Already considered a leader in family science, Brigham Young University must do more to research and strengthen families, the director of BYU's Center for Studies of the Family said Tuesday.

Alan J. Hawkins, whose scholarship focuses on fathers, told students at a university devotional that BYU is "blessing the lives of families" around the world. The religious and family science courses taught at BYU give thousands of students a solid base from which to build their own families once they leave the Provo school, he said."BYU has the largest undergraduate enrollment in family sciences in North America and probably the world," said Hawkins, who took three years off between earning his bachelor's and master's degrees to become a full-time father.

"There are currently about 1,000 students in active majors in family sciences, and the department now teaches the most credit hours of any academic unit in the university."

Nevertheless, Hawkins said, only about 20 percent of BYU students actually take a course focusing on families and the overwhelming majority of the students who do take such classes are female. Hawkins challenged male students to enroll.

"Men, you will benefit from preparing yourself for the work of marriage and parenting, as well," he said.

BYU is developing a course that will focus directly on the "Proclamation to the World on the Family," which was issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The church owns and operates BYU. Also, researchers at the Center for Studies of the Family are putting together an edited volume about the proclamation that will be studied by those who take the class.

Hawkins spelled out several other areas in which BYU is contributing to family scholarship. He cited the work of law professor Lynn Wardle to combat attempts to pass a same-sex marriage law in Hawaii; research by a team of BYU scholars on the effect of a new "covenant marriage" law in Louisiana; and BYU scholars' leading role in producing materials for marriage preparation courses.

However, Hawkins asserted that BYU can do more. He challenged BYU professors to refocus their scholarly efforts based on principles of the proclamation.

The family science scholarly community is increasingly taking a negative view of marriage, he said, and BYU ". . . has an important work to do in its scholarship and outreach to strengthen marriage."

He promised that students who participate will make a difference, and they will better themselves in the process.

"You will come to understand more about divinity and the things of eternal significance through marriage and parenting than in any other way," Hawkins said.