The University of Texas at Austin
  • School of Human Ecology Celebrates Centennial

    By Meghan Mullaney
    Published: Nov. 8, 2012
    School of Human Ecology Centennial celebration

    For the last 100 years, the faculty and students in the School of Human Ecology have been making our marriages stronger, our children healthier and our lives more fulfilling. These students and scholars are developing textiles that work as hard as we do and designing tomorrow’s marketplace. They are changing what we eat and how we think about growing up and growing old.

    Mary Gearing, founding faculty member in the School of Human Ecology

    Mary E. Gearing

    Established a century ago as a new discipline called “domestic economy” — part of an evolving movement related to educating women — the School of Human Ecology houses a wide array of scholarship, research and practice in three primary areas: human development and family sciences, nutritional sciences, and textiles and apparel. And despite residing in Gearing Hall (named for Mary Gearing, the founding faculty member), we bet there’s a lot about the school that you don’t know. Read on for a quick tour of the School of Human Ecology, celebrating its centennial this year.

    School of Human Ecology: By the Numbers

    infographic By the Numbers

    Relevant Research

    • Tim Loving, one of the four founding members of, is working to dispel some of the relationship myths perpetuated in the popular media. The team takes research findings in the fields of psychology, family studies, sociology, and evolutionary biology and presents those findings in a format their readers (and nearly 3,000 Facebook followers) can use.
    • Jeremy Schraw, a doctoral student working with Michele Forman, has found that extended formula feeding and delay in the introduction of solid foods may increase the risk of a diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in children. The researchers found that the risk for developing ALL increased by 16 percent for every month of formula feeding. In addition, for each month the introduction of solid foods was delayed, the risk increased by 14 percent.
    • What happens when we say we would only date a Cary Grant or a Grace Kelly but find ourselves, a bit later, happily married to an Ernest Borgnine or a Lucille Ball? Paul Eastwick has chosen a novel approach to answering this question—he has carefully examined speed-dating events (in 2 minute intervals) to get a clear picture of attraction in action.

    Engaging Experience

    Jane Burson


    • UT in NYC gives 14 of textiles and apparel students an opportunity to visit the boardrooms and work space of New York City’s fashion/apparel/journalism/marketing/licensing vanguard. Iris Apfel, successful businesswoman and fashion doyenne, has been our students’ guide for these adventures.
    • 100% of our students are required to either work with a faculty member on a laboratory project or work as interns.
    • In 2011-2012, our students spent a total of 92,928 hours working in internship positions, a total of 81,408 of those internship hours were given to the state of Texas in unpaid internships. Five faculty members directly supervise the work done by our internship students and spent a cumulative 1,127 hours managing and monitoring student placements.


    Leaving a Legacy

    Marissa Duswalt

    Marissa Duswalt, a 2010 honors grad and Truman Scholar, serves as Associate Director of Policy and Events for the Let’s Move! initiative in the White House Office of the First Lady.

    Our students make an impact wherever they go after graduation. Some notable destinations include: Sesame Workshop; Ralph Lauren; First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative; Vera Wang; FrontSteps, Restoring Hope to Austin’s Homeless; Seton Healthcare Family; National Institutes of Health; the Capital Area Foodbank; the Food and Drug Administration; Neiman Marcus; Austin Child Guidance Center; People’s Community Clinic; Christian Dior; Success by 6, United Way for Greater Austin; or graduate school, medical school and law school.

    Giving Thanks

    The deep sense of community in the School of Human Ecology persists beyond final exams. Here are some notable quotes from letters to faculty from students and alumni:

    • “I would like to thank you for your dedication to enriching the lives of students like me.”
    • “I am so glad I took your class over some boring, easy-A, pointless class. I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world around me. Your class is one of those that college kids talk about. It’s a class that is meant to teach lessons that can be taken and applied to our own lives, it has a real purpose.”
    • “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your class, and yes I am one of the 12 guys in there. I’m sure my girlfriend is sick of hearing about lecture because I come home and relay your lecture message to her, although not as clearly and slightly less entertaining. I think everyone will agree that your class will be very relevant and useful in the future.”
    • “Just tonight I was at dinner enlightening my family on material I learned in your class.”
    • “I have changed the way that I am eating because of this class.”
    • “You have a seemingly tireless devotion to your students.”
    • “Coming to Texas from out of state, I was very fortunate to meet a faculty member who was so welcoming. Her great passion for teaching was immediately apparent.”

    Related Links

    Watch a video timeline tracing the 100-year history of the School of Human Ecology.

    Visit the school’s Centennial site.

    This article has been changed to correct the statement that Gearing Hall is the university’s oldest building. In fact, the oldest building is Gebauer.

    • Quote 2
      Nan Bradford-Reid said on Nov. 12, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.
      Very nice piece. I am sure you will find, however, that of the buildings on the 40 Acres, Gebauer is the oldest (not counting the Littlefield House). Gebauer was opened in 1904. Gearing didn't open until 1932.
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