Department of Family Studies & Community Development

The family is the fundamental unit in contemporary society. Family science is a discipline grounded in research that enhances knowledge and understanding of the family. Healthy family functioning strengthens individuals, groups, and society.

Our undergraduate and graduate programs foster a multidisciplinary and multicultural understanding of families, communities, and service systems. Through coursework and experiential learning opportunities, our students study individual and family development, dynamics within families, action-oriented and policy-relevant research, and the interactions between families and society. We encourage civic responsibility and professional development through required community engagement opportunities that broaden our students' communication and critical thinking skills.

Professional Certifications

The department is affiliated with the National Council on Family Relations, the only national program to certify family life educators. After completing required coursework, family and human services undergraduate students may apply for provisional certification as family life educators. Full certification may be obtained as soon as students document sufficient work experience in family life education.

The Certified Child Life Specialist credential, issued by the Association of Child Life Professionals, is the exclusive certification for the profession. The Introduction to Child Life Track in the family and human services major prepares students for certification and careers as child life specialists.

Beyond the Classroom

Family and human services students are required to participate in service learning and internship courses. FMST 387 Community Services for Families offers group-based experiential learning in the area of program development. Students work in small groups in the community for 30 to 60 hours while learning new skills and theories in the classroom. Internships are individually based experiential learning courses that require a combination of classroom and field-based hours. Student internships include a minimum of 120 field-based hours. Specific sites are selected from over 75 approved sites.

Accelerated Programs

About Our People

By the Numbers


More than 75 approved internship sites for our students.


First and only graduate child life program in the mid-Atlantic.


Dual-degree programs, a bachelor's & master's in 5 years.

News & Events

Service-Learning Students Create Infographics for Local Non-Profit

As part of their service-learning experience at New Pathways Community Center, four Family Studies and Community Development students produced infographics that outlined the pathways to a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA) or manufacturer.  New Pathway's clients, particularly young adults aging out of foster care, will utilize this information in their search for employment.   Tiffany Adams, Marissa Cooksey, Toniann Widmaier and Melissa Pacas-Diaz all found fulfillment and insight through this process. Cooksey stated, “this experience reaffirmed that I do want to work with children in my career and provided me with a growing understanding of the field.”

Child Life Students Run an “Animal Clinic” at the University Child Care Center 

In April, the Department of Family Studies and Community Development partnered with the University Child Care Center to run an interactive and educational activity called the “Animal Clinic” that aims to help children understand healthcare at their developmental level. Five graduate students in the Child Life, Administration and Family Collaboration (M.S.) program guided the children through various stations where they acted out the role of a healthcare professional providing medical care to a stuffed animal. This invaluable partnership benefited both the children and the Child Life students in training.   Learn more about the collaboration.

Graduate Students Featured as Columnists in the ACLP Bulletin

Two graduate students in the Child Life, Administration and Family Collaboration (M.S.) program were featured as columnists in the Winter 2018 issue of the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) bulletin.   In the Changing Perspectives column, Annemarie McGraw highlights the unique needs of children in a hospital setting who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in her column “Acknowledging a Need for Autism-Specific Education.” In the “Beyond the Classroom” column, Allyson Fiery advocates for the importance of having a child life specialist within the healthcare team in her column “The Significant Impact of Patient Advocacy and Family-Centered Care in a Healthcare Setting.” If you have a ACLP membership, you can read the full publications.