The Home and Family Department introduced a new advocacy and policy emphasis in the marriage and family studies major in Fall Semester 2015.

The new emphasis is one of now four emphases available for the marriage and family major, said Tim Rarick, child and family advocacy teacher and faculty head of the new emphasis.

The new emphasis is an interdisciplinary emphasis that combines political science, persuasive writing, public speaking and more classes, along with the foundational marriage and family classes, Rarick said.

Rarick teaches child and family advocacy on campus and said students often come to him wanting more information on the material because they want to do more with the class.

“About a year and a half ago, I was on my way back with a few students from the United Nations, where we were trying to do family advocacy,” Rarick said.

Rarick said he was with a student who wanted more information when inspiration struck.

“It just dawned on me, ‘I wonder if we could make this into a major and could just make the class on steroids and kind of make it a full-on track or an emphasis,’” Rarick said. “So that’s kind of what we did.”

The department took key parts from the child and family advocacy class, including the political science portion, which looks at how one influences policy at the community, state and international level, Rarick said.

Rarick said the purpose of the emphasis is to look at how policy is influenced, but to look at it with the impact of the family in mind.

“I think it’s specifically geared towards people who want to go into the public square to defend the family,” said Mackenzie Bannister, a junior majoring in marriage and family studies.

Bannister said she feels that the Church’s standard on families is no longer the popular view of the world.

“Especially in light of Russell M. Nelson’s talk this general conference, I feel like I have a huge obligation to go forth and defend the family,” Bannister said.

Rarick said the department considers the last paragraph in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” as they wonder how they can help the students promote measures that are designed to uphold the family.

Rarick said this major provides many different career paths.

“There isn’t a cookie-cutter career that comes out of this major,” Rarick said. “Students are just learning more about themselves and their skills and developing their niche, and there’s a lot  of possibilities.”

If students have an interest in promoting optimal development for children, then this is an option for them, Rarick said.

“Students that are wanting to create social change for the good of underprivileged or disadvantaged children, whether that’s disadvantaged in education, poverty or resources, or children that are growing up in fatherless households should look at this major,” Rarick said.

Bannister said this major can help one stay politically informed and makes one a more informed voter.

“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society,” according to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

Bannister said she loves the idea of this new emphasis because of the call from the First Presidency.

“We’ve been called to stand as a light on a hill, so I’d recommend it to anybody,” Bannister said.

Bannister said she originally was attending school simply to become a stay-at-home-mom until the Spirit moved her to change her perspective.

“I just feel really grateful that I’m able to be a student at a school that wants me to be a successful citizen, but also a disciple leader,” Bannister said.

Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said BYU-Idaho is a Disciple Preparation Center in his devotional address in August 2004.

“In this special and sacred and set apart place, you and I have access to unparalleled spiritual resources that can assist us in developing and deepening our devotion as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Bednar said.

A disciple is someone who learns to act and feel as Jesus Christ would, according to Elder Bednar’s address.

“That is the primary and most important reason for the existence of Brigham Young University-Idaho and for its sponsorship by and affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Elder Bednar said.

Bannister said she is grateful for the opportunity to become a disciple leader.

“Marriage and family studies is a major where I can be a disciple leader in the most crucial part of the plan,” Bannister said.