Student Bloggers Invited to Contribute

Kappa Omicron Nu is currently seeking 2 (or more!) undergraduate or graduate student members to publish bi-monthly blog posts on a variety of human sciences topics. Previous topics have included aging, community, fashion, fitness, learning, and nutrition – what’s YOUR passion?

Share what you love, collaborate with others, and grab a front-and-center seat in the spotlight as a KON blog writer! A small stipend is provided for each published article. To apply, contact


A Special Education Professional’s Responsibility

As an aspiring special education teacher, I am starting to learn about family dynamics that can change as a result of having a child with special needs. It is hard to imagine the feeling parents must have when they are told that their child may face challenges or certain limitations as they grow up. Through my courses and experiences working with families who have children with special needs, I have learned to understand the high value that must be placed on having a strong and trusting relationship with the family and especially with the parents of the child with a disability.

Image courtesy of Vlado at

In my future profession, I want to be able to create and implement appropriate plans based on the child’s needs while also listening to what the parents’ goals are for their child. Gallagher’s article, Rethinking Denial, opened my eyes to the unfortunate misperception professionals have that parents are in denial about what their child will be able to accomplish (2002). As a future professional, I want to have an open mind to the many abilities all children have rather than limiting a child based on a particular label a doctor has given them.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, denial is “…a statement saying that something is not true or real” (2015). Accepting and adapting to changing family dynamics as a result of a child who has a disability can be very challenging to anyone. Through my experiences both working in homes of children with disabilities and also working at a summer camp for children with special needs, I have seen parents who have adapted well to their child’s needs while also seeing the more combative side where parents do not agree with the professional’s point of view.

Gallagher’s article looks at Harry’s research that discusses how professionals might suggest family members are in denial if they do not agree with the particular diagnosis or plan that is set in place to help the child based on his or her presumed needs (1997). From seeing this first hand, I have learned the importance of being sensitive to parents’ feelings and desires for their child’s future. A disability should not limit the parents’ or the professional’s mindset on how successful the child can be.

Gallagher had five excellent suggestions to help professionals successfully support the child, parents, and family:

  • Support parents’ hopes and dreams for their child.
  • Suspend judgment of families and their behavior.
  • Be patient. People need time to find their own personal way through unexpected events.
  • View this time as an opportunity to strengthen trust.
  • Educate other professionals and family members to think about denial. (Gallagher, 2002)

The part of the research that resonated with me most was how to rethink denial. Rather than seeing parents who are battling with a professional’s ideas and viewpoints as not accepting their child’s abilities, it is better to view parents as coming from a place of hope and wanting their child to accomplish as much as possible (2002). From this research, I have developed a personal goal to listen to every parent and family member that I work with, and most importantly ensure that the child’s needs are being met in the most efficient and effective way possible.


Denial. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2015, from
Gallagher, P., Fialka, J., Rhodes, C., & Arceneaux, C. (2002). Working with families: Rethinking denial. Young Exceptional Children, 5(2), 11-17.
Harry, B. (1997). Leaning forward or bending over backwards: Cultural reciprocity in working with families. Journal of Early Intervention, 21. 62-72.

Functional Foods: Beneficial by Design

by Mardelyn Schultz

When you walk into a grocery store or watch television, it’s hard to miss the myriad of advertisements touting food items enhanced with special features. Products like eggs containing omega 3 fatty acids or yogurts compromised of a specific type of probiotic blend are considered ‘functional foods.’ While that term implies that conventional foods are subpar, it is not a mystery that all foods contain a nutritive value that may take part in the functionality of the body, and there is no definitive legal term identified in the United States. Because of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, however, health claims can be used on packaged food items4 that allow functional foods to be generally recognized by the public.


What are functional foods?

By definition, functional foods are enhanced beyond the standard nutritive value to promote general well-being or reduce the risk of certain conditions1, 3. Functional foods can be classified as: foods either modified or unmodified that are considered healthy or nutritious, foods that require supervision by a medical professional, and foods developed for specific uses1.

An example of a functional food is yogurt, which is known for providing a good source of probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide beneficial effects pertaining to the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract of the host2. Yogurt is also a good source of calcium, which is known to be beneficial for bone health. Since probiotics and calcium naturally occur in yogurt, this would be considered an unmodified functional food item. However, food manufacturers may claim that a particular brand contains a specific type of probiotic that is supported by research to be more beneficial. When a food item is altered to increase its value or to make a health claim, it is considered a modified functional food.

Functional foods and modified functional foods typically promote consumer health in general, but others are not intended for broad consumption. Medical foods are for individuals who have special nutritional needs, and they sometimes require supervision by a healthcare provider. These food items are designed to help manage or decrease complications associated with certain conditions, and they must include a label describing intended use4. Enteral formulas for individuals on nutrition support are a good example of medical foods. Infant formulas, another good example, are specifically developed to support the growth and development of babies, but they do not necessarily need a prescription or a doctor’s supervision.

As researchers continue to discover how important food is for health, individuals will be interested in applying this information, developing new foods, and even improving the growth and support of the foods in our supply. As this area of nutrition continues to evolve, it is important to keep in mind that it is just one of the many elements that encompass health and well-being.


  1. Denny, Sharon. (2014, July). Plates With Purpose: What Are Functional Foods? It’s About Eating Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  2. Farnworth, Edward R.; Ed. Robert E. C. Wildman. (2007). Probiotics and Prebiotics. Handbook of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods Second Edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  3. EUFIC. (2014, Sept. 12) Functional foods. The European Food Information Council.
  4. Nutrition Education and Labeling Act of 1990. (1990, November 8). Pub. L. 101-535. 104 Stat. 2353.

The NCFR Family

In November, I attended the annual National Council on Family Relations conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Being my first time at a research based conference, I truly did not know what to expect. At first, I attended because research that I conducted on White/Non-Hispanic, first generation college students was accepted for a poster session. This was a huge accomplishment for me as it was the first time I had completed research as an undergraduate student. As I learned more about the conference, I felt like it was a duty of mine to attend sessions because I am an NCFR member and also the president of a student affiliate of this prestigious organization.

Upon my arrival in Baltimore, I was shocked to see that almost the entire faculty from my department (Family and Child Studies) was there. Many of them have been loyal attendees of this conference for almost twenty years! I instantly realized that this event is more than solely about research. It is about being able to connect to a distant “family” that everyone sees once a year. Immediately I knew that I wanted to be a part of this family.

Alyssa Willis and mentor Dr. Pearl Stewart at the NCFR conference

Overall, I can say my experience in Baltimore was truly life changing. I felt inspired by the amount of research conducted by professionals I had the opportunity to meet. Also, there were many student and new professional sessions that were specifically created to mentor others like me who are new to the family sciences field. This was an excellent opportunity to learn from others and also share ideas, especially about topics related to my organization.

While there were few undergraduates at the conference, I felt lucky to be able to be one of those select few. It gave me the opportunity to realize that I can conduct research and help make a positive change in the world. I became both confident and passionate that after my undergraduate work I want to pursue work towards my doctorate. Furthermore, I made contacts and relationships with other family professionals that can give me guidance through my journey. Most importantly, I became a part of the NCFR family.

My poster “Attitude Changes Among White/Non Hispanic First Generation College Students”

What to look for in a college

Alyssa Willis, Kappa Omicron Nu Student Blogger

Preface: Undergraduate student colleagues, we are in a unique position to mentor and recruit promising high school students into our fields. I invite you to join me in innovating and leading this endeavor to advance the long-term strength of human sciences.

This is a message to seniors in high school. As a senior you have reached a point in life of both excitement and anxiety. Finally, you are the old and experienced student that seems to know everything about the school. The world is in your hands as you are about to end one legacy and begin to enter the new realm of the college world. But which college are you going to choose? How do you decide where to go when there are so many excellent options?

Obviously, there are significant factors such as reputation in your chosen area, location, tuition cost, campus aesthetics, and of course success rate in finding relevant future employment after obtaining a degree. But even with those criteria, there is likely a short list of potential institutions that warrant closer investigation. So what becomes an important but not necessarily obvious element to consider?

Recently, I attended two of my college’s Open House events that are designed to make high school seniors want to come to our school. The Open House included a campus tour and seminars by key faculty from departments of interest to answer everyone’s questions. At the event, I was asked to speak on behalf of the Family and Child Studies department to talk about my personal experiences as a student and try to help both high school students and their parents understand why Montclair State University is a great choice.

After first listening to the adviser of my department talk about what Family and Child Studies has to offer, I picked up on one of his main points as the reason I have continued to thrive at college. This would be passion. When first choosing a major, you have to decide if what you are studying is something you can be passionate about for the majority of your life. I have always been passionate about teaching and working with families. However, as a student I found that it is even more important to see how passionate my professors are about their jobs and what they are teaching. My professors have continuously been examples and mentors for me. If they were not passionate about their work, I believe it would resonate with the classroom environment and negatively affect my experience as a student.

At the Open House, I was able to tell parents and students about my current involvement and accomplishments as an undergraduate. Reflecting back on this experience, I realized that my accomplishments relied heavily on the support, recognition, and motivation my professors have and continue to give to me. Although as a senior in high school it is almost impossible to meet the professors you will be learning from in the next few years, there is still the opportunity to meet with advisers and other faculty from the desired department. That is the key time to see how passionate faculty members are about what they do. I absolutely believe that a large part of college is about self-motivation. However, faculty can play a large influence on the enjoyment that can be had in the classroom. After my experiences with Open House events, I realize that there are many key factors to look for when choosing a college, and I strongly believe passion should be the most important factor of all.

Optimal Aging Through Fitness

I have recently spent time researching the value of fitness throughout one’s older years. It has become apparent that exercise is essential to living a healthier and happier life. Exercise has been found to be the most effective way to delay and also prevent the negative effects that are expected with aging while also positively impacting one’s health (Reuter, 2012). While there is no way to entirely beat death, it is important to know how to live in a manner that will reduce the risk of injury and also live comfortably. Every year after the age of fifty, there is a decline in muscle mass by 1-2% (Castillo-Garzon, Ruiz, Ortega, & Gutierrez, 2006). Preventing this decline is important to safety. Having strong muscle tone is another way to prevent dying as it lowers the risk of falling (Reuter, 2012). Clearly, maintaining muscle tone is a key factor to living both a stronger and safer life.


An easy way to maintain strong muscle mass and exercising at an older age is to be involved with sports.  Unfortunately, many middle-age adults give up sports and leisure activities because of a demanding job or other family obligations (Castillo-Garzon, Ruiz, Ortega, & Gutierrez, 2006).  Trying to still find time for leisure activities and hobbies directly correlates to physical capabilities as people age. This is imperative to note as we continue to develop, grow, and ultimately age as well. Physical activity is also directly correlated to the health of the brain.  Elderly people who exercise have lower chances of being diagnosed with dementia (2006).  These findings are able to have a huge impact on aging generations by educating everyone to help make a positive change. In a recent study, it was found that exercise was linked to having more White Matter in temporal regions of the brain that are more likely to be affected by age-related changes (Burzynska, Kramer, Knecht, Olson, Gothe, Wong, et al. 2014).  Increasing physical activity is excellent for all ages, but must not diminish in the elder years.


All research strongly recommended increasing daily physical activity. This included aerobic exercises like walking. Dynamic exercise that mimics every day activities was also suggested to improve physical well-being. Staying active is a common theme found in media with the growing amounts of people who suffer from obesity. Exercise however, should never stop once at a healthy weight or when one gets older. Physical activity completed on a daily basis can ensure a healthy, happy, and long life.

I now know I plan to stay active as a senior citizen, do you?

View my Prezi on this topic at:

Professionalism as an Undergraduate


By Alyssa Willis

Although college is definitely a time to make new friends and explore a new level of independence, I believe it is also a time to seriously consider what type of career path you wish to take. This period of time gives students the opportunity to develop the skills that are required as a future professional. Currently as an undergraduate, I have seen the value that professionalism has in my success both at school and the potential it has for my future. In my freshman and sophomore year, my professionalism started with the appropriate form of email communication with professors, including a detailed subject along with a respectful greeting and salutation. When asking someone for help, especially someone in an authority role such as a professor, it is imperative to thank him or her for any assistance given. These little gestures went a long way for me. Also, being fully present in class by participating and putting the smart phone away lets your professor know that you are giving one hundred percent attention and effort.

I definitely feel that these small but important actions helped me tremendously. A particular professor that I had my freshman year approached me at the end of the semester to discuss starting up and representing an organization on campus that would also be associated with a nationally recognized organization. Montclair Student Council on Family Relations, MSCFR, has been one of my greatest accomplishments as an undergraduate.


Professors, board members, and myself after the Student Government Association declared MSCFR a Class IV student organization at MSU.

The opportunity to pursue my passion of giving back and working with families in need has given me the opportunity to motivate other undergraduates and to continue expanding my skills in professionalism. I continue to write thoughtful emails but I have also broadened my horizons by hosting my own meetings and talking to other highly respected professionals in the field.

Professionalism consists of a wide array of abilities and skills. As someone who is excited to join the “working world,” I believe I have been utilizing my time as an undergraduate to the best of my abilities by going outside of my comfort zone and learning that being professional is an essential and extremely beneficial part of my college career.


The more energy kids burn, the better they learn

By Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP

Parents often worry (I am told) that reserving time for kids to be physically active reduces their time for studying and other academic pursuits, which will lead to poor grades, bad jobs, and eventual economic collapse.

Thankfully the evidence does not bear this out, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have produced the below infographic to illustrate that fact (click the image to be taken to the full-sized version on the “Burn to Learn” website).

The accompany text from the Burn to Learn website reads:

Did you know that teens who receive mostly A’s are almost twice as likely to get the CDC recommended daily 60 minutes of physical activity than teens who receive mostly Ds and Fs? Kids who perform better in school are more likely to be physically active on a regular basis. Adding physical activity to the school day can not only keep kids healthy, but also increase attention, behavior and positive attitudes leading to improved academic performance.

While physical activity doesn’t seem to detract from academic performance, one thing clearly does – screen time.  Our group published a systematic review last year that found that high levels of screen time were consistently associated with lower academic achievement and behavioural problems in school-aged children.  So if you want your kids to do well in school get them away from the TV and into some physical activity.  Simply taking them outside is probably a good place to start.


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The more energy kids burn, the better they learn by Obesity Panacea, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Finding Fashion in Paris

By Carleigh Rose, Iowa State University

My international experience is over and came to a close about a week ago. After my classes in Paris I traveled around Madrid, Spain for about a week and stayed with friends. Spain was so different from France. The culture is much more laid back, the food has a bit more kick, and in general the prices were much lower. I enjoyed wandering around the streets of Madrid because it was a nice change from the French way of life. I never felt the need to plan anything, which was nice. I am back in the United States and ready to start the beginning of my senior year! I feel like my design style has improved greatly and I am ready to use the tools I learned in Paris toward my future processes. I recently received photos that Paris American Academy had taken for me of the projects I completed.


The felt hat I created, with three different shades of ribbon and a vintage button!


This was my feather project. The feathers I used were Ostrich and Pheasant.


This was the project I worked on everyday while I was in Paris with over fifty hours of hand sewing. This skirt was based on the Madame Gres technique, which was taught by Madame Picco who worked with Madame Gres for over thirty years!

Copyright © 2005-2013, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved. Permission granted by College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University.