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Faculty Profile: Home Economics

The Faculty of Home Economics consists of some twenty-five faculty members trained in many basic disciplines such as Sociology, Psychology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Fine Arts, and Education. Their role within the Faculty is to apply the principles, skills, and knowledge of their basic discipline to the problems that people encounter in their day-to-day lives — the problems of eating, clothing, sheltering themselves and in finding and developing satisfying and intimate human relationships. Since most people encounter and solve these problems of daily living within the context of the family, Home Economics as a discipline defines itself in terms of the family. It therefore examines food, clothing, textiles, art, housing, management and finance from the standpoint of the needs of individuals living in familial relationships. The subject matter of Home Economics is not unique but the focus of Home Economics on the daily aspects of life is unique.

More and more we are hearing economists, sociologists, and environmentalists with special concerns, emphasizing the role which families and individuals play in the destruction/preservation of our environments and our economy. Decisions made daily with regard to the satisfaction of basic needs constantly infringe on mankind's relationships with the human and physical elements of the environment. Home Economics, therefore, claims to study these relationships and provide viable alternatives from which individuals and families can choose.

The students in undergraduate programs in Home Economics approach their studies through one of three frameworks: Foods and Nutrition; Clothing and Textiles; Family Studies. The Faculty divides its discipline into these three focuses as well. The Foods and Nutrition Program gives students the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills from the basic sciences of Chemistry, Physiology, Biology, Microbiology to the questions posed by purchase, storage and preparation of food at the consumer level and to the questions of the relationships between food and health through good nutrition. Since a program which trains people for professional roles in society must have some specific goals in mind, students are able to select course offerings in the Foods and Nutrition Division and courses from other divisions in the Faculty or other Faculties on campus which will prepare them for specific roles.

Many Foods and Nutrition majors are preparing themselves for roles as Dietitians in hospitals and medical clinics where they work on the medical team using their knowledge of food and nutrition as a therapy technique in the care and cure of certain disease conditions. Others prepare themselves for membership on health service teams where the role is largely preventive and educative, providing people at risk in the society with information about adequate diet for healthful living. Yet other students find their interests lying in some aspect of the food production chain. Here their special knowledge of consumer needs and consumer behavior as well as their knowledge of the chemistry of food provides them with a special training to work in food processing, food marketing, or as consumer advocates. Other students find their interests in the commercial aspects of food service and frequently find themselves putting together a package of courses and experience which will permit them to seek roles in food service administration as consultants to food service outlets which are growing in importance as a means for meal satisfaction to millions of Canadians.

The Clothing and Textiles program permits students to apply knowledge gained from the basic disciplines of Chemistry, Physics, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Art and Design to the questions of function, purchase, and construction of clothing and household textiles as well as the relationship between the successful application of these principles and the well-being and comfort of individuals. Students are able to select course packages from within the Faculty and from other Faculties and departments to prepare themselves for a wide variety of positions in the clothing and home furnishings fields. There are positions in product development and marketing, in textile analysis, in fashion, in home decoration and as consumer advocates. Most recently some of our students with special knowledge in the care and preservation of historic textiles and with a special knowledge of historic costume and clothing construction have been finding positions in the field of museology where the preservation of clothing and household textiles is an important part of the preservation of our social history.

Family Studies students on the other hand use a basic package of knowledge garnered largely from the social sciences to develop special applications in the area of service to families. Students have the opportunity to apply the principles of management to the management of family resources: family problem solving, money management and parenting are just some examples. Graduates can be found working in various helping agencies related to family welfare, (aging, child care, family relationships, families with special needs, rehabilitation, etc.).

Some Home Economics students deliberately try to generalize their programs so they are able to have some knowledge and skill from each of the three programs. These graduates find work in the more traditional home economics fields such as District Home Economists and Home Economics teachers.

Apart from the programs offered at the undergraduate level, the Faculty of Home Economics is heavily engaged in research and in the training of graduate students. Research activities may vary greatly from the examination of the nutritive value of a new strain of a field crop through the testing of the consumer acceptability of a new food product to the examination of consumer attitudes to certain aspects of the food marketplace. Certain sociological and psychological aspects of clothing practices may be examined; consumer attitudes to textile flammability may be the area of concern; women's fashions over a period of history may be examined to throw light on certain attitudes to women in that same period. Elsewhere in the Faculty, research which tries to document the process of family problem solving; interests in attitudes of family members to retirement; developing of a model of family crisis or examination of the male role in courtship/honeymoon is being carried on.

The Faculty is actively engaged at the interface with the community, such as one might expect from a Faculty which states as its underlying philosophy a concern for daily living. Many faculty members work with related community and professional groups, some are frequently involved in speaking to lay groups with interest in their field; many are active in issues in the province which are directly related to home and family life. Through its teaching, research, and service the Faculty of Home Economics is trying to put into action its philosophy of concern for the daily decisions of individuals and families which ultimately widen out to have effect on the larger social and economic issues of our society.

Doris Badir, Dean

Historical Background

The Department of Household Economics was established in 1918 under the Faculty of Arts and Science. Classes were conducted in the basement of the Arts Building and the degree of Bachelor of Science in Household Economics was awarded upon completion of the three-year program. In 1928, a small change was implemented with the Department becoming the School of Household Economics. During the early years of the School, emphasis was placed on the biological and physical sciences in relation to foods and nutrition.

In conjunction with the Faculty of Education, the School first offered the necessary courses for a master's degree in Household Economics Education in the year 1945. Fifteen years later, postgraduate research programs in nutrition were made available. In 1963 Household Economics became a part of the newly organized Faculty of Science. New programs of study were offered in 1965, and the School was organized into three divisions: Foods and Nutrition, Clothing and Textiles, and General Home Economics. The latter division is now known as Family Studies. The same year saw the opening of a new Household Economics Building. In 1970 the study program was expanded to include five areas of specialization at the graduate level. Students can now pursue Master of Science degrees in Foods, Nutrition, Clothing and Textiles, Family Studies, and Family Life Education. Also in 1970, the School expanded beyond its teaching and research functions with the introduction of a Textile Analysis Service. The new service was housed on the third floor of Printing Services Building and was made available to the general public as well as the campus community. The School was granted Faculty status in 1976, and the name was changed to the Faculty of Home Economics. The change from "Household" to "Home" was thought to make the name more descriptive of the Faculty's areas of concern.

Up to the early 1970s the Faculty was basically a teaching-oriented school, with very little research taking place. For example, in 1968 only four staff members had PhD degrees. In the past eleven years, however, that number has increased to fifteen, and Home Economics has evolved into a research Faculty. In relation to other Faculties of greater size, Home Economics has been receiving sizeable research grants, in spite of the recent trend toward restraint in spending.

During its history, Home Economics has been induced by Society continually to change its areas of concern. In 1918 science was of great importance. Later during the twenties and thirties, the desire to raise healthier babies caused nutrition to become very important. During the depression years the demand was to make ends meet, to stretch dollars, food and clothing further. The preserving of foods gained a new interest. Materialism swept the country following the war years causing Household Economics to become consumption-oriented. Materialism continued into the fifties with the advent of "planned obsolescence." Today, sciences are once again foremost in Home Economics. The three major study areas are based on physics, chemistry, and the biological study of traditional topics. Now emphasis is given to educating students to enable them to analyze and solve problems — the problems of living in a technological and dynamically changing world.

Services and Facilities

Although not open for public viewing, the Faculty of Home Economics maintains an historical costume collection. The Collection is used for the instruction of students within the Faculty as well as those in other units, for example, drama. The collection is a valuable reference source for all disciplines concerned with the historical aspects of clothing.

The Faculty's teaching and research facilities are unique on campus. With the exception of office space, almost the entire working area of the Faculty was originally designed as laboratory space. The unusual situation of a shortage of classrooms, however, resulted in several laboratories being converted to classrooms. In addition not only is the equipment density within the Faculty among the highest on campus, but the combination of extensive laboratory space and equipment has also resulted in the Home Economics Building becoming one of the most expensive to maintain buildings on campus.

The Textile Analysis Service is the Faculty's major service to the University and off-campus community. The Service, located in 315B Printing Services Building, analyzes all types of damaged clothing and household textiles for private and commercial organizations in Canada that can offer such an extensive range of technical services.

The Service devotes the larger part of its efforts to discerning the causes of shrinkage, stretching, mechanical damage such as breakage and color changes. Clients often include private citizens and commercial cleaners wishing to determine responsibility for damage. The causes of these damages range from improper cleaning procedures and faulty manufacture to exposure to the sun and insect activity. About twenty percent of damages are the result of improper cleaning. For this reason the Service encourages commercial cleaners to take advantage of its "phone-in" information service when in doubt about the host of synthetic materials on the market.

Job Prospects Upon Graduation

Dr. Ann L. Harvey of the Faculty of Education conducted a survey in 1975 to determine the employment situation of Home Economics graduates from this University. Of those surveyed, 213 were teachers, indicating that this occupation is the most likely job prospect for Home Economics students. Although not in great numbers, however, employment opportunities are to be found elsewhere. Three of the graduates surveyed were interior designers and two were employed in the consumer affairs area. One graduate was employed in each of the following occupations: nursery school teacher, book store buyer, drug program supervisor, social worker with the mentally retarded, and library assistant. Two of the surveyed graduates appear to have totally abandoned the Home Economics profession, taking up jobs as a geologist and as a police constable.

Although heavily weighted in favor of one occupation, the survey indicates the diverse nature of a degree in Home Economics. This point is emphasized further by the wide range of careers not represented in the survey. Careers not directly mentioned include textiles and fashions, food and nutrition, management and small business.

Appealing positions of a wide range do exist in Alberta. The question that should be asked is, "what are the chances of securing a desired position upon graduation?" Dean Badir believes that many students wrongly expect to walk right into a high paying or glamorous career upon graduating. Students, she believes, must realize that even with a degree most people must begin at the bottom and spend a number of years working their way to the top positions. On the other hand, while very few graduates will be fortunate enough to walk right into the most desirable positions, it is also unlikely that any will find themselves unemployed and have to seek alternative professions. Dean Badir offers the encouraging note that the growing needs of society indicate an increasing demand for Home Economists.

Males in a Female Dominated Discipline

In 1978-79, of the 344 full-time intramural students enrolled in the Faculty of Home Economics only one was a man. Dean Badir is concerned by this statistic but views this lack of male students in the Faculty as a problem not just of the school, but of society. Men simply do not receive from society the support that is needed to enter a traditionally female-dominated school. There is no strong movement or segment of society campaigning for the re-evaluation of male roles, as in the case of women's movements. Women entering male-dominated schools undoubtedly do receive greater encouragement from society as a whole. Enrolment statistics from male- and female-dominated Faculties support these observations and show that although it is now acceptable for women to enter male schools the reverse situation is not true. A man entering a "female" faculty must really know where he is going and be prepared to endure a lot of loneliness. Another factor influencing male enrolment is the career outlook of a degree in Home Economics. It is suggested that men tend to be more career oriented than women and are, no doubt, drawn to other Faculties by the greater numbers of career openings.

Contrary-wise, within the discipline of Home Economics itself, the traditional male-female relationship appears to be quite ,solidly entrenched. Across the country, male domination is firm to the point where Dean Badir is the only female dean of the traditionally female Faculty! It has been observed that top positions tend to be filled by men, and that women faculty members tend to support male staff members more than they do equally talented female staff members. The views of society will have to evolve to a point where male and female roles are much more liberal, before any major changes will take place in areas such as these.


Research has been a major function of the Faculty of Home Economics since the early 1970s. Faculty research is aimed at improving the daily lives of all members of our society and promoting harmony between man and nature. Among the areas of concern are psychological and social needs, the physical components of man's environment which contribute to health and development, the education of consumers as to their role in the market place, and the improvement and establishment of vital social services. Indeed. the substantial support the Faculty has received in the form of research grants is a reflection of the increasing importance of all these aspects of research.

Research projects over the past few years have been wide ranging, including everything from microbial hazards in foods and textile flammability, to family crisis and the use of marijuana. For example, a continuing study of the problem-solving process of young children has revealed that generally they react well in problem situations and can readily develop alternatives.

The effects of feeding compounds on the eating quality of livestock is the subject of another study. Evaluations of chickens raised on different feeding compounds indicate that birds raised on soybean meal are generally of higher eating quality than those raised on rapeseed meal. The effects of a variety of additions such as, fish meal, methionine, and choline were not apparent. The project is now centred on the feeding of cattle. Two other food research projects have investigated feasible methods of increasing the fibre content of foods, and the alkali treatment of proteins.

Yet another research project underway is an investigation into the reaction and attitudes of parents towards mentally retarded children in different societies. The results indicate that our society does not as readily accept this misfortune as do other societies. Comparable studies in India and Alberta suggest that our society is responsible for a lower rate of marriage stability and a lower rate of support for parents of mentally retarded children from family members. The greater support shown in India appears to have reduced the stresses associated with raising such children.

The projects mentioned here are but a few on the Faculty's ambitious list of research topics. The list, although far from complete, is typical of the type of research that is being conducted in Home Economics.

Study Programs

Home Economics offers four-year undergraduate study programs in three main areas. The programs are flexible thus allowing students to generalize or specialize within each program area. The three programs are: Clothing and Textiles, Family Studies, and Foods and Nutrition. Upon completion of an undergraduate program, the student gains a Bachelor of Science degree in the particular area of study.

Admission to the Faculty is in accordance with the standard University entrance requirements and is not restricted by quotas. Graduate degrees (Master of Science) are offered in five subject areas: Clothing and Textiles, Family Studies, Family Life Education, Foods, and Nutrition. All five programs are multidisciplinary in nature but students are encouraged to select an area of specialization upon entry. Research and teaching assistantships requiring twelve hours of work per week are available.

Published November 1979.

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