The Early Beginnings
The Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging Department at San José State University (SJSU) began in 1911 as one of five arms of the Home Economics Department under department head Maude I. Murchie. At this time the department offered courses in foods, nutrition, dietetics textiles, and needlework and took two years to complete. In 1917-1918, dietetics curriculum efforts at SJSU were directed toward assisting with nutrition concerns of World War I. By 1923, a four-year program was developed, and in 1924, the Home Economics Department moved into the Home Economics Building. Over time, the concentrations within the Home Economics Department evolved to become Textiles and Clothing, Foods and Nutrition, Child Development, Interior Design, and Marriage and Family.
Dietetics Coming Into Its Own
In 1966, Dr. Elveda Smith came to San José State from Utah State University as an Assistant Professor in the Home Economics Department teaching Experimental Foods (a course now known as Food Science). Within two years, she was Department Chair of Home Economics. In 1974, the Home Economics Building was renovated and, for a year, the Department taught classes out of the Science Building. In 1976, they moved back into the new Home Economics Building, later named the Central Classroom Building.
The Home Economics Department was the organizational home for Dietetics until 1977, when the Dietetics Program, under Department head Dr. Rose Tseng, split off and was housed in the Division of Health Professions. In 1979, the Dietetics Program achieved departmental status and was named Nutrition, Foods, and Dietetics and offered a minor by that name as well as the Bachelors of Science degree in Dietetics. In spring of 1978 Dr. Tseng, and the faculty, including Mrs. Jean Downes, Dr. Elveda Smith, and Dr. Lucy McProud, developed the coursework for the department. In three short months, they worked tirelessly to improve the curriculum of existing classes and create many of the classes that are still taught today including Community Nutrition, Nutrition Education and Counseling, and Aging and Nutrition. Throughout the years, the Department has continually added classes to its repertoire to help round out the education of the nutrition department. At this time, also under Dr. Tseng, the Department expanded its curriculum to include General Education classes. Since their inception, these classes have helped introduce students outside the major to the importance of nutrition and food science and increased exposure of the Department to other parts of the University.
In 1982, the name of the Department was changed to Nutrition and Food Science. The title of the B.S. degree was changed from B.S. in Dietetics to B.S. in Nutritional Science. An official concentration in Dietetics as well as Food Science and Technology was approved in 1982. In 1984, Dr. Lucy McProud became Interim Department Chair, a role she moved into permanently in 1985 when Dr. Tseng became Associate Dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. Dr. McProud continues to tirelessly serve as Department Chair, serving as an advocate for the Department in times when the University as a whole is facing economic difficulties. Begining Fall of 2015, Dr. McProud continued her Department Chair responsibilities while gradually transitioning to retirement from SJSU. Dr. McProud concluded her 32 years of service as Department Chair in Spring 2017. A debt of gratitude and appreciation is owed to Dr. McProud for her years of dedication to the Department, College and Universtiy. In Summer 2017, Dr. Ashwini Wagle became the next Department Chair.
Accreditation by the American Dietetics Association, now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The program began teaching the Dietetics curriculum in the 1930s and was officially accredited by American Dietetic Association (ADA) in 1956 under Department Chair Dr. Clara Ruth Darby. The accreditation has allowed students who complete the required coursework to move forward and apply for a dietetic internship (DI), take the National Registration Examination for Dietitians, and become a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RD/RDN) certified through the organization now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitics .
The Pilot Program
SJSU had a Masters Practicum in Dietetics from 1981-86. In 1985, SJSU was one of three programs participating in a Pilot Study of Approved Pre-Professional Practice Programs (AP4's). This was the predecessor to what is now known of as the dietetic internship (DI), and was a supervised practice route toward becoming an RD. Based on this experience with our Masters Practicum Program, ADA approval was granted to our AP4 in 1986, and in 1987 our first AP4 students began their supervised professional experience program in various school districts and hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1991, the program was one of eight AP4's offered in California and one of 92 in the nation. Since 2004 all AP4 programs have been converted to DI. There are over 250 DI programs in the United States today. Since the inception of the DI/AP4, nearly all students who completed the program at SJSU have passed the Registration Examination to become RD/RDNs.
The Masters Program
The first masters work in this department completed under the Department of Home Economics in 1961, with the thesis Lipids in Relation to Atherosclerosis by Velma Young. For a long time, the Department Masters degree was based in the Home Economics Department, but after the curriculum was updated in 1978, Dr. Tseng and Dr. Smith shifted their focus toward getting approval from the California State University (CSU) system for a Masters of Science. In 1981, the Master of Science degree curriculum in Nutritional Science was approved. Since 1980, all graduate students are required to complete a Masters Project or Thesis written in publication style to graduate.
Incorporation of Packaging
The Packaging Program began in the Division of Technology in 1981 under Don Betando as Department Chairperson. President Gail Fullerton asked him to develop a packaging program at SJSU based on the request of the members of the packaging industry. At the time there was no packaging program being offered west of the Mississippi. The Packaging Program joined the Department of Nutrition and Food Science in 1994 when its success was diminishing in the Division of Technology. Don Betando had stepped down as Department Chairperson of the Division of Technology and led the Packaging Program in the NUFS Department. Dr. Jorge Marcondes was hired in 1994 as a tenure track Associate Professor in Packaging who had taught previously at Victoria University in Australia. Eventually, Don Betando retired and Dr. Marcondes become the Coordinator of the Packaging Program. The Packaging Program flourished and grew to 70 students.
In 2001 Dr. Marcondes left SJSU to be a professor at Clemson University, and the Packaging Program relocated to the College of Engineering under the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the direction of the Provost. Herb Schueneman, who had taught in the SJSU Packaging Program for many years and was also an owner of a packaging company, served as part-time Coordinator of the Packaging Program in Engineering for the next five years. Unfortunately, the program did not prosper within the engineering environment and enrollment decreased. In 2006, based on the wishes of the Packaging Industry Advisory Board, the Coordinator of the Packaging Program, and the Dean of the College of Engineering, a request was made to move the Packaging Program back to the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. Dr. Fritz Yambrach was hired from the Rochester Institute of Technology to be the coordinator of the Packaging Program in 2007. To reflect the addition of Packaging to the Department, the title was changed to Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging.
Circle of Friends
The Circle of Friends is a coalition comprised of alumni, faculty, students, and friends. Its mission is to bring private support to help the Department and students continue to flourish. It was started in 1992 through the hard work of Caroline H. Haas, and through the continued involvement of its members, has provided much needed equipment, scholarships, and improvements to the department.
The Current Department
Currently, there are 300-400 students enrolled in the department, of which roughly 25% are graduate students. In addition to concentrations in Dietetics and in Packaging under the Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, specializations in Food Management, Nutrition Education, Sports Nutrition, Environmental Food and Health Specialist, and Nutrition Science, are also offered. Minor areas of study include: Packaging, Nutrition and Food Science, and Nutrition and Physical Performance. There are separate advisory boards for each concentration. The study of Dietetics continues to to be very popular. Over the years since its beginning in 1956, the Dietetics curriculum at SJSU has been completed by over 1000 students who were then qualified to apply for a DI or pre-professional experience. It is estimated that about half of the 500 members of the local San Jose Peninsula District of the California Dietetic Association have completed one or more degrees at SJSU.
As the times have changed, so have the career opportunities for students. With the ever growing field of nutrition and packaging, the job opportunities have evolved to include consulting, fitness counseling, food service management, sales, industry positions, and community based nutrition careers, in addition to those in the hospital setting.