Child Studies Program

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Focus on the Future

Focus on the Future

Focus on the Future

Child Studies Program Evolves to Meet Changing Needs of Students

To some, working with kids sounds like a drag. For others, it’s their dream job. Those who fall into the latter group can now graduate Santa Clara University’s College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in Child Studies.

Originally Liberal Studies, the major is now formally titled Child Studies. The Liberal Studies major was in existence since the 1990s. “We redeveloped our curriculum offerings for students who wanted to be more than teachers,” explained Acting Director of the Child Studies Program, Brett Solomon, Ph.D. Previously, “Liberal Studies was solely pre-teaching focused, and we found ourselves with a lot of students who wanted to work with children and families in broader community-based contexts. So, we developed Child Studies.”

Prior to the name and curriculum change, the Liberal Studies Program established the child studies emphasis for students who wanted to work with children and families without pursuing a career in teaching. Students who were pursuing teaching were required to take multi-disciplinary classes to meet the California State requirements to teach in public elementary schools. Since elementary school teachers must be able to teach in a variety of subjects, graduating with the titled major “Liberal Studies” essentially validated that competence to the public schools seeking recent graduates from universities such as SCU.

“Liberal Studies historically meant that a student was taking a little bit of everything. Back in the 1990s, the state of California specified that if you’re going to be a teacher in California, you need to major in Liberal Studies,” Solomon said. Yet the state no longer requires those pursuing a multiple subject (elementary) teaching credential to major in Liberal Studies. This allowed the new Child Studies program to serve all students pursuing careers with children, while having a more accurate identity at SCU.

The course offerings are now “a blended curriculum for our students. Child Studies students are now taking the same classes, because the knowledge and skills that you’d want your teacher to have is the same knowledge and skills you’d want any person who’s working with children to have,” notes Solomon. The Child Studies program includes 16 required Child Studies courses with focuses in psychology, sociology, education, and ethnic and cultural competence. This year, there is a whole new curriculum, all designed with the goal of understanding the social, emotional, and environmental context in which children grow and develop. All of the classes are taught from a social justice perspective, and “compassion in action for children” is the Child Studies motto.

There are currently 60 declared Child Studies majors, including those who initially came into the school as Liberal Studies majors. “They’re actually pleased with the name change because it provides us with a specified identity,” Solomon said. “Even with fellow colleagues on campus, when you would say ‘Liberal Studies,’ they would have no idea (what that means).”

Students now graduating Santa Clara University with a degree in Child Studies can end up in a vast variety of fields such as education, law, speech therapy, social work, and marriage and family counseling. “Most of our students move onto graduate school in either teacher education, social work, or marriage and family therapy–that’s the trend that we’ve noticed,” Solomon said.

After the recent hurricanes, the Child Studies faculty sent out resources that specifically focused on how to help children affected by natural disasters. The intent was to make connections for their students between theory and practice by highlighting real world experiences. Solomon believes that the work that Child Studies students do can and will certainly enhance the quality of life for all of the children that they have contact with, and especially those from underrepresented communities. With the experience and knowledge that students gain from the Child Studies Program, their graduates will do just that.

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Meet the 2017 graduates of the SCU Future Teacher Project (FTP). They are primarily students of color who want to teach in their home communities or with under-represented populations.