Family Studies

Shawn Paulson, Holland 512

(Social Work and Family Studies)

The well-being of individuals, couples, and families is a national and global concern. Family studies is an integrative field that synthesizes knowledge from many liberal arts disciplines, particularly economics, political science, psychology, social work, and sociology.

The Social Work and Family Studies Department offers a concentration in family studies.

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Concentration

Recommendations for Graduate Study

The concentration in family studies is designed to enable students to learn about families in both theory and practice; it is a course of study that can enhance student learning in any major. This concentration is intended to help to prepare students entering careers with families including marriage and family therapy, education, and ministry, or to family practice in law, medicine, nursing, social work, or public policy. Students who intend to go directly to graduate school should also consider enrollment in a statistics course and a research methods course in social work, psychology, or sociology/anthropology.

Recommended preparation: introductory courses in social sciences, biology, and statistics

Required department courses 1
FAMST 132Introduction to Family Studies1.00
FAMST 242Family Relationships1.00
FAMST 391Senior Seminar: Special Topics1.00
Select two of the following electives: 22.00
Asian American Literature
Human Sexuality
Women in America
Family Health
Exploring India: Human Development in Cross-Cultural Context (abroad)
Developmental Psychology
Introduction to Race and Ethnic Studies (literature)
Topical Seminar (when taught as Race, Gender, and Sexuality)
Sociology of Dying, Death, and Bereavement
Families, Marriage, & Relationships
Family and Gender Roles in Spain: 1900 to Present
Experiential component (see below)
Total Credits5

Experiential component with families

This requirement is usually an academic, credit-bearing experience completed during the senior year (including the previous summer.) It is designed to ensure that concentrators participate in an experience that applies basic family knowledge (theories, frameworks, concepts) to real families in a setting beyond the classroom. It must be approved by a faculty member in the Department of Social Work and Family Studies prior to enrollment and entered into the Department GoogleDoc. The experience and concomitant learning is presented as a graded assignment for a public audience in the senior seminar FAMST 391. Through the experience, students demonstrate attainment of intended learning outcomes for family studies. Watch for an email each semester from the Director with a Google Form to fill in your plans for completion. 

Guidelines for the experiential component:

Includes a minimum of 40 hours devoted to direct experience with families (more than one family);

  1. A family interaction is considered having contact, even if it is at a pick-up or drop-off from an after-school program or camp, with more than one member of a family. 
  2. Can be domestic or international experience
  3. Can be a volunteer activity that is not graded. 
  4. If for credit, can be taken either graded or Pass/No Pass (P/N);
  5. Can be submitted for distinction in a major, if it meets that department's guidelines for distinction; and
  6. Must be approved by a faculty member in the Department of Social Work and Family Studies prior to enrollment.

The experience may be:

  • A project in a senior year course, or work with families in a social work practicum or nursing clinical; or
  • An independent research project with family interaction (FAMST 394); or
  • An internship with a family serving agency (quarter-, half-, or full-credit FAMST 294); or
  • A summer experience prior to senior year that involves direct experience with families.

FAMST 127: Exploring Narratives of Black Families and Community

This course invites students to draw on narratives of Black families in the U.S. Students explore multidisciplinary theoretical constructs that address power, privilege, and identity in Black families. The concept of family is considered beyond biological kinship and across sexual orientation and class. Students engage multiple forms of narrative including memoirs, fiction, poetry, art, and documentaries through a major assignment and small group exercises. Offered periodically during Interim.

FAMST 132: Introduction to Family Studies

Students examine American families through the life cycle in relation to personal and professional life, with the major emphasis on communication and commitment in interpersonal relationships. Students study courtship, marriage, adjustment to parenthood, and aging through engaging evidence-based research, case studies, and theoretical frameworks. They examine stressors that affect families such as family violence, divorce, grief and loss, and socioeconomic challenges. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach; students have opportunity for a broad range of individualized study. Offered each semester. Also counts toward management studies concentration.

FAMST 242: Family Relationships

Students explore how family relationships are influenced by social, historical, and political contexts. Drawing on a range of disciplinary contexts and research, this course underscores the ways family relationships are constructed, sustained and challenged in society, with emphasis on theories and practice of family communication. Students draw on the relational dynamics studied in the introductory family studies course to transition to elaborating on the complexities of family functioning in U.S. society and beyond. Offered each semester. Also counts toward women's and gender studies major and educational studies and women's and gender studies concentrations.

FAMST 253: Human Sexuality

This course explores the varied dimensions of human sexuality as they affect and are affected by past and present human relationships. Sexual problems and issues are examined for the development of a value framework and for the enrichment of family life. The course emphasizes critical thinking skills applied to current issues in human sexuality (e.g. gay marriage, race and gender issues, sexual violence). Students examine issues in contemporary research and ethics in sexuality. Offered each semester. Also counts toward women's and gender studies major and concentration.

FAMST 294: Academic Internship

FAMST 298: Independent Study

FAMST 391: Senior Seminar: Special Topics

This required capstone seminar explores current research and the integration of key foundation disciplines in the study of families. Students explore special topics through readings assignments and lecture material.
Prerequisites: FAMST 132 and FAMST 242. Students can take FAMST 242 and FAMST 391 concurrently with permission of program director or FAMST 391 instructor.

FAMST 394: Academic Internship

FAMST 396: Directed Undergraduate Research

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Offered based on department decision. May be offered as a 1.00 credit course or .50 credit course. Does not count toward family studies concentration.
Prerequisite: determined by individual instructor.

FAMST 398: Independent Research

Director, 2020-2021

Mary S. Carlsen

Professor of Social Work and Family Studies

social policy; global social work; professional ethics; end of life care; family studies

Grace E. Cho

Associate Professor of Psychology

developmental psychology; child development; cultural psychology; socioemotional development; parent-child processes

Dana L. Gross

Professor of Psychology

developmental psychology; off-campus study

Erica Kanewischer

Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Work and Family Studies

Judy Kutulas

Professor of History

20th-century U.S. history; U.S. women's history; popular and material culture

Anna K. Kuxhausen

Associate Professor of History

Russian history; women's history

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

Associate Professor of English

poetry and poetics; creative nonfiction; Asian American literature; critical adoption studies

Diane C. LeBlanc

Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of the Writing Program

rhetoric and composition; creative writing; gender studies

Melissa A. Mendez

Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Work and Family Studies

Ryan R. Sheppard

Associate Professor of Practice in Sociology/Anthropology

family; gender; race/ethnicity; social movements; quantitative research

Susan E. Smalling

Associate Professor of Social Work and Family Studies

anti-oppressive research and practice; indigenous populations; family and child welfare