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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Community Psychology and Social Change (CP&SC)

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W-311 Olmsted Building
Penn State Harrisburg
777 W. Harrisburg Pike
Middletown, PA 17057-4898

Degrees Conferred:

Master of Arts in Community Psychology and Social Change


The Graduate Faculty



The Program

The graduate program in Community Psychology emphasizes planned social change, and is based on both sociology and psychology. The program equips students with skills useful in coping with the multifaceted problems facing communities. Students learn (a) to assess problems at the level of communities or organizations, (b) to plan and implement possible solutions to these problems, and (c) to evaluate the effectiveness of the solutions. Learning takes place both in courses and in a master's project that entails fieldwork and the writing of a master's paper.

To act as a change agent, the student must be aware of contemporary community needs, along with the impact of the community structure upon its individual members and the techniques best suited to initiate productive changes. After completing this interdisciplinary program, the graduate should be able to approach problems with a more integrated point of view and work cooperatively with community individuals and agencies toward practical solutions. Problems related to crime, education, child and family development, employment, the lack of effective social power, and other factors affecting psychological well being are approached from bases in community service agencies or informal community groups. The majority of students work full-time in agencies or governmental units. To accommodate these working students, 500-level graduate courses are scheduled in the evening.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed below are in addition to general Graduate School requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

For admission to the program, a student must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited academic institution, earned under residence and credit conditions equivalent to those required by Penn State. The minimum grade-point average (GPA) in the junior and senior years must be 3.00 or higher (on a 4.00 scale). Students with experience in carrying out planned social change are particularly encouraged to apply. Most applicants hold degrees in psychology, sociology, or related disciplines. Ideally, applicants will have taken courses in developmental, personality, and social psychology, along with work in social change, social problems, and social conflict. Students from diverse other backgrounds are welcome to apply, particularly if they have had work or other experience effecting change in community settings. Applicants will be asked to take additional course work without graduate credit, chosen after consultation with an adviser, if they have had no psychology or sociology courses beyond the introductory level. Applicants must have received a C or better in an introductory statistics course covering parametric and non-parametric inferential statistics; they will be requested to make up any deficiency without graduate credit.

Off-campus and transfer credits from accredited institutions will be evaluated by the Program Coordinator for recentness and appropriateness to the student's course of study. Approval for up to 10 transfer credits may be given. Documented applications for credit for work experience will be evaluated by students' masters committees, made up of members of the graduate faculty. Approval for up to 6 credits may be given. If granted, approval for this credit can take the place of the fieldwork usually undertaken in CMPSY 522, Practicum. The student must register for the number of credits approved, either in CMPSY 522, or, if the student prefers, after having asked for a waiver of the CMPSY 522 requirement, in additional elective course work, chosen with help from an adviser.

Courses in the program are sequenced on the assumption that students will be entering in the fall semester. Students may apply for admission for the spring (but not the summer) semester, but they may not start taking 500-level required courses until the following fall.

Admission to the Community Psychology program is based on clear suitability for the program as evidenced by the application as a whole; it is limited to the number of spaces available for masters project supervision.

Applicants must submit the following:

    1. A completed application form and application fee.
    2. Two copies of official transcripts from colleges or universities previously attended (including Penn State)
    3. Admission Essay: We are interested in learning something about your writing and analytical abilities, and about you as a person. Please take two to six double-spaced pages to answer the following question.

C. Wright Mills wrote: "The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals….The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise. To recognize this task and this promise is the mark of the classic social analyst … ."

Discuss the intersection of your biography with history and society. How have the society and the times in which you live helped to shape who you are? What do you hope to accomplish in life? How do you think our graduate program will help you to reach your goals?

  1. A letter of about 500 words outlining significant community or work experience, along with career and academic objectives.
  2. Three professional letters of recommendation, special forms provided. Please include at least two essays from academic sources.

Program Requirements

An important part of this degree is a master's project, made up a total of 9 credits, comprising from 3 to 6 credits of Practicum (CMPSY 522), and from 3 to 6 credits of Research (CMPSY 594). The project is planned in the context of the course Roles and Methods in Community Psychology (CMPSY 521); it is supervised by a master's committee of graduate faculty. The particular mix of practicum and research is worked out by the student in consultation with the faculty. The variable mix of practicum and of research credits results in the student's being able to choose course work that emphasizes study in the area in which she or he needs most skill-development. In the usual case, a student with a strong background in fieldwork would be asked to emphasize research in her or his master's project, and a student with a strong research background, but with limited fieldwork, would be asked to emphasize the practicum. The output of CMPSY 522 is a practicum; the output of the research course CMPSY 594 is a required master's paper of at least 3 credits. The master's paper may be based on the field experience. Students often choose to structure their master's paper around a specific community research problem. Again, students can apply for Practicum (522) credit, or, at their choice, ask for a waiver of the requirement, on the basis of documented prior experience. Decisions about such applications are made by the student's master's committee.

Part-time students who are able to take two courses at a time can complete the degree in seven to eight semesters. Since the processes of designing a master's project and of writing a master's paper are labor-intensive and frequently take more time than the student expects, even full-time students will often take six or more semesters to complete the degree.

The program offers three concentrations, each including all the required Community Psychology courses. The Children, Youth, and Families Concentration uses as its electives 9 approved credits from courses in psychology, education, and sociology. The Environmental Issues Concentration uses electives approved by an adviser and drawn from special courses in environmental issues and from various other programs. The Individualized Concentration uses as its elective courses chosen to meet individual needs, with the approval of an adviser.

Graduation Requirements

To qualify for the degree, 36 credits are needed, 24 of which must be at the 500 level. There is a sequence of substantive courses, starting with Theories and Issues in Community Psychology (CMPSY 500).

Required Courses (27 credits)


  • 500. Theories and Issues in Community Psychology (3)
  • 510. Change Processes (3)
  • 511. Social Impacts on Psychological Functioning (3)
  • 519. Research Methods I (3)
  • 520. Research Methods II (3)
  • 521. Roles and Methods in Community Psychology (3)
  • 522. Practicum (3-6)
  • 594. Master's Paper (3-6)

Elective Courses (9 credits)


In addition to the core curriculum, students will complete the requirements of one of the three concentrations described below:

Children, Youth, and Families Concentration

Students working toward a Master of Arts degree in Community Psychology and Social Change with this concentration must complete three of the following courses. Students should check for prerequisites when deciding on which courses to take.


  • 404. Young Children's Behavior: Observation and Evaluation (3)
  • 410. The Child and Social Institution. (3)




  • 462. Perspectives on Aging (3)
  • 463. The Family (3)

Environmental Issues Concentration

Students working toward a Master of Arts degree in Community Psychology and Social Change with this concentration must complete three of the following courses. Students should check for prerequisites when deciding on which courses to take.


  • 471. Environmental Sanitation (3)
  • 497. The Human Environment (1-9)


  • 487. Environmental Law (3)


  • 531. Environmental Policy (3)


  • 470. Environmental Sociology (3)
  • 471. Environmental Movements (3)
  • 472. Justice and the Environment (3)

Individual Concentration

Students choose electives from a wide variety of courses offered by the Behavioral Science and other faculties. The object is to support a special interest or mix of interests, in, for instance, environmental issues, adult education, criminal justice, urban sociology, women's studies, or issues of class-ism, racism, or sexism. Students work with faculty advisers in gaining approval of electives and in choosing topics for master's projects.

Student Aid

A number of scholarships, fellowships, and graduate assistantships are available. Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.



EDUCATION (EDUC) course list


PSYCHOLOGY (PSYC) course list


SOCIOLOGY (SOCIO) course list



Faculty linked: 8/14/14


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