Longwood University’s family studies concentration in sociology is now the only undergraduate program in Virginia to receive Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) designation from the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR).

Only about 125 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada offer NCFR-approved undergraduate or graduate programs meeting the criteria for the provisional CFLE credential. The recent approval enables Longwood to offer graduates in the program the opportunity to apply for provisional CFLE certification by using an abbreviated process.

"There are two ways for a student to obtain provisional CFLE designation—by taking a national exam, but that’s scary, stressful and expensive, or to graduate from an NCFR-certified program as Longwood’s is now," said Dr. Lee Bidwell, a longtime CFLE who led the four-year designation effort.

"This designation is a major advantage for students. Plus, I think it will raise the profile of the program and attract more students," she said, adding that Longwood must apply for recertification after five years.

Longwood’s family studies concentration, which dates to 2001, has 11 students and is within the sociology major. The program prepares students for careers working with families in a variety of settings, including social services, counseling, faith-based organizations, community organizations, schools and government agencies. The curriculum consists primarily of sociology courses but also includes social work, human sexuality, finance and psychology courses.

"To obtain this designation, we had to go to other departments, all of which cooperated nicely," said Bidwell. "Everyone who teaches a class in this curriculum was helpful."

To receive CFLE certification, a program must offer course work that includes content covering 10 family life education content areas (pdf). The NCFR, which brings together academicians and practitioners, calls itself "the premier professional association for the multidisciplinary understanding of families."

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