The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 7, 2013

NW Missouri State closing Home Economics department

MARYVILLE, Mo. — After a run of more than a century, Northwest Missouri State University’s historic Department of Family & Consumer Sciences is coming to the end of the line.

A victim of campus budget cuts, the department will cease to exist at the end of the spring semester. FCS is currently in its 105th year as an academic division.

Those decades of teaching, learning and service will be celebrated during a final banquet set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the J.W. Jones Student Union Ballroom.

The evening will commemorate the academic division’s rich history, which began in 1908, just two years after the Northwest Normal School first offered classes.

Over the years FCS has had several names. It started out as the Department of Domestic Science, then became the Department of Home Economics and the Department of Human Environmental Sciences before assuming its current title in 2000.

Those changes reflected shifts in the professional aims of its graduates.

Now the courses teaching the skills needed to achieve those goals will be parceled out to other faculties, and two majors will be eliminated completely.

FCS’s merchandising classes will be taught by business professors, and child and family studies will be moved to the behavioral sciences department. Nutrition and dietetics will become part of the health and human services department.

Child and family studies is being downgraded to a minor, while merchandising will lose degree-program status.

FCS Assistant Professor Jean Memkin came to Northwest four years ago after 22 years at Illinois State University.

“It’s very sad. I think it will impact the atmosphere of the university as they close programs,” Memkin said. “But I understand that economic times being what they are, the university has to do it.”

Memkin said that of the six full-time staff members and one part-time employee, only three will remain after this year.

One aspect of FCS, which includes everything from interior design to textiles, includes household economics. Memkin worries that eliminating courses in this area will deny young people valuable skill sets.

“It is a little worrisome that students aren’t learning those skills in the home anymore,” Memkin said. “But they need those life skills — nutrition, sewing, all of it.”

The irony of budget cuts forcing the elimination of courses designed to teach students to be thrifty is not lost on anyone.

“It is ironic that at a time when our country is trying to stress conservation and sustainability, we stop teaching the skills of what it means to be conserving and self-sustainable,” Memkin said.

“People tend to be more throw-away now, and we’ve been able to do that because we’re a more affluent society. But with tight budgets it becomes hard to live like that.”

The FCS department at Northwest has received a lot of recognition over the years. Administrators and teachers like Hettie Anthony, June Cozine, Margaret Briggs, Frances Shipley and Mabel Cook - for whom Northwest’s visitor’s center is named — brought national luster to the organization for decades.

What is now the Mabel Cook Recruitment & Visitors Center once functioned as a laboratory for the department. Opened in 1939, it served as a model residence where home economics theories were put to practical application.

Classrooms for the department have been centrally located on the third floor of the Administration Building since 1910.

FCS is well known for its leading role with Kappa Omicron Nu, a national honor society for consumer sciences students. Northwest became the society’s first chapter in 1922 under the leadership of Anthony and Cook, who was still a student at the time.

Kappa Omicron Nu and Kappa Omicron Phi merged in 1990, with Northwest retaining its status as home to the “alpha” chapter.

A recently renovated laboratory for nutrition and dietetics will likely remain in operation, Memkin said, but the rest of the classrooms are slated to become administrative offices.

Despite the changes, Memkin said she hopes FCS-type courses will remain part of the Northwest curriculum.

“It’s more important than ever to train people to educate families to learn those life skills they need,” Memkin said. “Families are important, and people need to understand that. They need to know these things, managing a household, a budget, all of it.”


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