Val Keiper is the Director of the Graduate Family Life Education Program as well as a Professor in Education at Concordia University Wisconsin. He pursued his Ph.D. in early childhood literacy and family studies after coming to CUW 30 years ago. Val helped start the early childhood program and has been revamping the Family Life education program for the last 10-15 years. We sat down with him to talk about the importance of Family Life education and why many should consider the degree.
Good morning, Val. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. Let’s start off by talking about how you personally define Family Life Education?
That’s a good question. Family Life Education is really designed to promote healthy Christian family living and relationships, especially through our distinctly Christian perspective. I think that more than anything else it distinguishes us from many of the similar programs that you see around our country.
What is a family life educator?
For us, it’s somebody who is trained to promote family well-being. Someone who has unique credentials and is a Certified Family Life Educator. It really needs to be somebody who is trained to educate people in a variety of fields. Someone who understands a family well enough to use those skills within their workplace.
Who is a good fit for the Family Life program?
There are so many people! I think that I’ve had pastors, teachers, nurses, professors, even people in criminal justice. The program provides unique skills for people in all fields working with families. And that’s why I think it’s such a good fit in so many different places. Teachers and pastors could benefit from it, nurses work with families on a regular basis, and I have even had OT students in the program.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing families today?
What Christian families believe and what we believe God has instituted with this is the challenge for families. Values are challenged and traditions are lost in today’s modern world. Our Family Life program recognizes that and brings families back to the core values and traditions.
After graduation, how is a student ready to proactively impact families?
That is such a good question. I am personally an educator and I was never trained to work with families, even though I actually work with families every day. The only training I might have had is sitting through parent-teacher conferences. There are so many other fields out there that work with families on a daily basis but don’t have training in working with families. They impact families in different ways, yet how can they get those skills to handle these different situations. It can help people in all professions understand what families are, how they work, what they go through, their functions, their dysfunctions, all these things. They learn unique ways that they can better communicate, better work with, and better serve families that they touch daily.
Tell us about the faculty in the program.
Our faculty are from all different walks of life. Just to name a few, Scott Turansky is teaching a class on parenting right now and he’s a parenting expert who has written books. Patti Hoffman is a professor at a variety of places and has worked within education, social work fields, and other places as she teaches about the family. Roger Sonnenberg is going to teach a class on human sexuality and has also written multiple books. We are able to bring together experts who teach in a truly Christian perspective in a variety of topics.
Why do you think Family Life Education is important for the Church?
It’s important because family is the Church, really in many perspectives. Christian families suffer the same stresses and impact as non-Christian families; the divorce rate is almost the same between the two. We provide people with the skills to help support families and improve family living, which is essential.
Beside churches, where else are Family Life educators needed?
Any field working with families. Often times you alone may not be working directly with families, but your institution may impact families. For example, business leaders often don’t think about the impact their business has on a family itself with their policies and practices. That’s why I don’t think there is a business, program, or service agency that doesn’t really work with families. They just don’t realize it sometimes.
Can you elaborate more on some of the career options for students who graduate from this program?
I always tell students to go to the NCFR website, the “National Council of Family Relations,” and look at their job listings. Job postings are wide in variety and are sent out all the time. Sometimes they may not even say they are looking for people with the credential but that credential can certainly make a difference.
How long can this program take to complete?
Approximately two years, it could be done in eighteen months for those who want to push through the 36 credits. Two years would be 18 credits per year, but for someone who really wants to push through they can do it in a year and a half. Some people can take longer than two years as well.
Can you talk about the benefits of the entire learning experience?
It allows us to bring experts to the people in their own learning environments. Getting people from all over the world coming to a central online location where they are able to interact, communicate, and participate. You can’t do that face-to-face in this day and age.
What makes Concordia’s Family Life program unique among other similar programs?
Fewer and fewer programs are providing a Christian perspective like Concordia’s does. There are only a handful out there that truly come from a Christian perspective. The way we set up our programs and the classes is really what makes it unique.
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