Faculty, staff, students and graduates of the College of Human Ecology take great pride in our long history of scholarship and research.
About Our Research
- How do we ensure food at restaurants is safe?
- How can we make more sustainable homes and offices?
- How do we help companies make better products for consumers?
- Can we identify risks of violence in marriages and relationships?
- What should we really eat to be healthier and prevent diseases such as cancer or diabetes?
These are just a few examples of the kinds of research conducted in the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University.
As a land-grant research university, Kansas State University has a mission to discover new knowledge and educate and improve the quality of life of people in the state and around the world. Our faculty and students are inquisitive by nature; they want to learn new things and push against the frontiers of existing knowledge.
We take seriously our slogan, "In a world focused on things, we focus first on people," as we conduct our scholarly activities to improve the lives of people everywhere.
Typically, the classic research conducted in universities has been discovery research, but that is only one part of what we do. Our faculty and students work in all five areas of research and scholarly activity:
This type of research is common and usually seeks to answer questions such as why or how something happens. For example, "How does a particular food nutrient help prevent cancer?" Often discovery research is published in peer-reviewed journals or scholarly publications until we collect more data and the timing is right to use the information to solve a problem. Over time, these discoveries lead to new products and services for consumers, better information on which to make decisions and an improved quality of life. Often that happens through the next type of research: translational research.
This type of research is newer and evolving as governments, universities, corporations and consumers seek to enhance the pace of research into solutions and new products. For example, "What type of training and how much training is needed by workers to ensure safe food in a food service establishment?" Translational research keeps in mind the immediate need and ultimate end use that can be put into practice as soon as possible. This type of research often results in changes to practice, the next type of scholarship.
We have a responsibility to use the results of our research. New findings allow us to practice our profession at a higher level. Translating the findings into practice is a key aspect of scholarship and research. For example, "I want to design a more sustainable working environment" is practice that requires the knowledge and application of research. We must know what causes something to happen, we must understand how that can be used and then we must use it to improve the lives of everyone. Successful use and testing of practice often results in setting of Policy.
Although universities do not usually set policy, they often provide the needed expertise and supporting research that determines policies made by governments, agencies and the private sector. For example, a judge's decision on how to handle a case of child or spouse abuse may be based on the research and practice of child development or marriage and family therapy specialists in Human Ecology. Understanding the basic research, adapting that research to practical solutions and putting those solutions into practice to determine what really works ultimately provides the best policy decisions. Over time those policies should be evaluated through research to determine which have been successful. Of course, no research or policy can stand alone. Those must be adapted to individuals and groups of people in appropriate and creative ways.
We often think of creative activity as related to art or humanities, but in Human Ecology it is much more. For example, interior design or apparel design is dependent on applying theory, research, practice and policy in creative and imaginative ways to make the spaces we live and work in or the clothing we wear comfortable, safe and esthetically pleasing.
Universities are the major source for innovation and discovery that promote economic development. Innovation and new ideas are the basic raw materials generated by the research enterprise. With these ideas comes the work of faculty, students and others in the commercial and government sectors to develop solutions and opportunities to improve lives. Of course, not all of the research we do is centered toward economic development. Much of what we do in Human Ecology is focused on improving the human condition. Affordable housing, care for the older adult, food security, household finances, human relationships, human nutrition and dietetics, hospitality management and the clothes we wear and the products we use all result in enhanced quality of life. New discoveries provide safe, affordable, quality products and services to consumers.
Research: discovery, translation, practice, policy and creative activity. Our research not only benefits society through enhanced quality of life and economic development, it creates opportunities for our students to take part in "active learning." It is the foundation of our graduate and undergraduate programs. Our faculty and students are continuing to fulfill the research mission to improve the future of our students and Kansans.