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Human and Organizational Development

The Human and Organizational Development (HOD) major is designed for students interested in careers that involve finding solutions to human problems in organizations and communities. Graduates are prepared to assume positions in businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

The curriculum is planned to ensure that students obtain a strong foundation in the liberal arts, with emphasis on developing writing, oral presentation, and quantitative skills. The core curriculum includes applied human development, group dynamics, organizational theory and behavior, public policy, economics, statistics, and research methodology. Students acquire an understanding of human behavior in groups, organizations, and larger systems.

In addition to the core curriculum, students select one of five areas of concentration that provides a focus for their study during the junior and senior years: Community Leadership and Development, Health and Human Services, International Leadership and Development, Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, or Education Policy. The program utilizes various pedagogical approaches, as action-research and experiential education, to support and encourage student learning and exploration. Students learn new ideas and methods through seminars, simulation, case studies, field experiences, and interaction with professionals in the field.

Creative Problem Solving in Context

More than 25 years ago, Peabody College began a small interdisciplinary program that offered undergraduates a degree in Human and Organizational Development. Emeritus Professor Robert Innes, founder of the program, recalls that he only expected five or six students to be interested. Instead, some 20 undergraduates enrolled, and interest in the program has continued to exceed expectations every year since. Human and Organizational Development (HOD) is now one of the largest undergraduate majors at Vanderbilt.

What makes the program so popular? It’s an idea that’s as old as Peabody College itself and as fresh as the eager faces of the institution’s newest students. “Our focus is on making sure our students can apply what they learn in their classes to their personal lives and to their professional lives,” Innes explains. HOD majors begin the program in their freshman year with a core curriculum of classes in such critical workplace skills as writing, oral presentation, innovative problem solving, and understanding both small-group dynamics and the development of large organizations.

HOD Capstone Internship

As a requirement of graduation, students complete a full-time, semester long capstone internship in one of their final three semesters. The capstone internship provides an opportunity for students to integrate and apply earlier coursework in an organizational setting. The purpose of the capstone internship is to allow students to demonstrate the core competencies of the degree in a workplace environment. However, students choose their internship in a field of interest and also gain valuable workplace experience to further their professional development and help launch their post-graduation careers.

The HOD internship requires 32 hours a week on site and a weekly 3-hour seminar. The internship experience is possible in fall, spring or summer semesters and in any one of the cities in which we have established formal internship programs: Nashville, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and London, England. There are Vanderbilt professors in these cities to facilitate the weekly seminar.

Internships can be completed in almost any field or industry, based upon the interest of the student. The most popular include advertising/public relations, arts administration, broadcasting, consulting, community development and non-profit management, counseling, entertainment and sports, fashion, finance, healthcare, marketing, human resources, and training and development. A sampling of our internship opportunities include: Big Machine Records, Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton, The United Nations, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Save a Child’s Heart Foundation, World Relief Refugee Org., Public Defender’s Office, Kennedy Center, Olympic Committee, Titans Football, UBS, redpepper advertising, Country Music Association, U.S. Embassy in London, Viacom (CMT & MTV), ESPN, ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN.

Career Paths

Upon graduation, many students in the program find positions in diverse organizations such as management consulting, advertising, public relations, marketing, policy analysis, government, profit and nonprofit healthcare, and community development agencies.

In recent years, our HOD graduates have found positions with a variety of organizations, including but not limited to: Primera Companies (Dallas, TX), Giorgio Armani (New York), John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), Accenture (Atlanta, London, and Washington, D.C.), Teach for America (various cities), Underwriters Laboratories (Chicago), Blackbaud (Washington, D.C.), Sinotrans (Beijing, China), Huron Consulting Group (New York), African Center for Technology Studies (Kenya), JMB Financial Advisors, LLC (Chicago), Cartier, Inc. (New York), Aon Consulting (Atlanta), and Chase Manhattan Bank (New York).

Others enter graduate programs or professional programs in business, law, medicine, community development, education, counseling, divinity, and health promotion.

Kudos From Our Graduates

Graduates write us with comments such as these:

“HOD really did give me a head start in my career. When I first started in my job after college, those 4 years studying team dynamics, business communication, and talent management put me ahead of the curve in adjusting to the workplace and in being able to effectively problem solve and strategize. The fundamentals taught in HOD set me up to be impactful immediately after graduation.” -Jane Taylor ‘14, Associate at Red Ventures

“When I started at Vanderbilt, I was instantly attracted to HOD and the broad-based focus on solving problems in communities, and over the course of my Vanderbilt experience HOD helped me hone my interests and develop my skills. Through my classes and HOD Internship at Conexion Americas, I became passionate about scaling innovative solutions to problems facing marginalized communities. This helped me get to my current role, where I manage communications for the national organization advancing social enterprise in the United States. The HOD program helped me look at organizations with a more critical eye and view problems from several different perspectives, something I use on the job every day.” -Joseph Tropeano ‘15, Communications Coordinator at Social Enterprise Alliance

“The HOD program is comprised of top-notch professors who care about the success of their students, classes with meaningful and deliberate curriculum, and coursework dedicated to providing real-world context and experience. The track model allowed me to pursue my individual interests in International Development and illuminated the complexities of leadership in the global arena while applying the foundations of leadership I learned throughout my first two years. The HOD Internship allowed me to put the knowledge I had acquired in the classroom into action at a real organization with real challenges that needed real solutions. I am confident that the HOD program prepared me to succeed and thrive in the working world and provided me with invaluable insight into my own personal goals and career development…” -Ellie Marsh ‘16, Business Analyst at Deloitte

Positions of Recent Graduates

  • Associate Consultant, PeopleFluent, Boston, MA
  • Recipient of The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship
  • Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Fellowship, South Africa
  • Strategy Consultant at Accenture, Washington, D.C.
  • Boren National Security Fellow, Brazil
  • Recruiting Coordinator, Google, Mountain View, CA
  • Student, Higher Education Administration, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • Implementation Analyst, Hospital Corporation of America, Nashville, TN
  • Higher Education Analyst, Huron Consulting Group, Chicago, IL
  • Account Management Associate, Advisory Board Company, Washington, D.C.
  • Sales Leadership Associate, Coca-Cola Refreshments, New Orleans, LA
  • Ticket Counts, Creative Artists Agency, Nashville, TN
  • Advisory Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York, NY
  • UPS Corporate Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.
  • HR Associate Manager, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH
  • Analyst, Goldman Sachs, New York, NY
  • Research Analyst, Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Nashville, TN
  • Human Capital Consulting Analyst, Deloitte Consulting LLP, McLean, VA
  • Student, Master of Accountancy, Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
  • Assistant to the Head Coach, Tennessee Titans, Nashville, TN
  • Associate in Management, Management Information Systems Dept., Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN


In keeping with the major’s focus on how people work and behave in groups, organizations, and communities, HOD faculty members utilize a variety of pedagogical approaches to engage students fully in the material and encourage students to work together to learn, question, analyze, and experience. 


Vicki Scalf, M.S.
Program Coordinator
Human and Organizational Development
(615) 322-8495

Human and Organizational Development Website