Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Family Studies
(Social work and family studies)

Chair, 2011-12: Mary Carlsen (Social Work and Family Studies), social policy, ethics, culturally competent practice, family practice

Faculty, 2011-12: Devyani Chandran, research, family studies, human sexuality, social policy, research and evaluation; Grace Cho (Psychology), developmental psychology; Dana Gross (Psychology), developmental psychology; Stace Klempnauer (Social Work and Family Studies), family relationships; Judy Kutulas (History), 20th-century American history, American women’s history, media history; Diane LeBlanc (Interdisciplinary Studies), writing, women's studies; Michael R. Leming (Sociology/Anthropology), religion, death, family, Thailand and Southeast Asia; Naurine Lennox (Social Work and Family Studies), social work practice, field education, Mexico (fall semester and Interim only); Laura McKibben (Social Work and Family Studies), social work practice, diversity; Donna McMillan (Psychology), clinical and personality psychology; Ryan Sheppard (Sociology/Anthropology), family, gender, race/ethnicity, social movements, quantitative research; Steven Soderlind (Economics), urban and regional economics

The well-being of individuals and families is a national and global concern, and the family as a focus for study in higher education has increased in significance. Since many disciplines contribute to the understanding of families, family studies is an integrative field that synthesizes knowledge from liberal arts disciplines, particularly biology, psychology, social work, sociology, and political science.

Family studies offers a concentration in family studies.


Recommended preparation: introductory courses in social science, biology and statistics

Required department courses (all three are required):

  1. Family Studies 232: Introduction to Family Studies
  2. Family Studies 242: Family Relationships
  3. Family Studies 391: Senior Seminar

These required courses provide a core of knowledge in the discipline that is essential to thinking systematically about family as a social institution and its interactions within the larger social context.

Possible electives (choose two; at least one must be outside the Department of Social Work and Family Studies):

  1. Economics 116: Gateways to Economics: Consumers in Families
  2. Family Studies 130: Families in Film and Literature
  3. Family Studies 253: Human Sexuality
  4. History 272: Women in America
  5. Political Science 270: Family Values
  6. Psychology 241: Developmental Psychology
  7. Psychology 350: Parenting and Child Development in Diverse Families
  8. Social Work 125: Racism & Sexism in American Family Life
  9. Social Work 221: Social Work and Social Welfare
  10. Sociology Anthropology 248: Sociology of Dying, Death and Bereavement
  11. Sociology Anthropology 260: Marriage and the Family
  12. Spanish 250: Gateway to the Spanish-Speaking World

These courses allow students to tailor their further knowledge about families to fit a specific application area or to integrate with their major program. Elective courses not on this list may be counted with prior approval of the department chair.

Interdisciplinary coursework

At least one course for the concentration must come from outside the Department of Social Work and Family Studies.

Senior capstone experience

This requirement is an academic, credit-bearing experience completed during the senior year. It is designed to ensure that concentrators participate in an experience that applies basic knowledge (theories, frameworks, concepts about families) to real families in a setting beyond the classroom. It must be approved by the chair of the Department of Social Work and Family Studies prior to enrollment. A St. Olaf faculty member must teach or supervise the experience. The senior capstone experience results in a product or project that involves working with real families. It could be a panel or talk organized by the student(s), a pamphlet, a web site, a portfolio, an integrative paper, or another approved project. Through the experience, students demonstrate attainment of intended learning outcomes for family studies.

Guidelines for the senior capstone experience:

  • Includes 50-80 hours devoted to direct experience with families;
  • Can be domestic or international;
  • Can be taken either graded or Pass/No Pass (P/N);
  • Can be submitted for distinction in a major, if it meets that department's guidelines for distinction.

The experience must be:

  • For credit (.5 credit or full credit); and
  • Beyond the classroom; and
  • Approved by the Department Chair or Family Studies advisor; and
  • Taught or supervised by a St. Olaf faculty member.

The experience may be:

  • A project in a senior year course, social work practicum, or nursing clinical; or
  • A senior year independent study (294); or
  • A senior year independent research project (394); or
  • A senior year internship with families (half- or full-credit).
  • A summer experience prior to senior year.


recommendations for graduate study

The concentration in family studies is designed to enable students to learn about families in both theory and practice; it is a course of study that can enhance student learning in any major. This concentration is intended to help to prepare students entering careers with families including marriage and family therapy, education, and ministry, or to family practice in law, medicine, nursing, social work, or public policy. Students who intend to go directly to graduate school should also consider enrollment in a statistics course and a research methods course in social work, psychology, or sociology.


130 Families in Film and Literature

This course introduces students to family studies using selected depictions in film and literature as models. Students learn about family functioning and the dynamics that occur inside families that result from outside influences, such as economic and political environments and natural events. Offered periodically during Interim. Counts toward family studies concentration.

232 Introduction to Family Studies

Students examine American families through the life cycle in relation to personal and professional life, with the major emphasis on communication and commitment in interpersonal relationships. Students study courtship, marriage, adjustment to parenthood, and examine stressors that affect families such as family violence, divorce, grief and loss, and socioeconomic issues. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach; students have opportunity for a broad range of individualized study. Offered annually during the fall semester. Counts towards American studies major.

242 Family Relationships

In this course, students study the contemporary American family as it meets the challenge of a changing social world. The primary objective is to enlarge both personal and intellectual understanding of the complex issues facing families. Using the range of behavioral sciences concerned with family life, students study the interaction of individuals within families and families within society. Primary emphasis is on theories and practice of family communication. Offered annually in the spring semester. Counts towards American studies major.

253 Human Sexuality

This course explores the varied dimensions of human sexuality as they relate to, affect and are affected by past and present human relationships. Sexual problems and issues are examined for the development of a value framework and for the enrichment of family life. The course emphasizes critical thinking skills applied to current issues in human sexuality (e.g. gay marriage, gender issues, sexual violence). Students examine issues in contemporary research and ethics in sexuality. Offered each semester. Counts toward family studies concentration.

263 Indigenous Cultures of Australia

This course focuses on the diversity of culture and experience in Australia society. Students learn about the experience of Aboriginal families from a variety of social science perspectives. A major focus is the relationships between indigenous people and the majority population in the U.S. and Australia.

294 Internship

298 Independent Study

391 Senior Seminar: Special Topics

This capstone seminar required of all concentrators focuses on the exploration of current research and the integration of key foundation disciplines in the study of families. Students explore special topics through assigned readings and lecture material. Prerequisites: Family Studies 232, 242.

394 Internship

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offered based on department decision.

398 Independent Research