New child and family studies major launched this semester

FSU’s College of Education launched a new child and family studies major this fall 2018 semester, after approval by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in fall 2017.

Kelly Kolodny, education professor, and Valerie Hytholt, director of the Child Development Lab, co-chaired the development of the major, and Kolodny is teaching one of the required courses this semester – “Child, Family, School, and Community.”

According to a Feb. 1 FSU press release, the major is “designed for students interested in working with young children and their families as teachers or administrators in pre-school, childcare, early intervention or other community-based programs for children.”

The major differs from the early childhood education major by focusing more on the management and administration side of facilities and services for young children, according to both Kolodny and the FSU website.

Hytholt said she and Kolodny developed surveys for daycare workers, preschool teachers, and others involved in the early childhood education field to gauge interest. They also reached out to early childhood education majors currently enrolled at Framingham State to see if they wanted to change to this major.

There are currently 21 students enrolled in the program, according to Kolodny. The interdisciplinary nature of the major requires that students take not only child and family studies-related courses, but also psychology and education courses.

Kolodny said working with Hytholt contributed to the success of the major’s launch and progress.

“It was a good, collaborative experience,” she said.

Kolodny added the program was “going very well without a lot of publicity.”

FSU is currently the only state university in Massachusetts that offers a child and family studies major, which Kolodny and Hytholt hope adds to the attractiveness of FSU as a potential transfer school for community college students and students at other state institutions with an interest in this program.

Linda Vaden-Goad, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said in an email, “So many of our students come to us because they know they want to work with young children in significant ways. This new major will give these very committed students the kind of future they are hoping to have.”

FSU has two childcare centers where students can learn and observe, and also have a chance to work and interact with the children who attend daycare, Vaden-Goad said.

“Because of this, our students will have a real advantage that students attending other universities will not have,” she said. “Our students can sit in their own classes and learn about education and child development, and walk over to the childcare lab that same day and observe development in action.

“It is such an advantage – they want to make a difference in the lives of children, and they will!”

In the press release, Interim Dean of Education Larnell Flannagan said, “There is a growing need in this region and state for highly qualified early education and care [EEC] teachers, as well as EEC directors for early childhood care centers.”

He added in an email, “We look forward to the child and family studies program growing over the next few years as more students learn about it.”

Freshman Madison Fugere said she chose to come to FSU because of the new major.

“I chose this program because I want to open up my own daycare when I graduate,” Fugere said. “I have always loved working with children.”

Fugere, who started and ran a babysitting company in 2016, added the experience “made me realize I love the management side of education, and that is when I officially decided that I wanted to open up my own daycare.”

Freshman Kaylea Sherman said, “I chose this major because I feel that working with children is such an amazing, rewarding job. The experience in the major so far has been awesome.

“I learn so much in class, and we even were able to work one on one with some of the children in the Child Development Lab,” she added.

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