Progress of the women's course

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Home Economics: Progress of a Course, 1895–2005

Maturity of the program

Marie Dye first arrived at MAC in 1922 as a nutrition researcher. She gained recognition in the university as a scholar, researcher, and competent teacher. In 1929 she became dean of the Division of Home Economics, a position she held until 1956. Dye was responsible for the division through a series of world-changing events including the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar explosion of science and technology. She admirably led her department through those and other challenges.

Her time as dean marked a period of growth for the division. Enrollment increased from 440 students to 874. Graduate enrollment increased from five to 98.
The Great Depression caused enrollment to drop in the early years of her leadership and many aspects of the program had to be curtailed due to budget constraints. The Teaching and Extensions program within the division now began to focus on the economic problems of families, with an emphasis on conservation of materials through food preservation, care of clothing, and budgeting.

Gradually, enrollment began to increase again. In 1941, the Home Economics Division was reorganized into four new departments: Food and Nutrition; Institution Administration; Textiles, Clothing, and Related Arts; and Home Management and Child Development. Also during this time, Irma Gross and Mary Lewis, both Home Economics professors at MSC wrote the textbook, Home Management (1936). This was not only the first book authored by home economics faculty at MSC, it was the first textbook of its kind in the field.

When World War II erupted a few years later, new concerns were in store for the Home Economics division. Many of the programs in the early 1940s were geared toward the war effort. Extension courses focused on special problems that families face during times of war. Also, many of the faculty were granted leaves to work on war-related projects and programs.

As the war wound to a close, a milestone event occurred for the division. The name was changed in 1944 to the School of Home Economics. Just a few years later, the 1946-47 school year marked the 50th anniversary of Home Economics at MSC. In her annual report for that year, Marie Dye remarked:

"This year marks the close of the first 50 years of Home Economics at Michigan State College. Many developments have taken place in these years, from a beginning of one faculty member and 42 undergraduate students taking one curriculum to the present with a staff of 80, four departments, 10 undergraduate curricula, Master's degrees offered in each field and Doctor's in one, a broad research program, and Extension programs for rural and urban girls and women in all areas of the state."

Although the celebration of 50 years of Home Economics at MSU had been a success, it was clear that the postwar curriculum needed revision. Dye called for a review of the goals and objectives of the School of Home Economics. The resulting curriculum emphasized specialization and professional training. This type of curriculum was a trend throughout the 1940s and 1950s and was not limited to the area of home economics.

Following Dye's retirement as dean in 1956, a period of constant change and reassessment followed for the next few years. In the 1960s, under the leadership of Dean Jeanette Lee, the department formed a committee to study the role and future direction of home economics. The committee's report stated that in the future, the focus of the curricula should be not only on the elements in close proximity to the environment (food, clothing, shelter), but also on the interaction between and among people and those elements.

A major change for the college came in 1970. That year, the name of the college changed to the College of Human Ecology. It was also reorganized into four new departments: Human Nutrition and Foods; Human Environment and Design; Family and Child Services; and Family Ecology. The reorganization of the college was met with an increase in enrollment. Between 1970 and 1974 enrollment in the College of Human Ecology increased by 40 percent.

The 100th anniversary of the creation of the women's course was celebrated in 1996. That year the College of Human Ecology published a book documenting their history over those one hundred years. The book, Home Economics to Human Ecology: 100 Years at Michigan State University, was a collaborative project by Margaret M. Bubolz, Dorothy Mitsifer, and Stephanie Perentesis. The book was dedicated to the memory of Jeanette Lee, the former dean who had passed away two years before the book's release.

In 2005, the College of Human Ecology underwent its biggest and final reorganization. The university's administration decided to eliminate the college and realign its academic programs with other programs and departments on campus.


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