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School of Human Ecology


The School of Human Ecology (SoHE), which consistently ranks among the top institutions with similar programs, has an established record of excellence based on an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, research, outreach and engagement. Throughout its 110-year history, the school has led in applied scholarship and engagement that directly impacts people of all ages within their increasingly complex social, psychological, economic, designed, and cultural environments. The SoHE “IDEA” encompasses “Integration, Discovery, Education, and Application.” The school educates students for careers in design, retailing, consumer economics, personal finance, education, human development, and family, community and health services. 

The school provides a small-school setting in a world-class university. Faculty and staff are committed to enhancing the development of students by nurturing the complementary relationship between professional and liberal arts education. This approach prepares graduates to assume leadership positions in their personal, civic, and professional lives. In addition to providing instruction, the school's faculty engage in extensive research and creative scholarship. Faculty members are also active in disseminating the latest research findings throughout the state, nation, and world.

Generations of students dedicated to fulfilling this mission have found an academic home in one of the school's majors, which are offered through the following departments: Civil Society and Community Studies, Consumer Science, Design Studies, and Human Development and Family Studies. Each major is based on a background of coursework in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, and the biological, physical, and natural sciences. The focus of undergraduate professional programs may be in scientific, aesthetic, and/or business areas.

History of the School

In response to repeated requests of citizen groups, the school was authorized by the Wisconsin legislature in 1903. Originally under the auspices of the College of Letters and Science, the department was transferred to the College of Agriculture in 1908. In 1951 the department became the School of Home Economics.

In May 1968, a new name, School of Family Resources and Consumer Sciences, was adopted with the approval of the university faculty. The school was organized into four program areas: Home Economics Education and Extension, Home Management and Family Living, Related Art, and Textiles and Clothing.

On July 1, 1973, the school became an autonomous unit at UW–Madison, administered by a dean. With autonomy and internal restructuring the school evolved, resulting in the formation of the departments that exist today. In July 1996, the school became the School of Human Ecology, which throughout its history, has continued to gain distinction through the achievements of its graduates and the research and professional contributions of its faculty.  In 2003, the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison marked its 100th anniversary.

Facilities and Academic Resources

The School of Human Ecology is located in the newly expanded, renovated, and renamed Nancy Nicholas Hall at 1300 Linden Drive. Named in honor of Human Ecology alumna Nancy Johnson Nicholas, this technology-rich facility supports interactive learning. Its accessibility, roof terrace, and comfortable study and community spaces promote interactions among faculty, staff, students, and visitors.

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection and Ruth Ketterer Harris Library include textiles, costumes, and book collections on the ground floor of Nancy Nicholas Hall. Nearby, the Mecklenburg Reading Room offers a quiet study space and display drawers showcasing items from the textile collection. The Ruth Davis Design Gallery features design exhibitions by students, faculty, staff, and guest artists throughout the academic year.

The Center for Financial Security focuses on applied research that promotes individual and family financial security and informs public policy about financial issues on a local, state, and national level.

The Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies provides students, scholars and community practitioners a platform to collaborate on issues of critical importance to civil society and the nonprofit sector. 

The Center for Child and Family Well-Being seeks to respond to critical issues faced by family members and those who serve them.

The Kohl's Center for Retailing advances research and collaboration in retailing and consumer science between the retail industry and the school. It offers the Retailing Leadership Symposium, support for scholarships, and student activities, such as the Student Retail Association.

The School of Human Ecology Preschool Laboratory is equipped for instruction and research in child development and early childhood education.

Steenbock Memorial Library serves students of the School of Human Ecology. The building is a living memorial to biochemist Harry Steenbock for his outstanding contribution to Wisconsin and to the health of humanity.

Computing services are available through the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), UW–Madison's central facility for computing.