New Childhood and Youth Studies minor to be offered fall of 2016


UNK Communications

KEARNEY – The inspiration to develop a new Childhood and Youth Studies minor at UNK came down to student needs and wishes.

“We have seen a lot of interest from students over the years,” said Michelle Beissel Heath, associate professor of English. “We will get one student who is interested in this specific focus and we have not been able to give them quite the support we have wanted to. The addition of this minor really allows that to happen.”

The University of Nebraska at Kearney English Department will offer the undergraduate minor beginning fall of 2016.

Michelle Beissel Heath
Michelle Beissel Heath

Beissel Heath and English Professor Susan Honeyman collaborated several years to develop curriculum for a Childhood and Youth Studies minor, choosing existing courses and creating others specifically with the minor in mind.

The minor requires 24 credits, which includes prerequisites, and includes core courses Children’s Literature, Literature for Adolescents, Classic Literature of Childhood, The Graphic Novel and Special Topics (related to childhood and youth studies).

Remaining credits may be chosen from electives across multiple departments: Adolescent Psychology, The Juvenile Justice System, Juvenile Delinquency, The Sociology of the Family and The Developing Child.

Beissel Heath said it is with purpose that the minor is titled “studies” instead of “literature,” despite it being housed in the English Department.

The minor is designed with unique interests and needs of each student. Depending on a student’s area of passion, courses outside the English department have been worked into the minor’s curriculum as electives to give students more flexibility.

Susan Honeyman
Susan Honeyman

“One of the things that excites me about the electives is how interdisciplinary they might be for students,” Honeyman said. “Rather than just focusing on literary concerns, a student could take a family studies course or a psychology class as well to give them an interdisciplinary scope.”

Additionally, Honeyman says the title will be more beneficial for resume building than a title that indicates a study confined to literature.

Answering student needs was not the only motivation for developing current and new courses into a minor.

“Our adolescent and childhood literature courses tend to be very popular and fill, so it seems there has always been some kind of interest,” Beissel Heath said. “… It seemed like the addition of this minor was also a good way to utilize our faculty’s strengths.”

Honeyman and Beissel Heath think their contrasting education backgrounds and areas of interest in youth studies are an asset to the program.

Honeyman, at UNK since 2002, received her education in 19th century American Literature. She focalizes on American children’s literature and politics surrounding youth.

She returned this semester after being on sabbatical in fall 2015 to finish her third book project, “The Politics of Child Pain, Migraine, and Invisibility,” which draws attention to childhood migraines and misconceptions from adults. Her other published works include: “Elusive Childhood: Possible Representations in Modern Fiction” and “Consuming Agency in Fairy Tales, Childlore, and Folkliterature.”

Beissel Heath has been associate professor at UNK since 2009. She has an educational background in Victorian literature. She focuses on British literature and the classics, with a specific interest in material culture that includes childhood games, toys and play.

She will go on sabbatical in fall 2016 to finalize her first book, “19th Century Fictions of Childhood and the Politics of Play.” Her book makes connections between childhood games and how they often take literary themes.

Honeyman and Beissel Heath hope the Childhood and Youth Studies at UNK program grows to include more faculty members and courses.


Writer: Alyssa Sobotka, UNK Communications, 402.340.8288,
Source: Susan Honeyman, Professor of English, 308.865.8563,
Source: Michelle Beissel Heath, Associate Professor, 308.865.8109,

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