- Director, Center for Positive Youth Development
Dr. Hansen is an associate professor at the University of Kansas in the School of Education where he teaches and maintains an active research program as a graduate faculty member. He completed his doctorate (2001) and post-doctorate experience (2001 to 2007) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a developmental scientist with an applied research focus. His expertise is on adolescent development and learning in a variety of out-of-school settings, including the full range of organized youth activities (e.g., extracurricular, community-based programs). Dr. Hansen is particularly invested in understanding how adolescents from impoverished communities learn "real-world" skills and competencies needed for adult life and engaged citizenship, such as strategic planning, engagement with challenge, initiative, teamwork, and leadership. He argues that adolescence is the second critical period of human development when an adolescent is neuro-developmentally primed to learn adult-like, real-world skills and competencies. Prior to returning to pursue graduate degrees, Dr. Hansen helped start a non-profit organization in Chicago whose aim was to provide the means for local faith-based organizations to hire full-time staff to assist in addressing issues of poverty and education an a community.
Dr. Hansen specializes in adolescent development in the non-formal settings, including out-of-school activities and employment, and processes of real-world decision making and initiative.