Student Athletes Majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences

Article excerpt

This study used action research methodology to explore factors that influenced student athletes to major in family and consumer sciences (FCS). Three survey groups included current student athletes (n = 23), alumni athletes (n = 14), and FCS faculty (n = 5). Current student athletes and FCS faculty participated in separate focus groups. The analyses led to the identification of three goals to improve interactions among FCS faculty and student athletes majoring in FCS and a related action plan. The goals address capacity building to empower student athletes, collaboration to build respect and teamwork, and communication to improve awareness of campus resources as well as to improve interactions among faculty, student athletes, and coaching staff.

At the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) nearly 15% (n = 43) of student athletes' declared family and consumer sciences (FCS) as their major or minor for the fall 2008 semester. Of the approximately 300 student athletes at UCA in the fall of 2008, 17 were FCS majors and 26 were FCS minors (Office of Institutional Research, 2009). The focus of this action research is the student athletes' choice of FCS as their college major or minor.

The majority of NCAA Division I athletes in the United States are business majors (Petr, Paskus, Kearns, Edwards, & Dejulio, 2007). At UCA, the large number of student athletes majoring in FCS presents FCS faculty and staff with the challenge of meeting the needs of a student population with specific time and travel demands not typical for other FCS students. These student athletes are less familiar with FCS as a profession and are not familiar with course requirements or future career options (L. Brewer, personal communication, October 20, 2008).

UCA is a public, liberal-arts university with approximately 13,000 students (UCA Homepage, 2008). Its mission is to "maintain the highest academic quality and to ensure that its programs remain current and responsive to the diverse needs of those it serves" (Statement of Mission and Purposes, 2004, fl). The UCA Board of Trustees adopted seven strategic goals in 2004. This project addresses parts of several of the goals, but focuses on the goal to be responsive to the needs of students by "creating a campus environment that supports students in their intellectual, social, and personal development" (Strategic Goals, 2004).

The mission of the FCS Department is to provide instruction and service to "serve the public through preparation of professionals for careers in healthcare, business, education, industry, government, community agencies, and other organizations" (Statement of Departmental Purpose, 2008). The majority of student athletes in FCS are general majors (L. McCoy, personal communication, July 15, 2008). However, student athletes often are not aware of the name of their major, calling it "consumer sciences," and report being unsure of job options after graduation (L. Brewer, personal communication, October 20, 2008).

Social and professional organizations help with student integration and enhance a feeling of belonging (Lau, 2003). Students who join departmental clubs and organizations report more connection with their peers and more awareness of future career options (A. Pruett, personal communication, October 22, 2008). Social connectedness is identified as having direct influence on student retention (Allen, Robbins, Casillas, & Oh, 2008). Students in FCS can join various student organizations including AAFCS (Department of Family and Consumer Sciences homepage, 2008). Student athletes report high levels of social connectedness as a result of being on an athletic team, which correlates with lower levels of psychological distress including depression and low self-esteem (Armstrong & Oomen-Early, 2009). Due to time demands of practice and travel, student athletes rarely are able to join and participate in the departmental clubs and organizations that can provide knowledge of the field and future career options. …