Discussing the State of Family Science With NCFR Leaders

Diane Cushman, NCFR Executive Director
/ Fall 2019 NCFR Report

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The spring meeting of NCFR’s Conference Program Planning Committee, usually held over a weekend in Minneapolis in April or May, is an opportune time for NCFR’s elected and appointed leaders to discuss important issues with staff related to the Family Science discipline, in addition to conference planning.

This year, conversation at our meeting included considerations of different formats for future conferences, improvements to the conference submission and review process, outreach efforts to encourage members to run in NCFR elections, and changes occurring in academia that impact Family Science degree programs. This final topic was a major focus of our time on Sunday with the chairs of NCFR’s 10 sections. 

This conversation on the current state of Family Science with section chairs was both exhilarating and sobering. While some chairs reported that their college programs seemed to be in decline, others shared the innovative ways they are enhancing the value of classes and degrees to their universities.

Many departments have changed their names over the years to incorporate Family Science, and the continuation of this national trend in turn helps to improve the overall standing of the discipline.

Since 2014, when NCFR formally adopted Family Science as the preferred term to identify the discipline, we’ve encouraged departments to use the term for department and program names. Family Science is a more accurate and understandable term for students and prospective employers. It denotes a rigor and reflects the underpinnings of research-informed practice, and as such, it carries with it a new higher level of credibility and regard. In addition, the term provides a professional identity—that of Family Scientist—to program graduates. Many departments have changed their names over the years to incorporate Family Science, and the continuation of this national trend in turn helps to improve the overall standing of the discipline.

In our meeting with section chairs, we heard about how using the name Family Science is increasing the popularity of and enrollment in bachelor’s and master’s programs; it is enhancing the visibility and status of departments around campus with both prospective students and colleagues with the university. Incorporating Family Science into entry-level classes is helping students determine a degree earlier in their education, broadening the appeal of programs to majors in other disciplines, and creating opportunities to partner with other academic departments.

Indeed, there was consensus among the section chairs that cooperation across disciplines is key to program success, as the interdisciplinary nature causes us to “run the risk of getting lost in our own field.” The group agreed that as Family Science becomes more widespread, it will be easier to market to other departments across universities and to employers.

If your department is considering a name change, NCFR has sample documents and resources available for you that other schools have successfully used.

While many members have shared positive feedback from students about the Family Science name, others have encountered resistance at their schools to the idea of a name change. If your department is considering a name change, NCFR has sample documents and resources available for you that other schools have successfully used.

The increase in nontenured positions is having an impact on some programs, with a teaching-only position becoming a common example that is valuable to many departments. The group discussed how NCFR could support faculty in those roles by providing more resource exchanges at the NCFR conference. Although conference attendance may not be budgeted for nontenured positions, funding for professional development often is.

Finally, there was a universal call for NCFR to market Family Science and the Certified Family Life Education (CFLE) credential across the country to “any job, any field where our students can get work.” Some academic members are dismayed that even jobs at their universities in departments such as extension are hiring family life specialists with no CFLE preference in the job description. Section chairs called for NCFR’s marketing efforts to “give foundation to us at the universities.”

 

2019 Annual Conference in Fort Worth

Past conference attendees have praised NCFR for choosing second-tier cities with affordable hotel room rates. This year’s city, Fort Worth, Texas, is such a city; the Omni Forth Worth is offering a $129 hotel rate that is far below rates at previous NCFR conferences.

When NCFR decided to step away from a hotel in Indianapolis for 2019 due to state legislation that had been signed, we were delighted to find that the Omni Fort Worth was eager to book NCFR and fill the hotel the week before Thanksgiving.

State legislation, though, continues to challenge NCFR in its search for conference sites. After we signed the Omni contract, Texas enacted legislation that allows child welfare providers to discriminate against children and families on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, religion, disability, and other protected classes. Our Local Programming Committee has been working since June on ways to engage with local community agencies in an open dialogue with members at the conference. Programming is being planned for Friday afternoon and Saturday morning that focuses on LGTBQ and immigrant families. At the time of this writing, plans are in the early stages of development. By the time you are reading this, you should have learned about the details around two local programming efforts.

I’m looking forward to seeing you in November in Fort Worth.