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A place in history, 1970s-1980s

Submitted by Ruth E. Deacon from Columbus, Ohio, USA
Dean, College of Home Economics, 1975-1987

Reflections as dean of the College of Home Economics - 1975-1987

Opportunities, challenges, and transitions

To have followed Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton after her 22 years of significant leadership and college growth was challenge enough. The enrollment had grown to over 2500 undergraduate students. But, greater challenges loomed. When I was appointed, the Women's Physical Education Program had moved to the recently established College of Education and the decision was already made to move the Department of Applied Art to the new College of Design. These shifts reduced the student body by roughly 1,000.

The applied art subject matter had a closer relation to the college, particularly textiles and clothing, than women's physical education programs. Two applied art faculty retained partial appointments in the college to clarify areas of continuing and mutual support, which evolved amicably and effectively.

The program and budgetary effects on the college of the departmental moves required adjustments. But the additional and long run impacts of the social disruptions of the 1960's and ealy 1970's called for program reorientations.

The following sections will provide focus for my thoughts on how these situations affected the college and how the college addressed them.

Specialization and professionalization of programs

During my early years at Iowa State, the question of the core subjects to be taken by all students was a continuing issue for the curriculum committee. Should the integrity of the college be diluted, i.e., student insights into the college mission through courses across the college--and, if so, to what degree? From 1953, core credits had been reduced from 54 to 15 in 1970, as departments developed student majors and wanted to design their own programs. This trend during my tenure led to the requirement of only one common course in human development and a required course in management that each major could prescribe.

Adjustments in departmental program offerings across the college were highly influenced by societal changes. Homemakers opting for employment outside the home became more dependent on the market place as consumers as well as for employment. Our field had opportunities and responsibilities to provide information useful both to families and to the community and market entities serving them. The preparation of students for these professional tasks gave impetus to college programming.

In order to promote better understanding of the professional potential, an Advisory Committee composed of business and community leaders was organized to meet with departmental representatives. These exchanges were helpful in educating the community and business leaders of the contributions our college graduates could make to them as well as for the college to glean insights into ways our programs could be developed to serve them more effectively.

Strengthening faculty for research and graduate programs

The College of Home Economics at Iowa State University had over its history been ranked as either the first or second institution, academically, for our field. Faculty were recognized for their authoring of texts and for excellent program leadership. In recent years, the faculty had been stretched considerably to meet the demands for educating a growing student body on a budget that had not kept pace. Compared to the total faculty, the outstanding professors were a relatively small portion. In fact, two-thirds of the faculty were employed as full or part-time instructors or assistant professors without tenure.

Departments were anxious to undertake more research and to be able to offer doctoral degrees. Educational programs needed a stronger body of knowledge undergirded by research if the impacts on families of societal changes were to be adequately interpreted. More upper level faculty appointments were needed to meet this goal.

Coincidentally, the year after I was appointed Dean, the central administration ruled that within seven years all university faculty would need to be approved for tenure-tract appointments. Many faculty had to make choices about pursuing further graduate education in order to meet this edict. For some, this did not fit within their projected future. A few found effective alternative avenues by undertaking creative program development, as in apparel design via computers. Others undertook the challenge of further graduate study, either at Iowa State while carrying their regular responsibilities or by taking leave for study at other institutions. After seven years, a goodly number had been tenured and went on to become significant leaders.

Two departments not already offering doctorates were soon approved to do so.

Building a development fund

All of the other colleges in the university had development funds contributed by alumni and other donors for addressing special needs. Our college had no such access to discretionary funds.

The College through Dean Hilton had built a strong alumni association. With the $2 in dues each member paid, the association proudly supported a number of student scholarships. This was probably the college's alternative, in part, to having a development fund. However, the university alumni office ruled that since all graduates were alumni of the university that dues could not be charged by a college association. This was a dilemma particularly in terms of the scholarship program.

Pursuit of the development fund idea had to continue. Approval was eventually obtained with the understanding that the first $10 of an alumna's contribution would be credited to the college alumni association. This was technically not dues, but the alumni scholarship interest was again supported.

To promote alumni interest in the fund, a group of alumni that had worked in support of it was appointed to advise with respect to its use and ways to encourage its growth. Being aware of the need of the college for discretionary funds, and since income from donated monies placed in an endowment would not be available for a while, the committee proposed that a sum be set aside to be used at the dean's discretion. To everyone's delight, the fund grew faster than anticipated and has been an important asset to the college.

Enough cannot be said about the value of the discretionary fund to the college. A number of food and nutrition faculty had research appointments and project funding, but only two or three others did. Department heads shared in the decision to offer opportunities for faculty to apply for research and other program grants. Though the size of these grants was limited, faculty used them for studies preliminary to submitting applications to funding agencies for larger grants. The faculty's success in competing well for sizable grants is history.

In conclusion

There were other projects to strengthen the college, including the one to obtain state funding for needed capital improvements. Here again, alumni were helpful. We even worked our way to the top of the list for funding of a capital needs package. The package included a child development building, food and nutrition laboratory remodelling, and remodelling to accommodate needed shifts in space use. Unfortunately, another college intervened with a campaign to take over these funds--a compaign that the legislature approved. A small portion was allocated to the college at the time of my retirement. How this allocation was creatively utilized is part of my successor, Dean Beverly Crabree's story.

My last challenge was participation in the renaming of the college to the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. In March before my retirement, I received word from central administration that a proposal for a new college name should be submitted by June 30. Neither Home Economics nor Human Ecology would be acceptable recommendations. Since I was retiring, my advice to the committee I appointed was to select a name under which all current programs would fit. Under the circumstances, I thought their proposal, quickly accepted by the faculty, was a good one.

It was an unbelievable privilege to serve as Dean of the College of Home Economics at Iowa State University.