History

Nutrition has been a focus of research and a topic in the curriculum at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since its early days as the Massachusetts Agricultural College (or “Mass Aggie”). Initially, this early interest reflected the country’s emphasis on the nurturing of crops and domesticated animals, not human beings. Over time, however, the study of nutrition has evolved as an applied science and academic program both within the University and without, as this timeline attests:

  • 1910s: World War I focused attention on food conservation; post-war demand for home economists.
  • 1917: Founding of the American Dietetic Association (now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
  • 1918: State funding for a women's dormitory and establishing of a program for women in home economics.
  • 1919: Arrival of Edna Lucy Skinner from Pine Manor College, Wellesley; began offering courses in Textiles and Clothing, Foods, Cooking, and Household Management; converted old barn into Food Technology Laboratory.
  • 1922: Food Laboratory in Fernald Hall. Edna Skinner reported that "the space...is inadequate and the drainage is so poor that it is impossible to maintain a sanitary, wholesome condition."
  • 1924: The Home Economics Program became a department with 77 students; added a course called "Dietetics" taken in the junior year.
  • 1925: The "Tentative Scheme for Home Economics" lists "rural nutrition worker" as a vocation for which women could train.
  • 1925 – 1930: A 4-year degree plan for Home Economics majors; the Homestead Management House on the site of the current Graduate Research Center; five faculty members serving 40% of the female students.
  • 1930: Recruiting brochure mentions "hospital dietitian" and "visiting dietitian" as career options; establishment of a new Freshman course, A Study of Foods in their Scientific and Economic Aspects, Home Economics became a division.
  • 1935 – 1941: UMass Amherst Professor Helen Mitchell was chairperson of the Professional Education Section of ADA; in conjunction with Home Economics Association established the first uniform set of guidelines for dietetics programs.
  • 1945: Home Economics became a school with Edna Skinner as its first dean; founding of the Department of Foods and Nutrition.
  • 1951: There were 6 courses offered in Foods and Nutrition, including separate Nutrition courses for majors and non-majors.
  • 1952: For the first time, the recruiting brochure said "meets the requirements for membership in the American Dietetic Association."
  • 1954: Annual report mentions a high demand for Nutrition graduates; eight recent graduates were in dietetic internships.
  • 1958: The program had twelve graduate students.
  • 1972: Nutrition merged with the Department of Food Science and Technology (College of Agriculture) to form the Department of Food Science and Nutrition; Nutrition faculty moved to the old section of Chenoweth Laboratory.
  • 1988: Nutrition split from Food Science to form the Department of Nutrition.
  • 1989: Virginia A. Beal presented the first yearly lecture established in her honor.
  • 1990: A Dietetic Internship (AP4) was approved.
  • 1993: Under a new reorganization plan, the Nutrition Department was reassigned to the renamed School of Public Health and Health Sciences.
  • 1996: First online nutrition course (noncredit) offered for teachers.
  • 1997: UMass Extension EFNEP program joined the Department of Nutrition.
  • 1998: Accreditation of the Dietetic Internship by the Commission on Dietetic Registration; first online credit course offered, Nutrition Science Online.
  • 2002: Accreditation of the Didactic Program in Dietetics by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
  • 2005: PhD in Public Health-Nutrition Option was approved.
  • 2008: Online MPH in Nutrition Program begins.