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College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism celebrates 100 years of graduates

College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism celebrates 100 years of graduates

College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism celebrates 100 years of graduates
October 22
12:00 2021

The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first awarded Bachelor of Science and vocational certificate in home economics.

First founded in 1910 as the Domestic Science Department, the school was initially dedicated to the study of household skills. The programs served as a foundation to help women complete their education at the university, which was then aimed toward producing teachers. Since its founding, the CMHT has aided women in starting their professional careers, according to faculty.

“Home economics historically has been a way that women can get into the workforce,” CMHT Dean Jana Hawley said. “Oftentimes people think that home economics is laughable, but the truth is […] we have this really strong history.”

Later changed to the School of Home Economics in 1914, the college offered general courses such as cooking. Over time, as the school began to transition into Merchandising and Hospitality, it expanded to offer more varied classes, including foods and nutrition, home and family life, and general home economics.

Since gaining industry support through connections with local hospitality businesses in the 1980s, the college evolved to offer more business-focused coursework. This helped transform the school’s programs to adapt to the needs of general consumers, rather than just singular families. The school officially became the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism in 2012. 

CMHT Associate Dean Tammy Kinley said she believes the transition of the school’s programs from homemaking-focused courses to more business-based classes has reflected how gender roles in both education and the workforce have changed over time.

“As the culture has evolved, the programming has evolved,” Kinley said. “I think the programming has followed culture trends, rather than the other way around.”

Hospitality management freshman Emily Rodenbaugh also feels the school’s growth and development mirrors the increased influence women have gained in professional positions throughout history.

“It’s allowing women to have bigger roles and roles equal to men,” Rodenbaugh said. “It shows that, as a society, we’re growing out of our old projection of just sticking to the same thing. Now, we’re pushing beyond that and trying to further educate the next generation.”

Kinley said seeing how the school has been able to grow and adapt to fit the changing needs of its students makes this anniversary one worth celebrating. Other department members like professor Christy Crutsinger also view the centennial as an opportunity for students and faculty to appreciate all the school has been able to accomplish, as well as anticipate what is next to come.

“I think that’s part of the importance of taking time to catch your breath and to say, ‘Hey, we’ve done all of this, and we’ve still got a long way to go,'” Crutsinger said. “We’ll keep moving forward, but it’s still good to pause to recognize, honor and celebrate.”

While the school no longer offers home economics degrees, several faculty members of the CMHT, including Hawley and Kinley, graduated with their first degrees in home economics. Hawley said those currently at the school with that traditional foundation have different perspectives on how to move forward than those with nontraditional foundations. She believes this helps give the college a more level perspective on its current and future state. 

“What’s really beautiful about it is that we can balance both that traditional foundation that we are and how we are taking charge of our future,” Hawley said.

As the school continues to grow, Hawley hopes to see a stronger focus on sustainability across both the hospitality and the retail industries, as well as more data-driven decision-making. She said the school’s anniversary is important because it gives perspective on how impactful home economics is on the numerous contemporary fields it has founded throughout history.

“We need to give credit where credit is due,” Hawley said. “The old home economics [subject] has a huge impact on the lives of families and the lives of consumers and people in general. To not give it the credit that it’s due is a disservice to our humanity.”

Featured Image: Students walk past Chilton Hall at the University of North Texas, where the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism is housed, on Oct. 19, 2021. Photo by Julianna Rangel

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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