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History of the department

Wallace Hall in 1968
The department began in the School of Home Economics in 1958 and had various names over the years such as “Food and Nutrition” in 1960, and “Human Nutrition and Foods” in 1964. The Exercise element was added in 1996 when the College of Education’s exercise science division joined the department.

The School of Home Economics is founded at Virginia Tech, and Laura Harper is appointed as the school's first dean.

The Department of Foods and Nutrition is created.

Marian Moore is appointed first department head.

Foods and Nutrition is changed to Human Nutrition and Foods.

Sanford J. Ritchey is appointed head of HNF.

Wallace Hall is built. The building memorializes Maude Emma Wallace, city Extension agent (1917-19), home demonstration agent (1929-37), head of home economics (1937-39), and assistant director of Extension (1938-59) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech). A powerhouse in her field, Wallace made home demonstration work in Virginia effective and efficient and reestablished VPI's home economics department. Among her national and state honors were the U.S. Department of Agriculture Superior Service Award and Progressive Farmer Magazine's Woman of the Year.

The doctoral program in HNF is approved.

Sanford J. Ritchey becomes associate dean of the College of Home Economics, and Ryland Webb becomes department head of HNF (1973-1982).

First doctoral degree is awarded.

The coordinated undergraduate program in dietetics is approved.

Dean Laura Harper retires and Sanford J. Ritchey becomes the new dean of the college.

Judy Driskell becomes department head (1982-1988).
The College of Home Economics is renamed the College of Human Resources.

The Department of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management is formed from a HNF program area. Renamed Hospitality and Tourism Management in 1996, it now resides in the College of Business.

Eleanor Schlenker is department head (1988-1997).

The Virginia Tech Dietetic Internship (now known as the Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics) is housed within HNFE and is offered at Falls Church and Blacksburg.

Six faculty (Ron Bos, George Davis, Bill Herbert, Janet Rankin, Don Sebolt, and Jay Williams) in the exercise science program (within the Health and Physical Education Division in the College of Education) are transferred to HNF.

HNF is renamed the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (HNFE).

The College of Education merges with the College of Human Resources to become the College of Human Resources and Education.

1997 – 2004:
Michael Houston is department head.

University budget issues eliminate the College of Human Resources, and the Provost moves HNFE  to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

2004 – 2006:
Skipp Jubb is interim department head after Mike Houston becomes ill.

2006 – 2008:
Joe Marcy is interim department head.

Susan Hutson is department head.

The Didactic Program in Dietetics won the University Exemplary Department/Program Award; programs were recognized for effectively linking assessment with instruction in order to improve student learning.  

Robert Grange is named assistant department head.

Matthew Hulver is department head.

Undergraduate options are now Dietetics and the Science of Food, Nutrition, and Exercise.

Master's in Nutrition and Dietetics begins in the fall of 2019.

Stella Volpe is named department head, effective July 2020.

Fast Facts

  • 28 faculty members
  • 900+ undergraduate students
  • 60 graduate students
early food lab
Harper and Wallace
Laura Jane Harper (left) and Maude Wallace
Wallace Hall in 1968
Wallace Hall in 1968