Northwestern State University is changing the name of its Family and Consumer Sciences program to better reflect the degree’s focus, which is child development and family theory. This fall, the program will be called Child and Family Studies, a discipline that prepares graduates to work in a variety of fields aimed at improving the lives of individuals, families and communities. Child and Family Studies is part of the Department of Teaching, Leadership and Counseling within the Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development.
“It is often called ‘The Helping Profession,’ which makes it is a good fit for anyone who wants to help people or work with people,” said Dr. Rania Salman, program coordinator, who emphasizes that the program is about much more than working with children. “Individuals interested in working with non-profit organizations, community education or social services would fall under the degree. It’s a broad area.”
Career opportunities for graduates can be found in family resource services, community-based social services, education, research, public policy and family wellness, to name a few. Jobs could include working with youth development, vocational guidance, Head Start programs, parent education, disability services, public health programs, human resources and family policy analysis.
The most popular concentration in Child and Family Studies is child development and family relations, in which about 200 NSU students are enrolled. The consumer services concentration has about 15 students. Salman would like to eventually add an advocacy and intervention concentration, an interdisciplinary concentration that would infuse coursework in social work, psychology and special education to prepare professionals to advocate for children and/or families that need advocacy or specific intervention.
“There is the opportunity to work as an advocate for families who want to adopt. There are also organizations that set up programs in schools to meet the psychological and academic needs of children and families who are experiencing hardships. There are those in the field of child life who work as specialists in hospitals to normalize trauma for medically fragile children and their families. This degree is perfect for that,” Salman said.
Child and Family Studies requires a minor and many students choose social science as a complementary focus. Salman said students majoring in programs related to health and wellness could find a minor or concentration in Child and Family Studies beneficial, such as nursing majors interested in pediatric nursing or becoming a birthing coach, doula or lactation consultant.
“I tell students that the more urban the area, the more likely you are to find a job,” Salman said. “Family science careers tend to be in more urban areas where social service agencies and non-profits tend to be located.”
The program’s child development and family relations concentration can be completed online, although there are some face-to-face classes available. Senior-level students are required to complete an internship related to their concentration. The internship, which provides hands-on field experience, is one of the program’s strengths in that it often provides a path to employment for graduates.
Until about 30 years ago, courses in Family and Consumer Sciences were referred to as home economics or domestic science, the field of study that was often the background for educators and human services professionals. As the field has evolved, the national trend has shifted away from identifying as FACS. Indicative of the trend, two years ago, NSU moved its hospitality management and tourism (HMT) and culinary arts program out of FACS and into the School of Business.
The roots of Child and Family Studies at NSU are in the Domestic Science and Art program established on campus in 1911 when classes in child development were an extension of family health management. In the 1930s, Dr. Marie Shaw Dunn, department head, created a child development concentration and, in order to provide a laboratory experience for her students, established the nursery school on campus that is now the the Child Development Center. Eventually, child development broadened into early childhood education. NSU established a master’s program in early childhood education in 1971. In 2003, the early childhood degree program was redesigned to certify teachers for pre-kindergarten through third grade.
For more information on NSU’s Child and Family Studies program, contact Salman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (318) 357-4202.