A circle of students sitting at desks in an HSSJ Capstone class


The Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and Social Justice curriculum builds on critical theory that allows students to understand and analyze complex social issues facing individuals and communities, as well as providing them with the skills to tackle these issues in real-world settings. We look at underlying factors that affect communities, from poverty to discrimination to government policies and programs, in order to lay the foundations for change. 

Our required courses prepare students to be scholar-practitioners ready to work in communities, governmental agencies, nonprofits, schools, health centers and counseling services utilizing inclusive, socially just and sustainable practices. We achieve this by offering students educational experiences that incorporate service learning and community-based research in core classes to deepen student learning, address community-identified concerns and to weave theory, research and practice together in relevant ways.



Senior Capstone Project 2020

The senior class capstone offers a unique opportunity at GW to combine scholarly and community practice to make social change in the District through an experiential philanthropy project. Students partner with the Learning by Giving Foundation (LxG), which provides the class with an initial $5,000 for their giving project. Students then create a class foundation, deciding together which social issue their philanthropy will address. Using best practices examined during the course, students research the selected social issue, raise additional funds, put out a call for grant proposals and select grant recipients among local nonprofit applicants.

Class of 2020 HSSJ Capstone

HSSJ Capstone Student

Class of 2020

“This is the best capstone experience possible and it has been so much fun going through this process with my classmates. I will always be grateful for getting this experience in philanthropy.” 

Examples of Recent Philanthropy


HSSJ Students Winning Research Honors

For the past several years, HSSJ undergraduate students have participated in GW Research Days, held in Spring semester, where they have won several awards:

2015 GW Research Days:

  • Ashley Trick 1st place in Socio-Cultural Studies for “Aging through Change: Gentrification, Social Capital and Senior Citizens of Washington DC.”

2016 GW Research Days

  • Shanna Helf for her project “Aging through Change: Gentrification, Social Capital and Senior Citizens of Washington DC.”
  • Lauren Hinkel earned second-place in the socio-cultural studies category with her qualitative work “Defining Confidence: An Exploration of Developing Factors of SelfEsteem in Adolescent Females.”

2017 GW Research Days:

  • Charleene Smith 2nd place in Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Prize (Day 1 & Day 2) Undergraduate Presenters for "Black Reproductive Freedom: Contraceptive Counseling.”
  • Victoria Rowe, 1st place Overall Research Day Prizes, Education, Business, and Organizational Studies for "Seek First to Understand: Exploring the Implementation of Culturally Relevant Education in the District of Columbia."
  • Sara Policastro, 2nd Place in Media and Cultural Studies for “Market Manager Relationships Around Financial Incentive Programs at D.C. Farmers' Markets."
  • Sara Policastro, Nashman Prize 1st Place for "Market Manager Relationships around Financial Incentive Programs at D.C. Farmers' Markets."
  • Theresa Cal, 2nd place Diversity and Inclusion Prize for "Unwanted Sexual Contact and the Implicit Objectification of Women" 59

2018 GW Research Days:

  • Valentina Barrera Vasco, 1st place in Educational and Cultural Studies for Diversity and Inclusion Prize for "Principals' Experiences with SEL Implementation" 

2019 Julian Clement Chase Prize

  • Adam Graubart, "Tzedek: DC Synagogues Building Movements for Social Justice.

Honey W. Nashman Award

The Honey W. Nashman Prize for Academic Achievement and Service is awarded each year to outstanding seniors in the HSSJ Program who have earned a GPA of 3.5 or greater in the major.

Honey W. Nashman, professor emeritus, dedicated 43 years of teaching service to GW, including serving as director of the HSSJ Program. She has published, researched, won awards and been a leader in the human services, social justice and community organizing fields over the course of her impressive career. The Honey W. Nashman Prize for Academic Achievement and Service and the Honey W. Nashman Research Award for Community-Based Participatory Research are both named in her honor. Learn more about Honey W. Nashman

Past Nashman Outstanding Senior Awardees

  • 2020: Nili Ezekiel
  • 2019: Helen Palatianos
  • 2018: Julia Resnik
  • 2017: Leah Cohen and Rachel Naugle
  • 2016: Shanna Helf
  • 2015: Maura Molish and Ashley Trick

HSSJ Alumna Julia Resnik standing in front of greenery

Julia Resnik BA '18

"Being an HSSJ major allowed me to connect theory to practice by putting down my textbook, going outside GW's campus and contributing to society through service. I feel forever indebted to the program for providing me with the opportunity to learn, wonder, question, act and grow."


Prior HSSJ Student Projects

Adam Graubart points to a research poster of his senior thesis

Measuring Social Justice at the Community Level

For his senior thesis research project, Adam Graubart, BA ’19, engaged with local D.C. synagogues to identify how specific congregations demonstrate their social justice values through their actions. Graubart conducted primary research through interviews and focus groups and presented his work at GW Research Days. His final thesis won the Julian Clement Chase Prize.

Course Requirements

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Undergraduate Programs.

Program-specific curriculum (below).

Achievement of a minimum grade of C- in all courses that count toward the degree.

HSSJ 1100Introduction to Human Services and Social Justice3
SOC 1001Introduction to Sociology3
or SOC 1002 The Sociological Imagination
HSSJ 1177Organizing for Social Justice in Human Services
HSSJ 2170Interpersonal Relationships in Human Services
HSSJ 2171Human Interactions: Child and Adolescent Development
HSSJ 2172Human Interactions: Adult Development
HSSJ 2200Principles of Ethical Leadership
HSSJ 3100WProgram Planning and Evaluation
HSSJ 3110WNonprofit and Organizational Management
HSSJ 3152
HSSJ 3153
Fact/Field/Fiction: Intersections in HSSJ
and Internship in Human Services and Social Justice *
HSSJ 4195Capstone Seminar in Human Services and Social Justice
SOC 2101Social Research Methods
*HSSJ 3152 and HSSJ 3153 must be taken concurrently.
Two courses (6 credits) selected from the following:
HSSJ 2160Role of NGOs in International Humanitarian Assistance
SOC 2104Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOC 2105Social Problems in American Society
SOC 2163Sociology of Education
SOC 2170Class and Inequality in American Society
SOC 2173Social Movements
SOC 2175Sociology of Sex and Gender
SOC 2179Race and Minority Relations