The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies has earned the University of Nebraska’s top honor for excellence in teaching.
Announced March 30, the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award is one of the University of Nebraska President’s Excellence Awards. Since 1993, the UDTA has recognized departments or units within the university system that have made unique and significant contributions to the university’s teaching efforts and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the education of students at the undergraduate, graduate or professional levels.
Honored departments, selected by a committee of faculty members from across the university system, receive $25,000. The Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies will be celebrated at an event hosted by Ted Carter, NU-system president, this spring.
“Our fundamental responsibility at the University of Nebraska is to provide outstanding education to our students. The Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies brings that commitment to life every day,” Carter said. “The department’s faculty and staff share a passion for positively impacting the lives of others, and they are a model of excellence and collaboration in preparing students to become engaged citizens and leaders.
“Our university, our communities and our state are stronger thanks to the extraordinary work of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies.”
Chaired by Michael Merten, G.A. Newkirk professor of leadership, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies works to enhance the well-being of children, youth, adults and families in the state, nation and world and improve the environments in which people live and learn. The department is home to 430 undergraduate majors, almost 100 graduate majors and 33 faculty members. Through faculty outreach and Nebraska Extension, the department’s programs reach all 93 Nebraska counties.
The department’s commitment to teaching excellence informs its actions. For example, in order to meet student and workforce needs, the department joined with the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Public Administration to create an online master’s program in human and family services administration. The program is the only one of its kind in Nebraska.
The department incentivizes teaching excellence, through specialized programs for new faculty, peer reviews and other efforts.
The department continually innovates its teaching methods. For example, the Ruth Staples Child Development Lab, where children and adults learn by doing, is a national model for experiential learning. The lab plays a critical role in offering excellent early education for children as well as preparing future teachers.
The department was an early adopter in using distance technology to expand educational access for students and give students opportunities to engage in telemental health service delivery to rural communities. As a result, the department has helped to address urgent gaps in mental health services in Nebraska and meet the needs of underserved communities.
Student support is paramount. For instance, all undergraduate programs in the department require at least one supervised “field” experience to help students apply what they have learned in the classroom, thus contributing to a highly skilled workforce in the state.
Department faculty and staff deliver on the university’s land-grant mission through extensive engagement in the community. Faculty in the department lead Nebraska Extension programs focused on, for example, helping teachers enhance children’s healthy eating behaviors and promoting entrepreneurship education among rural youth. The department also partners with local entities like the Malone Center, which supports underserved families in Lincoln; the partnership includes training, curriculum development and placement of university interns, graduate assistants and student teachers.
Additional systemwide awards will be announced. All winners will be honored at a luncheon in the spring.