As an assistant professor in Middle Tennessee State University‘s Child Development and Family Studies Program, Rebecca Oldham wanted to offer her students and the larger campus community an educational experience that went beyond the classroom — a networking and learning opportunity to interact with working industry professionals to be better prepared for the wide array of circumstances they may encounter in their careers.
Oldham partnered with multiple colleges and departments to offer all MTSU students three panel-style events focused on different types of family violence and featuring local field experts, Q&A sessions, networking opportunities and refreshments.
The first series, which will discuss child abuse, will take place Wednesday, March 29. The second, on stalking, sexual assault and domestic violence, will take place Monday, April 3, and the final series, focusing on elder abuse, will take place Monday, April 10.
All discussions will be held in Room 104 of the Academic Classroom Building, 1571 MTSU Blvd.
Each event includes three activities organized into the same structure: a panel with industry professionals from 2:20 to 3:45 p.m., a networking session from 3:45 to 4:10 p.m. and a final panel with industry professionals from 4:10 to 5:35 p.m.
Those interested can register to attend in person or via Zoom at https://tinyurl.com/24xn394t. Oldham said she also plans to record the panels via Zoom with closed captioning and make them available for students.
“Accessibility is a priority at this event,” Oldham emphasized. “The building and room are very accessible for people with limited mobility, and there is a question on the RSVP for people to specify if they have other accessibility needs.”
Oldham said that though attending in person will make it easier to ask questions during panels and participate during networking, she will have someone monitoring Zoom, so students can still virtually participate and submit questions for panelists.
She added that those with any questions or concerns can contact her at Rebecca.Oldham@mtsu.edu.
She initially launched a panel-style event for her students when she first taught the Violence in the Family course in 2020, and it received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“I felt like it was important to make sure that the course was grounded in reality. That meant bringing in the voices of field professionals who bring a kind of expertise that I just don’t have,” Oldham said.
After two successful years of the panel and her students’ calls for a longer event, Oldham decided this year to expand from one panel to three and open them up to the larger campus community, knowing all students could benefit because the issues are so interdisciplinary.
“There are so many contexts in which professionals would need to know about the signs of abuse, how to prevent it, how to intervene and what kinds of policies and cultural changes are necessary to create a safer society, such as the domains of psychology, sociology, social work, education, health care, criminal justice, public policy and others,” she said.
“Plus, if a panelist inspires them, they have grounds to make follow-up contact with that person after having seen them or met them in person during the networking portion of the events.”
This year’s event is sponsored by the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, College of Education, MT Engage, the Child Development and Family Studies Program, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Public Health Program and Physician Assistant Studies Program. For more information on Child Development and Family Studies, visit the website at www.mtsu.edu/programs/family-studies.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)