Rethinking Education

Rethinking Education
The Department of Home and Family Education is
putting the icing on the cake of transition.

By LaNae H. Poulter '71

Alook inside the classrooms within the Department of Home and Family Education is reassuring. While things may be stacked a little differently, the environment remains unique. Students have experiences that strengthen testimonies and prepare them to make contributions within families, communities, and the Church. Knowing essential values are being retained is the "icing on the cake" that appeals to students, alumni, and university personnel.

President David A. Bednar promises, "the uniqueness of this great institution will be preserved and enhanced as major changes are undertaken in the coming months and years. Ricks was recognized as a school where students received personal, individualized attention. As BYU–Idaho, one of our top priorities will be to preserve and enhance that type of caring environment."1

At the same time, transitions involve mind shifts and redirected actions. Author and consultant William Bridges explains change as a "situational shift" while "transition, on the other hand, is the process of letting go of the way things used to be and then taking hold of the way they subsequently become."2

Like the university, the Department of Home and Family Education is now two-tiered. Curriculum has been developed to give new choices. Students can earn either an associate degree in culinary arts or a bachelor’s of science degree in family and consumer science education. For those with majors in other departments, a cluster of classes from the home and family curriculum can be selected to complement and diversify their course of study.

After completing an associate degree in culinary arts, Dodie Harmon of Rigby, Idaho, plans to use the credits as a minor for an integrated bachelor’s degree in Business Management.

Caught in corporate downsizing, Dodie recently found herself unemployed, with a bleak outlook in the job market. She had not previously had the opportunity of attending college since her high school graduation 25 years ago. Realizing her skills were not adequate in today’s world, it was time to retool. "I need more education," says Dodie, who aspires to open her own catering business. "I realize there are no guarantees. With so many layoffs and companies closing up altogether, the best thing I can do for myself and my family is go back to school."

With some hesitation she enrolled in her first class at BYU–Idaho. Her fears were soon put aside. "Everyone is so friendly and helpful!" With a smile of her own she adds, "The students say I remind them of their moms." Along with finding self-confidence and acceptance, Dodie is learning essential business skills and discovering deeper understanding of the practical day-to-day tasks.

Dodie is not alone in her personal transition to upgrade skills necessitated by change. Several of the faculty within the Department of Home and Family Education are enrolled as students in graduate programs offered through other universities. Many of the methods learned are quickly adapted to enrich the programs for BYU–Idaho students. Department chair Carma Sutherland is among the group of educators who are retooling. "I love to learn," she says. "We can glean from these other schools and see alternate ways of teaching. Then we can better develop our own unique approach to the classroom."

While educators are learning by again becoming students, BYU–Idaho students are learning to become educators. Those seeking a bachelor’s of science degree in family and consumer science education fulfill an education core that includes analyzing each task, determining how it could be taught in a course curriculum, and developing methods of instruction. They study the foundation of education and begin to develop their own philosophy of learning and teaching. Students must meet standards set by the state for teachers in family and consumer sciences. "They are being trained in occupational education and will meet vocational credentials," Sutherland says. "Our students will become experts in curriculum and teaching methods."

One such student is Stacy Greenhalgh, a senior from Temecula, Calif. Stacy has a thirst for learning that is obvious to her instructors, but she once saw herself in a different light. She first enrolled at Ricks College in 1996. Excited and yet very shy, she was adversely influenced by some who did not view studying as a priority. After being placed on academic suspension, she tried to come back several times only to withdraw before finals. "I found no joy in that," says Stacy. "I think I didn’t believe in myself."

Getting married helped her change focus and priorities. She also changed majors to Home and Family Education and returned to the campus in fall semester 2001, but not without some reservation. "I was too afraid to fail again. When I came back, I thought every teacher would see right through me—they knew that I had failed before and they would feel I wasn’t worth teaching." Stacy continues, "But I have had teachers who look at me in a different way."

She has blossomed in an environ-ment where teachers incorporate spirit-uality into the curriculum. Through a project involving observation of student-teacher relationships, Stacy made her own discoveries. "I learned it is all about your attitude and how you perceive yourself. I tried to become more optimistic rather than pessimistic and just turned myself around. I have more confidence in myself. I can do anything now. I can plan things in the future and know that I can succeed. It is a lot more rewarding."

Stacy is now a senior with a solid gpa. While some of her classmates have plans to work in public health services, Stacy would like to teach in a high school or junior high and pass on the joys of discovering one’s own potential.

As exemplified by Stacy, the department’s curriculum is enhanced by experience. The culinary arts lab on the third floor of the Clarke Building was remodeled during the past summer to enable students seeking their associate degree to gain practical, hands-on learning experience in dining room service and kitchen production. Student-operated Café Déjeuner is open for lunch Tuesday-Friday including weekly regional/international cuisine. Students are responsible for every detail from the menu selection and production to the table settings and centerpiece arrangements. In addition, aromas from Brigham’s Bakery entice the hungry with freshly baked pastries and cookies.

Future plans include sharing resources with University Food Services in the Manwaring Center to further expose the culinary students to routines, leadership, and skills involved with food production and catering on a larger scale. Students are required to have an internship or practicum outside the course curriculum to broaden their understanding. Finding corporate sponsors for internships is ongoing.

The process of conscientiously evaluating every aspect of the curriculum and organization within the Department of Home and Family Education has been led by Sutherland. She and the heads of other departments have revised their programs from Ricks College’s previous array of 150 associates degrees to BYU–Idaho’s offering of approximately 50 bachelor’s degrees and less than 30 associate degrees. The task is ongoing as programs are adapted to a changing world. Elder Henry B. Eyring said, "The phrase ‘rethinking education’ is not to be only a slogan for the transformation from a two- to four-year status. The school is to be a place of educational innovation—permanently."3

With new beginnings, some things have been left behind. Sutherland feels her biggest challenge was giving up old programs such as fashion design. "These were successful programs the faculty had developed and had their hearts into for a lot of years," she explains. "This has been delicate, but I have never felt we were not on the right path."

The Home and Family Education faculty are developing and refining a money management and home management course. Other lower level classes have been redesigned to give a broader picture to more students. Classes once restricted to those with declared majors are now open to anyone who wants to learn. A pilot course in basic skills of practical homemaking is planned for 2003–2004. Sutherland says the course will be geared towards both male and female students with benefits for pre-missionaries, future homemakers, and anyone who will someday plan a nutritious diet, cook a meal, sew or repair a seam, balance a budget, decorate and maintain a home, or ultimately raise a family based on LDS values.

The department’s mission aligns with the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles’ recent statement: "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."4 The educational focus is on teaching principles that will maintain and strengthen the family. Students will be qualified as teachers and will share their knowledge with others. They also apply the principles in their own homes. "Perhaps most significant of all classrooms is the classroom of the home," states President Thomas S. Monson. "It is in the home that we form our attitudes, our deeply held beliefs. It is in the home that hope is fostered or destroyed. Our homes are the laboratories of our lives."5

As she gently decorates the edge of a perfectly layered cake in the BYU–Idaho food lab, Alisha Vandenberg, a sophomore from Roy, Utah, remembers setting her sites on a degree in culinary arts while in high school. While searching for options, she was pleasantly surprised to find a program offered at BYU–Idaho.

Now as a student, Alisha is discovering for herself what others have found for decades. In becoming something new, some things do remain the same.

"I like the fact that I am getting a college degree," says Alisha. "I do not have to worry about the trends of high school because of the spiritual atmosphere. The instructors are personable. They are not just interested in getting the job done; they really care about me. If I am struggling, I can go to them and they actually open their doors, listen, and offer advice. They really care about me."SM

  1. Bednar, David A. "Welcome" message available at
  2. Bridges, William. The Way of Transition. Cambridge, Mass: Perseus Publishing, 2001.
  3. Eyring, Henry B. "Steady Upward Course," BYU–Idaho Devotional address, Sept. 18, 2001. Available at
  4. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." Read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message to the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City. Available at
  5. Monson, Thomas S. "Precious Children, a Gift from God," Ensign, June 2000, 2.