Our department has recently made an important change to better serve students in their pursuit of career goals. That change was the formation of Nutrition & Health Sciences by merging two departments (Nutritional Science & Dietetics and Health & Human Performance). The newly formed Department of Nutrition & Health Sciences provides a more comprehensive approach to health and wellness of individuals and communities by combining expertise in the areas of nutrition and health education, dietetics, exercise physiology, sports nutrition, biochemical and molecular nutrition, culinary science, and food service administration.
The two departments that came together have had long and distinguished histories at the University of Nebraska. The Department of Nutritional Science & Dietetics began in 1892 when a chemistry professor named Rosa Bouton developed a food and nutrition course called "domestic chemistry." In 1898, the School of Domestic Science was started with Rosa Bouton as the only instructor. The University bulletin described the two-year program in domestic science in this way:
"To train the mind and develop character in the kitchen as well as in the laboratory. Special attention is given to the principles of cooking, economical methods of cooking, as well as methods to render food nutritious, palatable, and attractive."
The curriculum changed somewhat in 1919 to place more emphasis on professional training such as dietetics, institutional management, and teaching. Also included for the first time were courses intended primarily for graduate students. In 1921, the Division of Food & Nutrition was started. A new Food and Nutrition Building was completed in 1943, renamed Ruth Leverton Hall in 1976, but was initially used to house a special military training program for the U.S. government until 1945.
Beginning in 1945 the building housed a cafeteria, kitchen and dining rooms, food and nutrition laboratories, classrooms and research facilities. The building remained basically the same until 1974 when it underwent major remodeling. The "Department of Food & Nutrition" was first approved by The American Dietetic Association for a dietetics program in 1962, and the dietetic internship program was initiated in 1969. The masters degree program was approved in 1967. The Department was renamed "Nutritional Science & Dietetics" in 1991.
Likewise, the Department of Health & Human Performance can trace its roots to the 1891-92 academic year, when the Board of Regents voted to require physical training for women students as a partial equivalent to the military drill required of men students. Professional preparation of teachers of physical education began in the later 1890s. Separate departments of physical education for men and women evolved over the years and pursued their independent existence until 1975, when they became a single Department of Physical Education & Recreation. In 1977, the Nebraska Center for Health Education, previously affiliated with the University Health Center, was added to the department to form a new School of Health, Physical Education, & Recreation. In 1993, the name was changed to the Department of Health & Human Performance.
The current Department of Nutrition & Health Sciences was so named in August of 2003 and is located in Ruth Leverton Hall on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska.