Kimmery Newsom, University of Wisconsin-Stout assistant professor and program director of human development and family studies, knew there needed to be a textbook to help students improve their understanding of diverse people and families and improve cultural competence.
She and two colleagues -- Keondria McClish, an adjunct instructor of early childhood education at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, and Lover Chancler, an assistant professor in child and family development and director of the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity at the University of Central Missouri -- kept questioning why someone wasn’t writing a textbook to meet that need.
The three had lectured together on the topic of diversity in family life education, including speaking at the National Council on Family Relations in 2017, and decided they would collaborate. The goal is to help students improve their understanding of the specific cultural, language and social and economic nuances of diverse people and families.
The textbook “Cultural Diversity in Family Life Education” launched nationwide at the end of July. It is published by Cognella Publishing in San Diego. The book is available on Amazon.
Newsom, of Menomonie, who is starting her fourth year teaching at UW-Stout, will use the textbook in her junior-level course Critical Cultural Competence this fall. It was a good fit for that class because students majoring in HDFS take the course, as do other students for a general studies requirement, she said.
“We want to look at the lens of diversity not just from the family side of it,” Newsom said. “Everything you do in work affects the family. We felt it would be a great tool for people who don’t have a lot of background in diversity to understand diversity and the impact on families.”
Newsom, who grew up in Nashville, Tenn., earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, attending Kansas State University with a basketball scholarship. She went on to earn her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and her doctorate in family life education from KSU.
After teaching at KSU for just over three years, she decided to continue her career at UW-Stout. “The student focus was what attracted me to UW-Stout,” said Newsom, who has a son, Kendall, 7. “The university’s infrastructure is built to meet students’ needs.”
As a licensed therapist, Newsom knows about helping families in crisis. “Family life education is specifically focused on what we need for families to be successful,” she said. “Cultural diversity is not just race and ethnicity.”
Cultural diversity includes gender and sexual identity, accessibility needs, differing economic backgrounds and religions. “We look at the intersectionality of all these,” she added. “Where do they meet, and how do they affect lives?”
As an anthology, the book has activities for students and is designed for an eight-week course. However, it also allows teachers to add to the curriculum, Newsom said.
In the introduction, Newsom wrote that the mission of the book is “to ensure diversity courses in family science programs meet the needs of our field by providing information about the unique experiences of family.”
She also noted that family unit diversity has increased, and family life educators need to be prepared to work with students and parents from different cultures and family structures.
“As a result, learning that is personal and meaningful must take place in a culturally responsive environment, one that incorporates students’ cultural and historical frames of reference to make their learning more relevant,” she wrote. “Educators who are culturally competent are more likely to teach students how to be culturally aware and responsive to those around them.”
The National Council on Family Relations notes diversity is dynamic and continuing to evolve, providing a lens for understanding disparities of power, privilege and access as well as the exclusion of marginalized groups.
Book fills gap
Terri Karis, a UW-Stout HDFS professor, said the book “fills a gap in the family science field by looking at families within the context of larger political and cultural environments.
“Taking an intersectional approach, it explores how categories of difference such as race, social class, gender, religion and sexual orientation shape family life,” Karis added.
“Developing cultural awareness and cultural responsiveness is essential for students who will be working directly with individuals and families. They need to become more consciously aware of their own cultural upbringing in order to see others more clearly. Having conversations about these topics is often a stretch for students, stirring up challenging emotions and previously unexamined social conditioning. Dr. Newsom’s text -- and classroom presence and skill -- offers guidance and support for this essential learning journey,” Karis said.
Professor Markie Twist, from the HDFS department, was excited to delve into the book.
“This book fills a gap that has existed in the undergraduate training literature in the human development and family studies field,” Twist said. “Indeed, while there have been textbooks focused on an introduction to family life education, as well as textbooks focused on cultural diversity in working with family systems, there has not been a comprehensive textbook focused on the integration of these two areas until now.
“Dr. Newsom and her colleagues have co-authored a textbook that introduces students to family life education within the cultural context of the family systems with whom they will be working. The authors have done a great job delving into the scholarly information. It is truly an educational, meaningful and engaging read, and I have no doubt that not only will our HDFS undergraduate students greatly benefit but that students across the country in the HDFS field will as well,” said Twist, calling it a “much-needed and solid book.”
The co-authors already are preparing a second edition. They envision expanding some topics, including gender, which is very fluid. They also want to update the book in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement and their impacts, as well as looking at social class and how the political climate affects it, and expand on religion.
UW-Stout offers a Bachelor of Science in human development and family studies, as well as gerontology specialization, a sex therapy certificate and a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy.