Advancing Family Science to NCFR Members and Beyond

Diane L. Cushman, NCFR Executive Director
/ NCFR Report, Fall 2021
Diane L. Cushman

See all articles from this issue

June 2021 marked the 1-year anniversary of NCFR’s Advancing Family Science Initiative, a sustained effort to strengthen the identity, visibility, and perceived value of the discipline of Family Science. This initiative has its roots in the work of NCFR’s Future of Family Science Task Force, created in 2014, that ultimately was sidelined by the important policy work that followed. Work resumed in June 2020, led by NCFR staff member Allison Wickler. Over the past year, she has reached out to many members of the original task force and scores of other NCFR members for their contributions to establish a clear identity for Family Science and to increase the understanding, visibility, and credibility of the discipline. If you have feedback or ideas for this initiative, please send them to us at

The Advancing Family Science Initiative is crucial to the continued success of the Family Science discipline. Family Science has not kept pace with its sister disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, and gerontology, which have done an excellent job of identifying, clarifying, and marketing their work.

With help from the original task force members, we identified six key audiences and embarked on a layered and iterative process to develop resources addressing each one:

  1. NCFR members and Certified Family Life Educators (CFLEs)
  2. Additional Family Science faculty, academic programs, and students
  3. University administrators and other disciplines and departments
  4. Prospective students, parents and/or caregivers, counselors
  5. Employers (nonacademic)
  6. Funders, policymakers, media, the public

We will continue to reach out to NCFR members and those most familiar to NCFR and branch out to new horizons still in 2021. Parents of prospective undergraduate Family Science majors and employers of Family Science graduates represent two important groups for expanding NCFR’s footprint and bring more awareness to the discipline.

Two interactive events were held with NCFR members during and shortly following the 2020 NCFR Annual Conference. These sessions yielded helpful advice on how to move forward with these external audiences. We recently briefed the members involved in these sessions on accomplishments from their input and asked for further input: on creating a series of “elevator pitches” to succinctly and effectively describe Family Science and its professions; on developing some examples of how Family Science research has directly affected families; and on sharing examples of how Family Science programs have collaborated with other academic disciplines to apply the Family Science lens to those disciplines.

One of the main goals of the Advancing Family Science Initiative is to develop and share valuable resources with members. For example, we worked with a number of members whose academic institutions have successfully integrated “Family Science” into their degree and/or department names, and we developed a “name change” resource collection to help others in this effort to create a more cohesive disciplinary identity (access our program name change resources). We’ve updated the NCFR Degree Programs Guide to include an interactive map of schools offering degrees in Family Science and a second map of schools of NCFR’s CFLE-approved programs. Resources are now in place that lay out definitions of key terms of Family Science identity, the history of and justification for the term Family Science, and exploration of careers in Family Science.

As of June 2021, more than two dozen universities had accessed the name-change resources with the intent to make a name change; the two degree program maps had been viewed nearly 14,000 times in just two months; and there were over 8,000 unique views of the Family Science web pages, with a whopping average time of 3 minutes and 45 seconds spent on each page. Over 115 NCFR members have provided ideas and feedback, helped with content review, or reported using our Advancing Family Science resources.

Over the next year the focus of this work will be on:

  • quantifying the scope of Family Science in academia and practice employment;
  • determining and reporting job outlook and salary data;
  • developing and sharing models for collaborating with other academic units and showing the value of Family Science programs;
  • developing materials for recruiting undecided and high school students;
  • developing materials targeted to employers;
  • collecting and sharing more stories about Family Science careers; and
  • sharing examples of translational research to demonstrate the value of Family Science in real life.

While the Advancing Family Science Initiative is significant, it is important to note that NCFR remains a multidisciplinary society of practitioners, academics, and researchers from many disciplines. There is no intention of changing the “big tent” that has characterized NCFR from its beginning. No matter your educational background, your vocation, or how you define yourself and your work, if your interest is understanding and working with families and the distinct dynamics within them, you will find a professional home in NCFR.


Thanks and Gratitude to President Leigh Leslie

Every 2 years NCFR welcomes a new president who moves from the 2-year term of president-elect to the top voluntary leadership position in the organization. As such, this person has an opportunity to share their vision of NCFR and the work needed to fulfill its mission, to remain relevant, and to meet the needs of members. All presidents have an idea of what they would like to accomplish during their term. The saying “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans” comes to mind. In recent years, incoming presidents have been met with major global events that have shaped their presidency.

Dr. Leigh Leslie’s term was a case in point (read her column in this issue). She was the epitome of flexibility as she embraced current issues and navigated the board to support the changing needs of the membership. We thank Dr. Leslie for serving as our president, and we welcome our next president, Dr. Norma Bond Burgess, and wish them both the best.

We also thank Dr. Joanne Roberts, as she moves from the NCFR Board of Directors to the role of NCFR Affiliate Councils President. You can keep in touch with all your board members at They are eager to hear from you.