Our essential mission - improving human lives - remains as relevant today as it was nearly a century ago when the College of Home Economics was founded. Similarly, the cornerstone principles of inclusion, interdisciplinarity, impact, and innovation continue to define the way in which we pursue that mission. The cornerstone principles, in combination with the proud history of the College, set a strong foundation for the College of Human Ecology's future growth.

Vision 2030 positions the College of Human Ecology for that growth by articulating a focus on human health and well-being across our academic units and by laying out three scholarly areas of excellence where the College of Human Ecology offers uniquely valuable contributions: 1) Health Equity, 2) Sustainability & Society, and 3) Technology & Human Flourishing.

This vision identifies an ambitious and achievable set of initiatives and goals to guide our decisions and investments as we seek to bring the vision to reality.

The Origins of Our Strategic Vision

Before we talk about our proud history or lay out a vision for the future, we must first answer: what do we mean by “human ecology”? Put simply, human ecology refers to understanding and impacting the multilayered influences on human health and well-being. These include the food we consume, the clothing we wear, the buildings we inhabit, the families, neighborhoods, and communities in which we exist, and the policies that affect our lives. Humans shape these layers of influence, and they shape us, in complex ways. It follows, then, that the human experience must be considered in relationship with, rather than in isolation from, these factors. Human ecologists seek to understand these complex dynamics in service of improving human health and well-being.

The word “ecology” is rooted in the Greek word “oikos”, meaning “house, dwelling or home”. Throughout our history, starting with our roots in Home Economics, Human Ecology scholars and students have strived to improve the homes and communities, large and small, in which humans live and flourish.   

The College of Human Ecology has been a scholarly haven for revolutionary thinkers for more than a century. Our origin story centers around the visionary leadership of Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, who extended Cornell University’s inclusive founding principle of “any person ... any study” to women via a reading course designed for farmers’ wives. This early offering grew into non-credit courses available for free to all women in the State of New York, followed by a full four-year curriculum. As a result of the tenacious determination of the founders, and key partners that included Eleanor Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony, the College of Home Economics was formally established in 1925.

At the dedication and opening of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall in 1933, Flora Rose declared: “As we lay the cornerstone of this great building, it is not its material expression in brick and stone and steel that I would have you consider. Rather it is to its significance as a symbol of new and vital forces arising to meet strenuous modern problems.”

This strategic vision will serve as a compass for the College of Human Ecology to be a vital force in meeting the strenuous modern problems of the 21st century. Building from the cornerstone principles of inclusion, interdisciplinarity, impact, and innovation that have defined the College since its inception, this vision sets forth the priorities that will guide Human Ecology into its future.

photo of flora rose and martha van rensselaer with quote from flora rose

Our Strategic Vision

Our cornerstone principles of inclusion, interdisciplinarity, impact, and innovation continue to animate the College of Human Ecology, as we work to understand and impact the multilayered influences on human health and well-being. This strategic vision galvanizes new and vital initiatives that will amplify our historic commitment to improving human lives, while simultaneously articulating a specific focus on human health and well-being. Advancing knowledge in these domains is essential in identifying policy interventions, developing new products, and launching programs that address pressing societal challenges and opportunities.

Anchored by our focus on human health and well-being, we have identified three scholarly focal areas in which we have the ability to make a unique impact, as well as five strategic priorities to guide action and investments in the near term that will allow us to realize these impacts.

Elevating and articulating our focus on human health and well-being, identifying shared areas of excellence, and carrying out priorities that elevate the entire College brings together our already strong academic units into a network of departments — each of which is interconnected by our commitment to improving human lives.

Scholarly Areas of Excellence

Building on our existing strengths, we have identified three cross-cutting scholarly areas of excellence where the College of Human Ecology has opportunities to significantly and uniquely impact human health and well-being by drawing on our cornerstone principles of inclusion, interdisciplinarity, impact and innovation. These areas link to important University priorities, as well as some of the most pressing social issues we face today. Looking across all our academic units and continuing our tradition of collaboration with units across the university, CHE is uniquely situated to apply our scientific and creative approach to improve human health and well-being. The strategic initiatives allow us to advance excellence in these critical areas.

Health Equity

Understand the biological, cultural, environmental, policy and societal factors that allow all humans to lead healthy lives; study the multi-causal factors that create health inequalities, including factors that influence disease risk and mortality, access to care, and quality of life. Develop, test, and evaluate interventions, programs, and policies to reduce health inequalities and to achieve health equity, leading to flourishing communities.

Sustainability & Society

Examine how humans shape, and are shaped by, the climate crisis, both its prevention and responsive adaptations. Develop and evaluate solutions, from the cell to the whole organism to the local community to our global society, to forestall climate change and to foster human resilience in the face of the climate crisis. Focus on how climate change exacerbates existing human health inequities and develop responses to mitigate those effects. Apply the science of behavior change to the evaluation of, and response to, risk. Develop innovative designs, materials, policies, and programs to promote the wise and sustainable use of resources and evaluate human responses to these solutions.

Technology & Human Flourishing

Integrate novel technologies, including the use of big data, to advance the art and science of human cognition, emotion, and physiology. Develop and use technological advances to enhance the human condition.