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New Major Launched

Childhood studies takes interdisciplinary approach

By pursuing a newly launched major in childhood studies, Erin Nichols, ’24, and Karen Beaudry, ’24, will gain multidisciplinary perspectives into the complex lives of the youngsters they aim to one day teach.

“This gives me a lot more knowledge in different areas,” said Erin, who is from Middleboro. “It’s good to have an interdisciplinary approach … so you can be an effective teacher.”

As Bridgewater State University’s first interdisciplinary major, childhood studies brings together education, the arts, social work, psychology and other fields to help students understand childhood from infancy through age 18. Students take electives in a variety of academic departments.

“They have some say in the courses they can take toward their major,” said Dr. Sue Eliason, an elementary and early childhood education associate professor and the coordinator of the childhood studies program. “They can customize it and make it meet their needs. That’s the most exciting part.”

BSU already offers a childhood studies minor. The university developed the new major in response to student interest, and more than 50 people are already enrolled.

“This major is about you,” Provost Karim Ismaili told students at a recent celebration of the program. “It’s about providing you with the best possible education. It’s also to fill an important need in society.”

The major prepares students to work with children at schools, recreation programs, museums, social services organizations and other employers. Students can also continue their education at graduate programs in psychology, education, law and health.

It comes amid high demand for social service workers, preschool teachers and other professionals who serve children. In 2019, the Providers’ Council estimated there were about 28,000 unfilled human services positions in Massachusetts. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these trends, Eliason said.

Karen and Erin are double majoring in childhood studies and early childhood education. They see childhood studies as a perfect complement to their education classes and an opportunity to broaden their career prospects.

“This gives you more options after you graduate," said Karen, who is from Whitman.

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