Karen Alexander continues her dedication to family and consumer sciences education through new role
Family and Consumer Sciences Education (FCSE) program chair Karen Alexander, Ph.D., recently started her term as Chair of the National Board of Directors for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
Founded in 1945, FCCLA is a national Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) for students involved in family and consumer sciences education in public and private school from grade six through grade 12. The organization is primarily focused on leadership development and is considered a cocurricular program, allowing family and consumer sciences teachers to use the programming in the classroom.
"There could be a classroom chapter where students are members and they have leadership opportunities, but they also work on service learning and community service projects," Alexander explained.
There is also a major part of the organization that is focused on competitions, called STAR events, where students can either compete individually or as a team in a variety of competency-based competitions. These include events such as parliamentary procedure, where a team demonstrates how to run a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter meeting correctly, and individual events where students explore a content area related to family and consumer sciences and execute a project based on that area (i.e., fashion design, culinary arts, early childhood education, etc.).
"One of the things that I really love about the organization is that it's the only student organizations that has family as its central focus," Alexander said. "Family is part of the organization's mission and purposes of the organization to strengthen families in society."
Once members reach college, they become alumni of the organization and can then volunteer with the program by mentoring students in a local chapter or volunteer as a judge at STAR events. In fact, Texas Tech's Family and Consumer Sciences Education program actively integrates FCCLA in their teacher preparation program.
"Our focus in our program is to help students who are going to be future teachers understand more about the organization and what they can do to get involved as a volunteer so, as they take on the role of a chapter advisor, they've had some experiences with the organization," Alexander said.
Alexander explained that she and fellow Texas Tech FCSE faculty encourage their students to judge STAR events and try to place students during their student teaching with schools that have a FCCLA chapter to provide them an opportunity to work with an advisor. Through these opportunities, Texas Tech Family and Consumer Sciences Education students are better equipped for their teaching roles once they graduate.
The National Board of Directors for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Alexander explains, is the governing board of the association consisting of members that represent various connected industries such as hospitality, early childhood education, chapter advisors, and student members. Board members meet on a regular basis throughout the year and work with various committees they're assigned to, to examine different policies and issues that are affecting the association, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
While the board of directors makes much of the organization's policy and procedure changes, anything considered a bylaw change goes forward to the student members for a vote. This process gives students an active role and voice in the organization. Students are represented through national voting delegate and their national leadership team comprised of outstanding high school student leaders.
Alexander's job as chair is to oversee the board of directors, ensure committees are meeting regularly, and work closely with the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America National Executive Director. This year especially, Dr. Alexander said there have been several obstacles they've had to navigate because of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as creating creative ways to provide the organization's programming to students and providing a virtual leadership experience for students from December 2020 to February 2021.
In total, Alexander has served on the FCCLA Board of Directors for six years, with one year remaining after her term as chair ends in July 2021. Once her role as chair ends, she will serve as past chair, advising the newly elected FCCLA chair.
"I served as a FCCLA state and national officer when I was in high school and for me to now serve as the chair of the board, it's like coming full circle," Alexander said. "It's really an honor for me to serve the association in this way."