Bridget Walsh received the Margaret Arcus award, a prize named after a legendary figure in the field of Family Life Education (FLE). The award is accompanied by a plaque, a cash prize of $1,000 and is designed to honor the scholars and educators who work to move FLE forward. The Margaret Arcus award is given out every other year and provided by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). As a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, FLE has been a huge part of Walsh’s career since she discovered it during her years as a doctoral student.
“Family life education and being a certified family life educator is a huge part of my professional identity and it's infused throughout my research, teaching and scholarship,” Walsh said. “So, to be recognized, in such a large and prestigious way, really just means everything. I feel like I'm in a part in my career where a lot of my work is really picking up and it means everything. It was a huge honor.”
With the ongoing pandemic, the award ceremony shifted into an online setting like many other gatherings have. Although person-to-person interaction wasn’t face-to-face like usual, the virtual conference seemed to see higher attendance numbers than others in previous years.
“I've attended the Arcus address before,” Walsh said. “There's usually 20 people in attendance, but I think virtually this conference had such a good turnout, and I had more than 70 people in my session. I think COVID definitely impacted the experience.”
One of Walsh’s unique contributions to the FLE field is incorporating early childhood home visits into her FLE work. Usually, the fields exist in relatively separate bubbles; however, Walsh has been working to interface FLE and early childhood home visits. This innovative approach, she feels, was one of the reasons that she received the Margaret Arcus award. Walsh said that she thought of the idea of looking at the interface between FLE and home visiting about half a decade ago during an NCFR conference in Canada and after visiting an Early Head Start site in Michigan to collect data.
“I spent a year with home visitors at our university and really learning more about how they practice,” Walsh said. “My work is multifaceted because home visitors can practice family life education, but home visitors can also earn the CFLE credential.”
A Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) is a credential given out by the NCFR indicating that the recipient is knowledgeable in 10 different content areas related to FLE, prevention and relationship-based practice. The credential is gained via graduating from an approved institution or by passing a special exam.
“We take a strengths-based approach to working with families, which is different from other helping professionals,” Walsh said. “And I'm just passionate about it because actually doing family life education and teaching families skills and changing their attitudes and promoting their knowledge is very gratifying and rewarding.”
Some of Walsh’s other work in FLE includes trying to bring the field into graduate education and to work with historically underrepresented doctoral students, and Walsh said that she plans on continuing her work in the field of FLE.