George Mason University

News at Mason

New program produces ‘an extraordinary first graduate’

July 6, 2016   /   by Damian Cristodero

Kia Jackson was the first graduate of Mason's new Human Development and Family Science Program, a multi-disciplinary program for undergrad students interested in careers in family wellbeing. Photo by Ron Aira.

When students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in human development and family science were called to the stage at the College of Education and Human Development’s convocation ceremony, only one student rose to her feet.

That was because Kia Jackson is the first graduate of the program that came online at George Mason University in the 2014-15 academic year.

“It was like the program was built just for me,” Jackson said.

The program prepares students for careers promoting family well-being and is a joint effort of the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The curriculum pulls from programs in education, psychology, sociology, criminology, communications, public health, finance, and cultural and gender studies, among others.

According to associate professor and program coordinator Bethany Letiecq, the multidisciplinary approach provides career paths for students interested in early childhood education and care, youth-based services, family counseling, elder care, research, family policy, family law or advocacy.

About 30 students are enrolled in the program as a major. About 30 more count it as a minor, Letiecq said.

“The program is filling a niche in the university,” said Ellen Rodgers, associate dean for student and academic affairs in the College of Education and Human Development. “It’s a program that takes a holistic view of individuals and families in society. Together, with required internships, students are prepared to make a real difference.”

For Jackson, a first-generation college student, the options were comforting. Originally interested in law, she also wanted to work with children. She did not want to be a social worker because of what she called the emotional burden.

Rodgers, who knew Jackson because of her work-study program in Rodgers’ office, suggested she consider the new program.

“With that program I could dive into a little bit of everything,” said Jackson, whose concentration is in adult development and aging. “I got to take psych classes. I got to take sociology classes. I got to take [criminology]. It was great because I have a background in a lot of different areas.”

All of which led to a job with a Georgetown research institute where she examines issues related to child welfare, juvenile justice and gun violence among Washington, D.C., youth.

“She is,” Rodgers said, “an extraordinary first graduate.”