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Family Studies: exploring family systems, issues, dynamics and relationships.


What exactly is family studies?

In this program students examine the nature of family systems and family issues, dynamics and relationships in society as well as the micro-dynamics of family interaction. Not only does the family influence individual development and happiness, but family shapes and is shaped by the social, political, cultural and economic landscape. An understanding of all forces influencing families is essential for a thorough understanding of the human experience. A major and minor in family studies supports work in a variety of fields.

What are recent graduates doing now?

UST family studies graduates are employed by a wide range of agencies, companies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Many family studies alumni have gone on to graduate school to earn a master’s degree or higher, and/or licensure in the area required by a specific profession. To prepare themselves well for future careers, many students choose family studies alongside another major or minor in areas like communication and journalism, psychology, sociology, social work, community health, Catholic studies, theology, family business or elementary education. Alumni tell us that, essentially, a Family Studies major or minor is very versatile and has given them a solid start on achieving personal and professional goals.

Learning opportunities outside the classroom:

Students in family studies have found multiple opportunities in the Twin Cities area for doing internships and community-based learning. For instance, many of our students recently have interned and/or volunteered at shelters that serve families in need; local centers that specialize in autism care and research; foundations that serve families, children and elders; women’s shelters; community health providers; daycare centers; after-school programs; programs that support single fathers; ELS tutoring and parenting outreach; elder-care/gerontology services and centers; after school tutoring/social emotional skills programs; school-based programs; parenting, family life education, and outreach programs; health and wellness prevention settings; Americorps/Peace Corps; religious institutions; among many others. 

Study Abroad:

Study abroad is always an option – and greatly encouraged – for family studies students. We will work with all students to find exciting and relevant options for studying in countries around the globe.

Faculty at Work:

Faculty in family studies are doing research and publishing articles and books across multiple disciplines, from psychology of marriage and family to family sociology to family and couple communication.

For instance, Dr. Carol Bruess, also director of Family Studies, has been working on a study of families using Facebook. She is attempting to understand how using Facebook with other family members affects family satisfaction and closeness. Specifically, she’s curious about how Facebook might be replacing the traditional family dinner ritual. She also is exploring how texting and tweeting between married and committed couples is used as a ritual of connection.

Dr. Meg Wilkes Karraker has published a popular textbook in the field called “Families with Futures.” The book explores multiple contemporary issues about all aspects of family functioning, and the way families are affected by and affect society and culture.

Dr. Jolynn Gardner co-authored a text titled “Health Promotion and Education: Content and Curriculum,” with Dr. Robert Wandberg. It provides guidelines and suggestions for curriculum development and delivery. Dr. Gardner is working on a second text, “Transcending Stress,” which is designed to help students understand and cope with not only their own stress, but also stress experienced by their clients and populations.

What jobs are possible with a Family Studies major?

  • TV reporter
  • Speech-language pathologist
  • Mental health Practitioners
  • Case manager in group homes
  • Psychology aide in local hospitals
  • Aide at a center for children with autism
  • High school/middle school/elementary teachers
  • School principal
  • Teacher and assistant in special education
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Childcare specialist in licensed centers
  • Research assistant
  • Licensed psychologist
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