Rebecca Raby has seen many changes to the Department of Child and Youth Studies during her nearly 12 years at Brock.
Now the chair of the department, Raby arrived on campus in 2002, when the new master’s degree program was just getting started. She joined a small faculty of eight people but watched it grow quickly over the next four years, doubling in size in that time.
The new additions added depth and breadth to the new youth component of the department. Prior to 1998, the department’s focus was child studies with less room for investigating youth issues.
New hires also filled out the three streams of research defining CHYS: developmental psychology, exceptionalities, such as learning disabilities, and socio-cultural, including studying the diversity of experiences of young people.
“That was really a very exciting time of growth,” Raby recalled. “The leadership of (then-chair) Dorothy Griffiths and then Fran Owen was really great at modelling that we all pitch in to make the department successful.”
On Tuesday, the department will celebrate those successes when it marks its 20th anniversary. The event, which kicks off at noon on the third floor of the Cairns Complex, will include speeches by the department’s first chair, Zopito Marini, presentations from young people in local schools where CHYS students have been conducting practicuums, and birthday cake.
From 12:30 to 2, there will be an open house with displays, and opportunities to meet faculty and ask questions.
At 20 years old, Brock’s Child and Youth Studies department is one of the oldest in Canada, and in that time, it has grown to rival only psychology with the highest number of majors in the Social Sciences at the University.
It originally started as a program with courses in psychology, sociology, education and phys. ed. before becoming a full-fledged department in 1993. Since then, it has become a beacon for award-winning faculty, attentive administrators, and the best and brightest students.
“If you’re someone who wants to study Child and Youth Studies, I, of course, think we’re the place to go,” Raby said. “We’ve been working at it a long time and working at doing it well.”
That includes forging community partnerships for student practicums within schools and local social organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Powerhouse Project: Young Carers Initiative, the RAFT, Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara, Niagara Children’s Centre, and Pathstone Mental Health.
Dedication to the student experience through those educational experiences and support from faculty and staff has been a priority, Raby noted.
Looking ahead, she said the No. 1 goal of the department is to add a PhD program, which is currently in the works, and to become more transdisciplinary by fostering more research relationships with other departments.
“How we research, support and advise about children, childhood and youth is important not just for the present but the future,” Raby said.
“Children are so precious to us and yet it’s curious there haven’t been Child and Youth Studies departments around long before us… . There’s lots of things going on in young people’s lives that are important to understand and to study, ideally with the goal of making young people’s lives better .”