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Program Overview

The Great Plains IDEA youth development program has its roots inPositive Youth Development Rather than focusing solely on corrective measures, a Positive Youth Development approach equips young people in the second decade of life with the skills and opportunities necessary for a successful transition into adulthood. This approach promotes positive outcomes for all youth by recognizing their strengths, fostering positive relationships, and providing youth with opportunities to learn, lead, connect, and serve.

Program Outcomes

In this program you will learn:
To interact effectively and positively with youth to promote supportive relationships, youth engagement, and youth leadership.

  • To navigate the multiple systems (e.g., family, school, community, policy) that influence youths lives, to appreciate the diversity of these systems, and to engage with these systems to promote positive youth development. 
  • To design, manage, implement, and evaluate programs to enhance and support positive outcomes for youth. 
  • To understand theory, research, and policy about youth and youth programming and to use this research-based knowledge in a variety of ways (e.g., funding proposals, program design, policy/advocacy efforts, etc.). 

Career Outlook

When youth professionals take part in higher education and ongoing learning, research shows that youth program quality improves. You will learn to use more effective practices and feel more confident about your work, all of which will benefit youth.
Our graduates work with various youth-serving organizations:

  • Boys and Girls Club 
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters 
  • Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts 
  • Cooperative Extension services, 4-H programs 
  • Missouri State Correctional Office 
  • Girls, Inc. 
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers 
  • Administration for Native Americans 
  • AmeriCorps 
  • Family and Youth Services Bureau 
  • Federal Youth Court Program 
  • Learn and Serve America 
  • National Guard Youth Challenge Program 
  • Neighborhood Networks 
  • Passport in Time 
  • Preserve America Stewards 
  • Promise Neighborhoods 
  • YouthBuild 



  • HDFS 860/YD 823Youth Policy3 Credits

    This course examines various federal and state policies designed specifically for youth. Students examine how and why policies for youth are constructed. Students evaluate existing state and national policies using a guiding is whether they contribute to or act as barriers to desired developmental outcomes.

  • HDFS 861/YD 824Community Youth Development3 Credits

    This course focuses on the national emphasis of a strength-based or asset approach to community youth development and encompasses individual development (i.e., positive youth development) and adolescent interrelationships with environments. The course highlights research, theory, and practice applied in communities throughout the U.S. Students explore existing models, read theoretical and applied literature, and examine current community efforts as a basis for understanding community youth development.

  • HDFS 864Foundations of Youth Development1 Credit

    Theories, concepts and terminology of youth development. Ethical, professional, and historical elements of youth development in social, economic, ethnic and political contexts.

  • YD 803 Adolescents & Their Families3 Credits

    This course covers adolescent development as it relates to and intertwines with family development; it examines reciprocal influences between adolescents and their families. The study highlights working with youth in relation to the family system.

  • YD 804Program Design Evaluation and Implementation3 Credits

    This course presents the theoretical, methodological, and pragmatic issues involved in conducting programs and scholarship. The course includes an overview of the program development process and outcome evaluation of community children and family programs. Students learn about modes of outcome scholarship and their implications for community-based programs. Students develop knowledge through participating in a community-based project involving practical application of program design and evaluation methods.

  • YD 807 Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research 3 Credits

    This course helps youth development professionals understand and evaluate research reports to reduce anxiety about applying research results and theories to practice. Specific emphasis is on research and theory reports related to youth development.

  • YD 808 Administration and Program Management3 Credits

    This course introduces students to the development, administration, and management of youth-serving organizations.

  • YD 810Youth Development3 Credits

    This course introduces students to the developmental period of adolescence. Students examine this developmental period through the lens of theory and research of positive youth development. The course emphasizes how the developmental tasks of this life stage are influenced by (and influence) family and home, school, peers, and other contextual forces. Students critically examine theoretical and research literature and become familiar with major issues and transitions adolescents face as they successfully navigate this developmental stage.

  • YD 822 Youth in Culture Contexts3 Credits

    This course examines cultural context factors that affect youth from a holistic perspective within and outside the family unit. The course provides understanding of the cultural heritage of differing family structures and types. Students explore social and educational processes experienced by youth; this exploration includes through in-depth reading, writing, discussion, critical listening, viewing of contemporary videos, and informal interviews with youth. Students are encouraged to think critically about society and culture, to gain further knowledge of how ethnic groups fit historically into society, and to examine the results of how history has shaped the current cultural climate of the U.S.


  • HDFS 892Contemporary Youth Issues: Youth, Sport and Society3 Credits

    Sports and athletic activities are deeply connected to one’s life. Regardless of one’s athletic status (professional or amateur), level (grassroots, regional, national, or international), and other facets of engagement, sports are such a vital part of one’s life that we rarely think about them even when we participate in them as spectators, fans, or players. In reality, however, decisions we make with sports greatly affect not only the way we experience sports but also the way we develop as individuals throughout our lifespan. How we are and are not engaged in sports impacts our development as individuals. This is to say that our relationship to sports is bilateral, i.e. we affect sports and sports affect us. Simultaneously, critically examining sports and society helps us better understand what we value, how we become who we are, and how we may be able to realize social justice in a larger social context. Because of these strong ties between us and sports, this course will specifically examine our relationships to sports and how the context of sport engagement contributes to individual development. On one level, its focus is on youth development. How can we use sports to contribute to positive youth development? How do team and individual sports affect the developmental growth of children, youth, and emerging adults? On another level, however, in order to discuss the relationship between youth development and sports, we must examine various contexts in which sports and we interact. For example, how do policies related to sports affect us? How do families and communities impact sports and how are they impacted by sports? In addition, this course will also explore how sports are a vital part of our identity development, as well as a way to combat one’s marginalized status. The course is designed for both researchers and practitioners. Real-world questions will be discussed in a way that is scholarly well-informed.

  • YD 800Contemporary Youth Issues: Serving Youth from Smam Towns to Big Cities3 Credits
  • YD 800Contemporary Youth Issues: Working with Adolescents with Difficulties3 Credits
  • YD 800 Contemporary Youth Issues: Understanding Normative Behavior in Immigrant & Minority Youth3 Credits

    This course explores the etiology of adolescent deviance using a positive, cross-national/crosscultural perspective. Course content includes implications of theory, empirical research, current prevention programs and needs assessments. The course offers a look at deviance from different perspectives as well as a comparison of normative and non-normative development of youth.

  • YD 806Contemporary Youth Issues: Mental Health3 Credits

    This course helps youth development professionals understand what optimal mental health in youth is and how it can be promoted. Students learn about current theories and research related to optimal mental health and how promoting positive development is both similar to and different from preventing negative outcomes. Students learn to assess a given youth development program in terms of its potential to promote positive mental health.

  • YD 820Grant Development and Management3 Credits
  • YD 826Contemporary Youth Issues: Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy & Parenthood3 Credits

    This course explores adolescent sexuality development, sexual behaviors, and pregnancy/ parenthood. These topics will be explored with respect to normative development and the reciprocal influences of the youth’s ecology (i.e., family, school, community). Implications for professionals working with youth sexuality, pregnancy, and parenthood will be explored and highlighted.

Admissions and Requirements

To be accepted to this program, you must have:

  1. A bachelor's degree

  2. Previous work experience

    Résumé/Curriculum Vitae

  3. Taken the GRE
  4. Taken the TOEFL

    (Only required if English is not your native language)

  5. 3 letters of recommendation

    Three letters of recommendation are required. Provide contact information and the system will provide instructions to the appropriate contacts. All applicants should include at least one academic reference. Former instructors/professors, work supervisors, or others who can best assess your academic experience and potential.

  6. Official transcripts from all previous schools

To apply to this program:

  1. Complete a university graduate application (program code: 7645)
  2. GRE scores are not required if you are a U.S. resident applying to the Master’s Plan B (professional track) program. International applicants must submit GRE scores for the Plan A and Plan B Master’s Program. Send the GRE scores directly to the University. The code for Michigan State University is 1465. Applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) taken within the last 2 years. The code for Michigan State University is 1465.
  3. Application will be reviewed using the following criteria:  Prior educational and professional achievements Societal impact of academic and career goals as stated in the academic and personal statements. Fit with program goals and research interests of faculty in the department Alignment with a faculty advisor who is available to mentor the candidate.
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Key Dates

Fall 2021

Application Deadline

June 1, 2021

Spring 2021

Application Deadline

October 1, 2020

Summer 2021

Application Deadline

February 1, 2021

Tuition & Fees

In State Tuition

  • $590
  • Per Credit Hour

Out of State Tuition

  • $590
  • Per Credit Hour


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MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery and forges enduring partnerships to solve the most pressing global challenges while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community.