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Program and Application Information
Department Head:Dr. Joel Hektner
Graduate Coordinator:Dr. Elizabeth Blodgett Salafia
Department Location:Evelyn Morrow Lebedeff Hall
Department Phone:(701) 231-8268
Department Web
Application Deadline:One month prior to the beginning of each term. Applications accepted for fall, spring, and summer.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Certificate
English Proficiency Requirements:TOEFL ibT 100 (subscores of at least 24 for speaking and 21 for writing); IELTS 7

Program Description

Programs of study leading to a Graduate Certificate or the Master of Science degree are offered in three options: Family Financial Planning, Youth Development, and Gerontology. All of these options are available via a collaborative, inter-institutional program offered through online distance education. Each program requires a capstone practicum experience to complete the M.S. degree. Students can complete the M.S. programs in two to three years and the certificate programs in one calendar year.

The Family Financial Planning (FFP) M.S. option is a 36-credit program with a specific curriculum approved by the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards. Graduate certificates (18 credits) are available in Financial Planning and in Financial and Housing Counseling.

The Gerontology M.S. option requires 36 credits, and the Graduate Certificate requires 15 credits. An advanced degree in the field of Gerontology can benefit the professional in social work, nursing, counseling, recreation, public policy, long-term care administration, medicine, architecture, interior design, psychology, adult education, and rehabilitation therapy.

The Youth Development M.S. option requires 36 credits. Graduate Certificates (13 credits) are available in Youth Development and in Youth Program Management and Evaluation. Youth development is an emerging professional field. It has a positive orientation, meaning its focus is on promoting the positive development of youth, and it is an applied field, with professionals who put developmental research and theory into practice in structuring and implementing programs and services for adolescents.


Admission Requirements

In addition to the Graduate School’s required application requirements, submit the statement of purpose indicating reasons for pursuing graduate study, specifying your special interests within your chosen discipline and including your background preparation in that area. Mention any relevant skills or experience you have acquired. In addition, be sure to address the following, in 500 words or less:

  1. How your interest in this field developed.
  2. Why you chose our program at NDSU.
  3. The experiences you have had (e.g. informal, academic, employment, volunteer) that you see as related to this graduate program or your professional goals.
  4. What your professional goals are and how this graduate program will help you accomplish your professional goals.

Degree Option

ADHM 705Environment and Aging3
HNES 652Nutrition, Health and Aging3
HDFS 682Family Dynamics of Aging3
HDFS 721Adult Development and Aging3
HDFS 722Methods and Theories in Gerontology3
HDFS 723Perspectives in Gerontology3
HDFS 729Professional Seminar in Gerontology3
HDFS 760Aging Policy3
HDFS 794Practicum/Internship6
6 additional credits to be approved by advisor and committee6
Total Credits36

Certificate in Gerontology

Required Courses
HDFS 721Adult Development and Aging3
HDFS 723Perspectives in Gerontology3
Elective Courses- Select 3 from:9
Environment and Aging
Nutrition, Health and Aging
Graduate Seminar (*)
Family Dynamics of Aging
Aging Policy
Total Credits15

*May be takend more than once, as long as the topic areas are different each time. 

Kristen Benson, Ph.D.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2008
Research Interests: Gender Identity and Family/Partner Relationships, Diversity Issues in Family Therapy, Collaborative Approaches to Family Therapy Education and Training, and Qualitative Methodology

Elizabeth Blodgett Salafia, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame, 2008
Research Interests: Family and Peer Influences on Adolescents' Disordered Eating Attitudes and Behaviors

Sean Brotherson, Ph.D.
Oregon State University, 2000
Research Interests: Parenting and Fatherhood; Healthy Marriages; Family Stress; Rural Families; Grief and Bereavement; Family Life Education; Family Policy

Thomas Carlson, Ph.D.
Iowa State University, 2000
Research Interests: Narrative Pedagogy; Relational Accountability Approach to Couples Therapy, LGBT Affirmative Therapy Competence among Therapists, And Influence of Spirituality on Clinical Practice and Training

James E. Deal, Ph.D.
University of Georgia, 1987
Research Interests: Personality Development in Children; Relationship between individual development and family relationships

Margaret Fitzgerald, Ph.D.
Iowa State University, 1997
Research Interests:  Financial Counseling and Planning; Husbands and Wives Who Own and Operate Family Businesses Together; Family Business and Economically Vulnerable/Viable Communities; Gender and Management Issues in Family Business 

Heather Fuller-Iglesias, Ph.D.
University of Michigan, 2009
Research Interests:  Social Relationships across the Lifespan (E.G. Intergenerational Relationships); Psychological Well-Being in Old Age; Culture and Aging; Migration, Transnationalism and Acculturation; Biculturalism 

Joel Hektner, Ph.D.
University of Chicago, 1996
Research Interests:  Aggressive Children; Research Methods; Prevention Programs For High-Risk Aggressive Children; Peer Affiliation Patterns And Peer Influences On Children's Behaviors; Family And School Conditions That Facilitate Optimal Experiences (Flow) And Optimal Development; The Experience Sampling Method 

Christie McGeorge, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota, 2005
Research Interests: Heterosexism and Homophobia; Single Parenting; Women's History; Gender Socialization from a Feminist Perspective

Melissa Lunsman O'Connor, Ph.D.
University of South Florida, 2010
Research Interests: Cognitive and Functional Aging in Healthy and Clinical Populations; Older Drivers; Research Methods; Attitudes Toward Dementia; Interventions For Improving Cognition, Health, And Everyday Functioning

Brandy A. Randall, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2002
Research Interests: Relational and Contextual Influences on Adolescents' and Young Adults' Positive and Problem Behaviors

Gregory F. Sanders, Ph.D.
University of Georgia, 1983
Research Interests: Later Life Families; Family Strengths

Rebecca Woods, Ph.D. 
Texas A&M University, 2006
Research Interests: Perception and Cognition In Infancy; Object Processing; Multimodal Processing; Early Gender Differences


Wendy Troop-Gordon, Ph.D.
University of Illinois, 2002
Research Interests: Peer Relationships in Childhood; Social-cognitive Development; Psycho-social and School Adjustment