Facilitating Collegiate Council Members’ Knowledge of CFLE and APR: A Role for Faculty Members with CFLE Credentials

Deborah B. Gentry, Ed.D., CFLE, NCFR Academic Program Liaison
/ CFLE Network, Summer 2018

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In what seems like a very short period of time, 27 NCFR student affiliate councils have been formed. These student councils are located across 17 states. Congratulations to the latest additions: a student affiliated council at California State University at Fresno and another student affiliate council at Mississippi State University! Various forms necessary for the creation of a student council, as well as guides for planning activities and templates for generating bylaws, can be found online.

This past April, while attending the Illinois Council on Family Relations (ILCFR) annual conference, I sat in on an impressive session presented by members of two student affiliated councils (Illinois State University (ISU) Council on Family Relations and Central Michigan University (CMU) Family Relations Council) and their faculty advisers (Bill Anderson and Katie Reck, respectively). During the session, presenters shared findings from a survey they conducted of current presidents and advisers of student affiliate councils across multiple states. Survey questions inquired about a variety of topics, including core values, mission and purpose, size of membership, recruitment strategies, meeting schedule and foci, types of activities and projects, perceived benefits of participation, and fundraising strategies.

Because of my role as Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) Academic Program Review (APR) Liaison, I paid particular attention during this conference session to whether the presenters mentioned findings that were connected to the CFLE credential or APR-approved coursework. Although it was not revealed if any survey respondents had or were pursuing the CFLE credential or were participating in an APR-approved plan of study, I was aware that both ISU and CMU had APR-approved programs and both student council advisers had either full or provisional CFLE status. Since the ILCFR conference in April, I have also read a brief article on the NCFR website, “What Else Are Student Affiliates Doing?” Noteworthy activities undertaken by 10 student affiliate councils are highlighted on this page. Because seven of the 10 programs mentioned have APR-approved plans of study, I was curious about whether the CFLE credential or the APR were incorporated into any of these activities.

Among the ISU-CMU survey findings, I found data related to student councils’ stated core values, as well as stated mission and purpose, to be of interest. The following components were deemed important: (a) professionalism, professional development, and leadership; (b) networking; (c) service to families and community; and (d) enhancing research-related skills and opportunities. Although it could be said that all 10 FLE Content Areas have relevance to these components, I posit that Content Area 9, Professional Ethics and Practice, is most pertinent. When new council bylaws are created or existing bylaws are reviewed, I urge faculty serving as advisers and mentors to student councils that are linked to APR-approved programs to actively illustrate how germane Content Area 9 is to their task. As students engage with one another and the public to carry out their council’s values, mission, and purpose, faculty advisers can make a valuable contribution by pointedly challenging them to apply the content and skills learned in the course(s) associated with this and other Content Areas.

Other data shared by CMU-ISU conference presenters that caught my attention were respondents’ accounts of the kinds of activities their councils undertook. Activities cited in study findings, as well as on the NCFR webpage about council happenings, included hosting speakers, panels, and workshops; volunteering service project work; participating in organization fairs; attending conferences; and creating opportunities for socializing and entertainment. Relatively few of the mentioned activities specifically included a reference to the CFLE credential, and there were no remarks focusing on the APR. Holding an information session about the what, when, how, and why of the CFLE credential was the sole noted activity.

When academic programs submit materials for consideration for first-time CFLE APR approval, the narrative is to include a description of what the faculty, administrators, and students associated with the program intend to do to publicize, market, and promote it should it indeed gain approval. It is my hope that these efforts are vigorously sustained for years to come and are evident each time the program’s approved status is up for renewal. For approved programs that are allied with student affiliates, council activities provide a prime opportunity for publicizing and promoting the benefits of the CFLE credential and the APR plan of study.

I have been pondering other possible student affiliate council activities. Some options fit nicely with the commonly stated values, mission, and purpose of existing councils. Others aim to help publicize and promote CFLE and APR. So far, here are the ideas I have generated.

  • Plan and carry out field trips to observe Family Impact Seminars (FIS) in action. While there, especially take note of the kinds of networking that goes on between family professionals and policymakers during such seminars. See this website featuring states that host FISs: https://www.purdue.edu/hhs/hdfs/fii/state-seminars/.
  • Attend local, state, and national workshops and conferences, as this will help fulfill common council values and mission statements pertaining to professional development, networking, and research. While there, deliver a paper or poster presentation.
  • Should time and monetary costs associated with attending professional workshops and conferences be too high, present a paper or poster at a student research symposium held on campus. There is a long history of student research symposia occurring at Illinois State University. See https://grad.illinoisstate.edu/symposium/. If this isn’t a common offering on your campus, collaborate with an appropriate entity (most likely the graduate school office) to create one.
  • When planning a mentoring roundtable or panel presentation for a council event, aim to ensure at least one (ideally, more than one) is a CFLE. Pointedly and meaningfully demonstrate the value of the CFLE during the event.
  • Plan and carry out a workshop for soon-to-be graduates of an APR-approved program about the steps involved in completing and submitting application paperwork to NCFR soon after graduation. Hosting a workshop that focuses on preparing for and taking the CFLE Exam would be a worthwhile undertaking as well.
  • While hands-on workshops that call for participants to practice composing resumes and interview skills are appealing and useful, opportunities for students to practice sharing their explanations of family science, family life education, and the CFLE are equally beneficial. Well-articulated explanations can be helpful in recruiting potential student council members from outside the home department.
  • Coordinate a contest for purposes of selecting an outstanding infographic about family science, family life education, and/or the CFLE credential.
  • Collaborate with other groups and entities on campus to plan and implement an activity/project. For example, pair with the campus library to host an event featuring “human library books” (see one of my previous columns about this unique offering). Or team up with a student group that focuses on environmental issues for an activity related to Earth Day. Or perhaps a student group that focuses on recreation and leisure would be interested in a jointly sponsored activity that promotes “humans/families in nature” (see http://www.humansinnature.ca/).

I am confident there are other ideas for student affiliate council activities beyond the eight I have listed here. If readers have other examples, please share them with me or via a NCFR discussion group. There are likely to be opportunities to pose suggestions at various sessions occurring at the upcoming conference in San Diego.