Changes at Home Make Way to Campus
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 15:10
Your parents and grandparents probably call it home economics, but it wasn’t that long ago when the family and consumer sciences education (FACS) major was referred to as such.
While the family dynamic continued to press forward over the past few decades, FACS needed to keep up in more ways than by its label.
Forty years ago the Family Life Center was not yet in existence, and E. Morrow Lebedeff Hall, where many of the major’s classes and labs took place, was called the Home Economics Building. Despite the noticeable physical differences, the most substantive changes have taken place within the curriculum. This is mainly due to transformations in the nation’s family related culture.
In 1985 the home economics department was renamed child development and family science, which was created through a merger of the Home Management Family Economics (HMFE) and Child Development Family Relations (CDFR) departments.
After dating back to the early years of NDSU, when it was called North Dakota Agricultural College, “home ec” could no longer be found in the university’s catalog. However, CDFS’ run ended up being significantly shorter than that of its predecessor when it was recently retired in favor of FACS.
“This major is strongly influenced by societal changes because the family is constantly changing,” said 1974 NDSU home economics graduate, Linda Hauge. “Health and wellness, parent-child relationships and personal and family financial management have become strong components of this major.”
Hauge, a long-time NDSU extension agent who now serves as a 4-H youth development specialist, feels that the main reason for the name change was to keep up with the times. She mentioned that home economics was beginning to sound old fashioned and made people think more of just cooking, sewing and other housekeeping types of education.
“This title gave the major a more comprehensive area of skills, research and knowledge that helps people make informed decisions about their well-being, relationships and resources,” said Hauge. “This field includes food science, nutrition, wellness, textiles and apparel, finances, housing and interior design and consumer issues.”
During my first stint at NDSU in the ‘90s I became quite familiar with the major because my sister Sandy was pursuing an education in it. She will always consider herself to be a child development family science major since that’s what it says on her 1997 B.S. degree. Hence, I was surprised to find out it was no longer called that. Maybe I shouldn’t have been when considering that the overall program looks quite a bit different.
As part of typical brother/sister competitive banter I would often tell Sandy that she was going to college to become a professional babysitter. It was nothing more than ribbing in knowing that her chosen field of study was much more sophisticated than that. Being a guy who couldn’t decide on anything specific and eventually went with university studies, I really never had much room to talk.
One thing my sister and I did have in common is how either of our majors had not yet been substantially affected by computer technology as much as they are today. I can honestly say there may not even have been much difference between how teaching was done in that era versus twenty years earlier. With that said, the same certainly can’t be uttered when comparing the methods of 15 years ago to those currently being used.
Technology has played a huge role in making the major what it is today,” said Hauge. “When I attended NDSU there was no email, Blackboard, white boards, iPads or other technology. My instructors used the chalkboard, overhead projectors and slide projectors.”
Along with positive advancements there are some aspects of the former home economics program that could still perhaps serve a purpose. High tech tools can’t always effectively replace the hands-on learning opportunities of yesteryear.
“Many of the changes have been necessary to keep up with current information and to attract students, but I do wish that today’s students had the opportunity to experience three weeks in the Home Management house,” said Hauge. “This gave students opportunities that they do not get in a dorm or an apartment. Managing a home and all that it entails was a major learning experience for me.”
Considering the rapid amount of evolution experienced by FACS over the past quarter century, there’s good reason to believe that there will be more to come. Adapting to the needs of an ever-changing society is something that the department has become accustomed to.
“The major needs to stay current and viable,” said Hauge. “I can also see that way into the distant future there may not be an FCS major. It might be absorbed into other specific majors.”
Whether the major continues to flourish or eventually merges with another, the concern to maintain a decent family life shouldn’t ever be pushed aside. Occasionally changing the name of a major to spark prospective student interest may be necessary, but continuing to educate on what it takes to properly manage a good home are a must.