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Family science program meets rigorous standards to attain NCFR approval

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Dave Morgan in a family counseling session

The Lipscomb University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is celebrating a significant milestone as its family science program recently became a National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) approved program. NCFR is the national organization for the family science profession.

University officials received notice on Jan. 13 from NCFR that the program achieved approved status after officially beginning the approval process during the Fall 2021 semester. Hunter Stanfield, assistant professor and lead faculty of family science, explained that program faculty compiled comprehensive materials outlining courses, practicum experiences and program objectives as part of the process. Those materials then went through a several months-long peer-review process during which Certified Family Life Educators from across the country evaluated the program by the NCFR national standards for family science programs.

“Our NCFR liaison noted that the reviewers were ‘very impressed’ with our program during this process,” said Stanfield. “We are grateful for the reviewers' feedback, and their recommendations are currently in the process of being implemented.”

Although the process to become an NCFR-approved program began in the fall, Stanfield said it has been a goal for the program for several years and credits, John Conger, professor emeritus; Shanna Ray, chair of the Department of Psychology, Counseling and Family Science; Chris Gonzalez, director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program; Holly Allen, professor of family science and Christian ministry; and Dave Morgan, associate professor of marriage and family therapy; with laying the foundation for this accomplishment. Associate Provost of Diversity, Inclusion and Special Initiatives Norma Burgess, president of the 2022 NCFR board of directors and fellow with the organization, teaches a course in the family science program and has also been an advocate and provided counsel during the process.

“We are grateful for the support of Dr. Shanna Ray, current College of Liberal Arts & Sciences dean David Holmes, and former CLAS Dean Norma Burgess, as they have provided the resources to pursue this status and recognition,” Stanfield said. “These leaders understand the importance of families and relationships to our society. As a result, Lipscomb will continue to be a national leader in developing students with a passion for strengthening families and relationships for generations to come.”
Stanfield said having an NCFR-approved program has a positive impact on our students during their time at Lipscomb and after graduation.

If there is anything the past few years have revealed, it is the importance of family and relationships. Family science emphasizes prevention-focused, strengths-orientated, and evidence-based work to address potential family and relationship problems proactively. — Dr. Hunter Stanfield

“The significance is threefold,” he explained. “First, it means that our students receive an exceptional educational experience deemed by NCFR to meet the highest national standards. Second, becoming an approved program demonstrates that our students are graduating with the knowledge and skills to be family science professionals capable of strengthening families and relationships in various contexts.” 

“Third, upon graduation, he continued, “our students can begin the process of becoming a Certified Family Life Educator, which is a professional certification for family science professionals.”

Lipscomb offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in family science with concentrations in child life specialist, child and family services, children and family spiritual formation, mental health professions and family life education. The program is designed to provide excellent undergraduate foundations for graduate work, as well as for working in a variety of settings.

“In recent years, we have worked to increase the visibility and relevancy of the Family Science program by creating career-specific tracks and a flexible minor along with promoting our courses as beneficial to students entering into ministry, education, law, healthcare and other people-focused professional fields,” said Stanfield. “We have also increased the number of local practicum sites offering students real-world, hands-on experiences.”

“Family science students have continued to demonstrate their career potential diversity by working in a variety of professional areas and entering into graduate school programs such as speech and language pathology, occupational therapy, business administration, applied behavior analysis, marriage and family therapy, clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, school psychology, and child life,” he continued.

The field of family science is one that plays a key role in families and communities. Stanfield noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of healthy family relationships. 

“If there is anything the past few years have revealed, it is the importance of family and relationships,” he said. “Family science emphasizes prevention-focused, strengths-orientated, and evidence-based work to address potential family and relationship problems proactively. As a result, our students are gaining knowledge and skills about how to do this vocational calling and how to work with diverse individuals, relationships and families. We believe that strengthening families and relationships benefits all of us, and our students are getting to learn from our incredible faculty how to do this vital work.”

Learn more about Lipscomb’s family science program.