U to offer new graduate minorin family policy

Students will study how different economic and social policies affect families.

by Cati Vanden Breul

Starting in fall, the University will offer the United States’ first-ever graduate minor in family policy.

The family-policy minor will be an interdisciplinary program offered through the College of Human Ecology, the Law School and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Students will study how different economic and social policies affect families.

“What this policy minor will do is to give them a broader and better understanding of the unit in society that provides a lot of stability – the family unit,” said Jean Bauer, a family social science professor and director of the new minor.

When policy-makers understand families and how programs and policies affect them, their policies will improve, she said.

“In public policy, people oftentimes focus on the bigger society,” Bauer said. “If they understand what’s happening to the family unit in society, we’ll have stronger policies.”

The minor will be offered at the master’s and doctoral levels.

To get the minor, students will take a new family-policy perspectives course and six to nine additional credits from a list of 35 previously established courses.

Kim Skobba, a University doctoral student, said she is planning to get the minor in combination with her work in housing studies.

“I first heard about the minor about a year ago. I was really excited because of my interest in housing,” she said. “So many of the issues we look at in housing have policy implications, and to look at it from a family perspective helps bring a different lens to the situation.”

Researchers will benefit from having a fresh perspective, Skobba said.

“We tend to, as academic researchers, be very focused on our area,” she said. “Looking at the impact and putting that first helps us understand how the policy process works.”

Skobba said she hopes to become a housing researcher or policy analyst in the future.

“The minor could help me be effective and forward in a way that would help inform policy debate,” she said.

Bauer said the minor took approximately nine months to prepare, with discussion among the colleges beforehand.

The deans of the College of Human Ecology, Law School and Humphrey Institute decided that by working together, they could have an interdisciplinary minor at the graduate level in family policy, she said. The minor was then approved by the Graduate School and Board of Regents.

Bauer said she expects approximately 25 students to begin the minor next year.

“I’m excited, because I think this will give a new emphasis and a new edge for students for employment,” she said.