Purpose of the Review
To assess the quality of the B.S. Degree in Human Development and Family Studies as part of the ongoing seven-year review conducted by the Faculty Senate of every UW-Stout program.
- B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies
- Program Director
- Dr. Judy I. Rommel
- PRC Consultants
- Bill Kryshak and Janet Polansky
- Date of Review
- December 2001
- Committee Findings
- The committee recommends continuation of the program for the ensuing seven-year cycle, with implementation of committee recommendations made to further strengthen the program.
The B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies was recognized as a particularly strong contributor to the human services component of UW-Stout’s mission and was recommended for continuation. The review comprised the degree and its concentrations; placement, graduate and employer follow-up data; and current student surveys and assessment. The HDFS program was found to provide a strong blend of professional and general education, particularly in communication and diversity skills, focused on the competencies needed for human services’ careers. The review identified the quality of faculty-student interaction, faculty commitment and expertise, and robust assessment and evaluation practices to be particular strengths. Recommendations from earlier reviews to increase access to needed classes and eliminate duplication or repetitious course content were found to have been completely or nearly completed realized; advisement issues are being addressed in a positive fashion, although problems with low salaries and career options related to the profession as a whole continue to exist.
Recommendations for continued improvement were supportive of further efforts to enhance the computer/analytical skills competencies of graduates and to identify wider and more pointed career options to address the perennial problems of low salaries and limited advancement opportunities in some employment categories.
Process Followed for Current Review
Following standard PRC procedure, information about the program was gathered from the program director, key instructors, students in the program, advisory committee members, and placement data. Specific information about diversity, assessment, and other priorities was highlighted. The consultants met with the program director to discuss the report’s progress. The program director presented the HDFS report to the full PRC at its December 7, 2001, meeting, and the consultants’ response was provided subsequently.
The 1995 review recommended continuation, noting among the program strengths:
- Flexibility and responsiveness to change
- High quality of faculty and staff
- High satisfaction among students and employers
- Positive outreach to practitioners for professional development
The review likewise noted among opportunities for program enrichment:
- Addressing concerns about advisement and access to required courses
- Increasing the diversity among types of practitioners on the advisory board
- Reducing or eliminating course overlap/duplication
- Strategizing to lessen society’s devaluation of human services as reflected in low salaries and advancement opportunities for these graduates
As a result of its analysis of these strengths and opportunities, the 1995 report recommended that the program:
- Take steps to identify and address real or perceived duplication and breadth vs. depth issues.
- Take immediate action to address scheduling and course access problems, including the role of one and two-credit courses.
- Maximize efforts to provide effective career information, advisement, and additional certification necessary in the field, including distinguishing this field from the Bachelor of Social Work.
Data and analysis provided in the 2001 self-study and its accompanying information indicated that these concerns had been addressed in that:
- Course evaluation and an ensuing program revision addressed identified overlap by eliminating two public policy courses perceived to replicate the Family Impact Seminar; perceived overlap was identified as the result of a strong “family systems theory” orientation which is sometimes interpreted as repetitiveness.
- Access to required courses has been achieved by maximizing core offerings by limiting available selectives and 1-2 credit classes and increasing class sizes.
- Advisement has been improved by increased training and experience as advising duties are shared among key instructors, and efforts are underway to identify how the program can be competitive for social work positions.
- The professionalism and dedication of the program director and faculty are clearly recognized and appreciated both by graduates and by current students. Their competence and credibility provides the program with the creativity and flexibility it needs to respond to student and societal needs. [Student surveys, graduate follow-up surveys, and advisory committee] The program provides a challenging and rewarding intellectual and personal environment that encourages excellence in its students.
- Program initiatives involving increased practicum opportunities and laboratory settings, such as computer applications and the Lifelong Learning Center being planned, are creative ways of expanding career opportunities and providing access to technology which might enhance our graduates’ reputation for innovation and technological awareness. [Program Director’s review]
- Replacing the specific Child Development and Family Services concentrations with an Open concentration and opportunities to minor will help diversify the perspectives students are exposed to, provide a more flexible set of skills and attitudes for the career marketplace, and lessen the perception that “you end up talking about the same things.” [Student follow-up study comment]
- A more manageable enrollment (207 headcount in fall, 2000, as opposed to the 220 reported in the 1995 review) will allow a return to previous class sizes, make selectives more available, and help guarantee a quality experience. New recruitment strategies, transfer student policies, and distance education opportunities should help ensure more seamless access and stable enrollments.
Opportunities for Enrichment
- Following up on the issue of limited occupational representation among advisory committee members as noted in the 1995 report (p. 5) may help identify new professional areas for employment and recruitment opportunities.
- Continuing to monitor how students utilize the open concentration and electives and what minors/concentrations/certificates they choose could help identify whether these choices are lending breadth or increasing the potential for duplication or perceived duplication. Although the new family studies minor proposed to be offered through the HDFLCES Department would not be used by students in the major, the way the Program Director’s report presents information about development of the minor could blur the distinction between program and department.
- The already rich diversity content in the program would be enhanced with an increasingly international or global perspective as the concept of diversity evolves to meet changing needs.
- The number of graduates who rated their education very high and yet displayed lower levels of satisfaction about their career development and advancement (56 and 53%) seems noteworthy, as does the fact that only half of those were employed in jobs directly related to their field and that only 68% of the 89% who would attend UW-Stout again would enroll in the same program. Issues of career advancement for professionals should be explored for strategies beyond preparing graduates bounded by geographical limitations or by the perception that other priorities take precedence.
- The increase in mean starting salaries noted in the report is positive, but probably represents no more than the level of growth that would be expected during a favorable economic period. Increasing the visibility of human services professionals as advocates both for their clients and for themselves by addressing socio-economic issues such as the feminization of poverty and the devaluation of the “traditionally female” professions could help improve the image of the profession as a change agent and provider of opportunities.
The committee recommends that the program, departments, and college continue to leverage the excellence of this program by networking with related entities in the university, community, and profession to:
- Further identify, refine, and communicate the repertoire of specific career options available to professionals in this area (program director, department).
- Enhance opportunities for continuing education and professional development outreach to the community and profession to help maximize career advancement for this constituency (department, college).
- Utilize the program’s excellent reputation to advocate for constituents and clients to combat the relegation of the “traditionally female “ professions and those dependent upon them to secondary status in terms of access to resources and options (department, program, and college)