“The family science perspective is essential to understanding individuals as a whole,” Allaback said. “When you look at a person, their situation and the struggles they face, it helps to not only understand their psychology, but also the societal, cultural, social, biological and relational elements that combine to make a whole, unique and complex person.”
Professionals are vital to the care of the overall health and well-being of community members in need. However, family science has a long history of needing to justify its existence to other social science and humanities disciplines such as psychology or sociology. Family science is typically undervalued because it’s a newer and interdisciplinary field, Maier explained.
Family science programs also face the challenge of being unfamiliar to incoming and current students.
“Many students come to Stout not knowing about HDFS or what it entails,” Maier said. “They soon realize that helping others is their passion, and they either declare or transfer majors to HDFS. It’s important to continue offering such programs, as there is a need for helping services and family services.”
Allaback, O’Mara and Ronnei transferred into HDFS after starting in different programs. None of them had heard of HDFS before.
O’Mara and Ronnei wanted to be teachers, to work with children and help others. They learned more about HDFS in an introductory course.
O’Mara changed her major three times before deciding HDFS would be a perfect fit. “This major has so many great opportunities, great faculty and connections to build with students. I’m so grateful that I switched my major when I did,” O’Mara said.
Ronnei wasn’t far into her early childhood education degree when she realized she didn’t want to teach. “Switching to HDFS was one of the best decisions I have made in my college career,” Ronnei said. “HDFS allows me to still learn about children and development but gives me more career options.”
Allaback, who has a Spanish minor, started in graphic design and interactive media, but transferred to HDFS in her sophomore year. “I realized I had a passion for helping people and working to understand their struggles. I decided I wanted to pursue counseling as a career. HDFS has laid the perfect foundation of knowledge for me for a career in the helping professions,” she said.
Encouraging enrollment in human development and family studies
There are proven and effective strategies that lead to growth amidst these challenges, Maier said.
In the past, program leaders have met with high school students at career conferences and college fairs. She thinks this is the best way to encourage enrollment and improve retention.
“I definitely think reaching out to students in high school and telling them about the program and field as an important piece of social sciences is a great way to spread awareness about the major,” Allaback said.
HDFS students are also encouraged to join SCFR and engage as active students and professional affiliate members.