WSU human development department establishes needs-based scholarship for students

A WSU student works with a young boy in a classroom at the WSU Children's Center. Other children and adults are next to and behind them.
WSU human development student Ali Schwager works with a child at YMCA of the Palouse in Pullman, Wash.

Students in Washington State University’s Department of Human Development are required to participate in field experiences like student teaching or internships as part of their coursework. Often, those experiences require unexpected housing and/or transportation costs.  

The Human Development Student Emergency Fund is a new needs-based scholarship that will help students with financial hardships they face while doing their fieldwork, as well as any other emergency financial needs that arise. 

“Our department’s other scholarships are merit-based,” said Deborah Handy, interim chair of the Department of Human Development. “We want to support students and help them be successful by providing funds that are truly need-based. I hope this scholarship will result in less stress, better focus, and more opportunities, while making students feel like they are getting the most out of their fieldwork.” 

Students in the department’s family and consumer sciences program must complete a five-week advanced practicum before beginning their semester-long student teaching experiences. Some land positions near their current homes or those of family members they can live with. Others must relocate or spend time on the road, resulting in high transportation and living costs.  

During that time, many students pay for housing in two places: wherever they’re student teaching, and on or near campus, where they return for the last 10 weeks of the semester. Because students spend most of their time working on unpaid field experiences, little room is left to earn an income. This reality, alongside rising tuition costs, means expenses can add up quickly. 

“We know the internship is one of the most valuable experiences a student can have,” Handy said. “Our data from community-based experiences shows that over time at least 50% of our students walk away with jobs immediately, either with the agency where they have been interning or with another related agency.” 

The new scholarship will help the human development department contribute to a Resilient Washington by creating an adaptable workforce of students who are trained to support thriving, healthy communities. 

“Our students help families who are oftentimes in difficult, stressful situations,” Handy said. “They’re an important part of the workforce, and we need to make sure they are well prepared, comfortable, and confident in what they’re doing.” 

She also hopes the assistance will impact students far beyond their time at WSU. 

“Being supported financially should make students even better applicants as they’re looking for jobs in the future,” Handy said. “It will hopefully help them present who they truly are as candidates.”