Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

07-14-06

Contacts:

Cheryl Achterberg, College of Human Sciences, (515) 294-7800, docach@iastate.edu

Cathy Curtis, College of Human Sciences, (515) 294-8175, ccurtis@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

College combination adapts to changing needs of families, students

AMES, Iowa -- Last July, Iowa State University combined its College of Education and College of Family and Consumer Sciences into a new College of Human Sciences. One year later, officials are pleased at how the new "combination college" is stimulating greater multidisciplinary interaction among faculty -- providing a more contemporary education for students to meet society's changing human needs.

Iowa State isn't alone in combining long-standing colleges into one focused on human sciences. Other universities, including Nebraska, Ohio State, Oregon State, Tennessee and George Mason -- the last one earlier this month -- have all combined similar colleges since 2000.

"College combinations are becoming increasingly common at large universities due, in part, to budgetary constraints and the drive to manage universities more efficiently. Combining college budgets, cultures, historic practices and policies is very hard," wrote Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State, in a national newsletter article titled "Coping with a College Combination: The First 100 Days."

No academic programs or majors were eliminated last year when Iowa State created its new college. There are still six departments and one general major that address basic human needs -- food, clothing, housing, education, family, health and physical activity.

What has changed is that programs are now more integrated.

"What we're about in this new college is teaching people -- each with his or her own specialty -- to work in multi-disciplinary teams," said Achterberg. "There's too much to know to be an expert in every single thing. By developing some kind of expertise, you can work with people who have different expertise and together try and resolve problems. That's a big difference between the old style and the new-style college that I think the College of Human Sciences is becoming."

Achterberg reports that the combination college trend has created quite a "buzz" in discussions among presidents and provosts during meetings of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges -- the nation's oldest higher education association. "And the more stories there are of successful combinations, the more likely I believe that others schools also will give it a try," she said.

In addition to academic benefits, forming the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State has generated nearly $500,000 in savings. The savings have resulted primarily from a streamlined administrative structure -- one dean instead of two, fewer associate deans, and fewer staff positions than were needed in the two colleges. Iowa State is investing the savings in new strategic faculty positions within the college.

Academic programs in the College of Human Sciences now put greater focus on the development and use of science and technology. Each program's curriculum is also developed in collaboration with educational and business partners to prepare effective professionals.

That's a real departure from the more traditional home economics-related model many have been following.

"During World War II, as men joined the military, women joined the workforce. After the war, the men came back to the workforce and women were pushed out. Home economics colleges really helped women transition out of the workforce and into the home," Achterberg said. "These colleges helped women become more professional in terms of taking care of the home and family matters. They were much better educated. They knew the science of what they were doing and why, and they had a lot more technical knowledge. And there was a big demand at that time. For instance, a number of modern home appliances were developed, and people needed to be educated how to use them."

But that demand has changed dramatically. According to the Census Bureau's 2002 Current Population Survey, only seven percent of all U.S. households consisted of married couples with children in which only the husband worked. Dual-income families with children made up more than two times as many households. And families with two incomes and no children outnumbered the traditional family by almost two to one.

"The majority of women work outside the home. The so-called traditional family is the minority of families in America. Families today have different needs and different demands, and therefore we have to come up with different models," said Achterberg. "Our graduates are preparing themselves for positions and careers in major industries."

She foresees students now being better prepared for those careers because of the greater depth of knowledge being offered through this combination of colleges.

"I genuinely believe that over time we're going to see a significant difference in the ability of our students to get jobs and to perform in the workplace," she said. "For example, if we educate teachers who understand not only the classroom, teaching methods and content area, but also families, changing communities, and interaction between schools and communities, I think they'll be more effective teachers."

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Cheryl Achterberg

Cheryl Achterberg

Quick look

Iowa State isn't alone in combining long-standing colleges into one focused on human sciences. Other universities, including Nebraska, Ohio State, Oregon State, Tennessee and George Mason -- the last one earlier this month -- have all combined similar colleges since 2000.

Quote

"What we're about in this new college is teaching people -- each with his or her own specialty -- to work in multi-disciplinary teams. There's too much to know to be an expert in every single thing. By developing some kind of expertise, you can work with people who have different expertise and together try and resolve problems. That's a big difference between the old style and the new-style college that I think the College of Human Sciences is becoming."

Cheryl Achterberg