During the pandemic, many changes in Human Sciences made a positive impact on academic and collegiate progress
Over the past academic year, transition and change have emerged during a very untraditional year. As we entered college life during a pandemic last year, many changes were needed to adapt. Some changes seen were adaptations of necessity, while others naturally came about to better the college. Moving forward, these changes will make way for progress and excellence across all facets of academia.
The college recently saw two new department chair appointments. Douglas Smith, Ph.D., took the role of chair in the Department of Community, Family, and Addiction Sciences (CFAS), and Dana Weiser, Ph.D., was named interim chair for Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS).
Current Personal Financial Planning chair, Vickie Hampton, Ph.D., will be retiring this fall as the department transitions to the School of Financial Planning. Associate Dean of Research, Michael O'Boyle Ph.D., will also step into retirement. Dean Tim Dodd, Ph.D., says that the individuals stepping into new roles will build upon a great foundation set by their predecessors.
“I am very thankful for the leadership these faculty have provided through the years and appreciate the contributions they have made to our mission,” Dodd said. “I am excited about the opportunities to continue to build a robust team to innovate for our students, with important research that reflects a top-tier university and initiatives that make a difference in the communities we serve.”
Looking to the future, Dean Dodd stresses the importance of connecting with external audiences such as alumni and supporters. Communication across campus will be vital as the college looks for new ways to share exciting updates and grow in the academic area of health and wellness for students.
The college will also look to grow its research efforts to expand research funding for faculty and students. Dean Dodd also says that growing the college's scholarship base will be a priority for the Dean's Office as the college continues to grow its student population.
“We must continue to diversify our faculty and provide opportunities for students to participate in all our college has to offer,” Dodd said. “This means attracting first-generation students and others without a history in higher education.”
This upcoming academic year, students in the College of Human Sciences will see a wider variety of courses and more flexibility to pursue their goals.
“We also hope that the resources we obtain from partnerships with individuals and the community will help provide access for students who need support through college,” Dodd said.
With technology adjustments and course changes over the past academic year, academic advising played a crucial role in student success. Lead academic advisor, Dolores Salas, says that advisors in the College of Human Sciences became the lead contact to communicate university guidelines.
“The use of technology became second nature as advisors learned to pivot to online communication as a supplemental form of daily operations,” Salas said. “Advisors, as well as students, have positively embraced the change in communication style from face-to-face advising to virtual platforms. Some of the events such as Red Raider Orientation, registration, and graduation that are essential in students learning to navigate campus were a few of the events that had to rapidly adjust to due to the influences of the pandemic. Along with the many shifts in procedures, advising has adapted well and helped in creating and implementing positive outcomes for students.”
Academic advising helped create a new section of HUSC 1100: Intro to Human Sciences, designed for students seeking professional health career paths. This course will aid students in preparation for applying to graduate school for their health career of choice.
“The goals and outcomes of this past year have allowed students and advisors to grow in their own professional identities,” Salas said. “Advisors play a huge role to support and empower students in becoming well-rounded individuals that are proactively reaching for student success.”
This expanse in academic courses primarily focuses on students interested in pursuing professional health careers such as medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Students can also pursue a new minor option in Behavioral Health and Wellness.
“Many degree programs in the college offer competitive pathways for students to complete the necessary prerequisites to pursue future health-related degrees while also learning about families, individuals, and the community,” said Mitzi Lauderdale, associate dean of students. “Now students can earn a minor in Biobehavioral Health and Wellness in addition to their major, or it can be incorporated into a Human Sciences Interdisciplinary degree.”
The Biobehavioral Health and Wellness minor offers interdisciplinary preparation designed to integrate biological, behavioral, and social science approaches to the study of human health and illness. The minor provides students with the opportunity to study how biological, psychosocial, nutritional, and environmental factors affect health and disease.
“Students will choose courses from disciplines in the College of Human Sciences and related fields to create a holistic basis for understanding human health and wellness,” Lauderdale explained. “The 18-hour curriculum integrates courses based on the following learning outcomes: behavioral change theories; diseases; mental, relational, and emotional health; health and wellness across the lifespan; and research.”
When research nearly came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic, faculty in the college quickly adjusted to moving forward with important research projects across campus. Associate dean for research, Michael O'Boyle, Ph.D., says that although hardships were placed on research, the situation allowed for faculty to find new ways of developing ideas.
“One particular benefit that resulted from working remotely (and without being in the lab) created blocks of dedicated writing time, providing faculty with the opportunity to think about and develop research ideas and subsequently turn them into competitive grant proposal submissions,” O'Boyle explained. “In fact, during the past year, the actual number of grant proposals submitted by COHS faculty increased despite the pandemic. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of COHS faculty to their research.”
The college also saw its first Horn Professorship appointment go to Naima Moustaid-Moussa, Ph.D. in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. This is the highest accolade the university can award to faculty members—something that O'Boyle says will heighten the college's research profile across the field of nutrition.
The College of Human Sciences Research Office, in conjunction with the Texas Tech Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE), created the 2021 Undergraduate Research Experience program. This funding opportunity is designed to support undergraduate students and their faculty mentors.
“The program was newly expanded last year to provide for up to 3 undergraduate student assistants to work on projects and for the first time, was open to all undergraduate students,” O'Boyle said. “Ten awards of $850 each were made with the funds used for research expenses, which may include an hourly stipend to the student, equipment purchases, PPE, subject payments, and/or support for conference travel for the student to present their work. This program puts the COHS at the forefront of all colleges on campus when it comes to providing undergraduate research experiences.”
Students involved in the TrUE collaboration project are to present their research at the Texas Tech Undergraduate Research Conference held annually on the campus or another form of research presentation.
The COHS Research Office also created the 2021 COHS Cancer Seed Grant program, which invites faculty to apply for seed funding to develop projects related to any aspect of cancer or cancer treatment including physiological or behavioral elements. Similarly, another internal grant program was established: the 2021 COHS Alzheimer Disease Sees Grant program. This program invites faculty to apply for seed funding to develop projects related to any aspect of Alzheimer's Disease.
“The stick-to-it attitude and the flexibility of COHS faculty demonstrated during the pandemic bodes well for future success in all aspects of the research enterprise,” O'Boyle said. “And while last year was a difficult time, these lessons learned will prove beneficial when research activity resumes to a more normal state.”