she said, “so that’s how I look at teaching and curriculum design — they are about the transformation of both teacher and student. Helping a student conceptualize, design and implement a community-based project is not a traditional course model, but it’s much more in line with who I am as a teacher.”

On one hand, Goessling sees the minor as an opportunity to actively engage more students in their communities as social justice advocates.

“As a scholar who engages in activist scholarship, I’m always looking for ways that we can get our students to apply what they are learning to the real world,” she said. “Many of our effective social movements, historically, have been driven and led by young people. That’s something we don’t celebrate or acknowledge very often.”

On the other, Goessling believes that the minor will cultivate symbiotic relationships between Penn State Brandywine and its surrounding localities. Although the campus already has many connections to Delaware County businesses and organizations, she sees potential for the minor to expand the campus’ connections further into Philadelphia.

“It’s important for us to extend beyond the campus’ immediate region,” she said. “Our students need to broaden their understanding of community by stepping outside of the immediate area. That’s where partnership with the PSCES is really integral to this process.”