New minor offers courses on child protection and advocacy

The fall semester is more than halfway over and Penn State students are in the midst of planning and preparing their schedules for the rest of their year in Happy Valley. With thousands of courses from which to choose, Penn Staters can find a class for any interest, be it beekeeping, neuroscience or something in between. The newest courses on the block, however, are those under the purview of the University’s new Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies (CMAS) minor.

The minor is the first of its kind in the Big 10, and is quickly gaining traction. Focused on giving students the tools to understand the detection, treatment and prevention of child maltreatment, the CMAS minor has seen great student enthusiasm in its first semester at Penn State.

Sandee Kyler, assistant director of the Penn State Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, said she is receiving inquiries about the minor on a daily basis from interested students, and estimates that around 40 are already enrolled.

The 18-credit minor is intercollege, uniting the Colleges of Education, Liberal Arts, Science, Nursing, and Health and Human Development, and the Division of Undergraduate Studies. Along with these, the Network, Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) and many others aided in bringing the new minor to Penn State students.

Courses offered run the gamut, teaching subjects from maltreatment prevention to community response. Susan McHale, director of the SSRI, said that CMAS education is a valuable tool that is applicable to a variety of work environments.

“Contact with children is common in many careers and we wanted the CMAS course offerings to reflect the diversity of these work settings,” McHale said. Classes encompass a number of interests including law, education, psychology and social services.

The first course, HDFS 297A - Introduction to CMAS, debuted in August. Professor Chad Shenk is pleased with the course trajectory and the growing interest in CMAS among students.

“I'm really looking forward to teaching CMAS 258 again in Spring 2016," he said. "We've expanded the enrollment and have approximately 20 openings left. We have a host of new guest lecturers coming in to talk on a variety of topics."

Shenk said that he is glad to be involved in Penn State’s efforts as a leading university in child protection, and he believes students will benefit greatly from these classes.

“It's exciting to be a part of that innovation and give students a keen advantage in the protection of children,” he added.

The next series of courses in the minor are currently available to schedule for the upcoming spring 2016 semester on the Schedule of Courses under CMAS.