AMDT Transforms Itself for a Bright Future

Advancements in CAHNRS are not limited to agriculture. Over the past two years, a renaissance has been taking place in one of our human sciences departments – the Department of Apparels, Merchandising, Design and Textiles. Known mainly for its high-enrollment undergraduate program, AMDT is in the midst of a transformation which will make significant contributions in a variety of areas. Two years ago, the department was being led by its third straight interim chair, had an undersized faculty that was overwhelmed by its huge undergraduate enrollment, was housed in abysmal conditions in a former dormitory, and held its studio sections in a decrepit, abandoned engineering laboratory.

Today, due to a variety of forces, the department is on the move. The department has new leadership with Dr. Karen Leonas, a textile chemist recruited from the University of Georgia, who brings energy and an outstanding record of research scholarship to the unit. Due to some faculty resignations, a new position, and the conversion of an instructor position to a tenure-track position, four new faculty have been added since August 2007, all from prominent programs within the field. After a recent CSREES review, the unit is implementing numerous programmatic and curriculum changes to make its programs among the most contemporary in the nation. Finally, during the summer, President Floyd announced that AMDT would be one of the units moving into the soon-to-be-renovated Bookie.

What caught my attention, and the attention of others, to identify this unit as one worthy of investment? Most importantly, a vision and a game plan to execute change that will make a difference. Secondly, a regional industry, one of the nation’s most economically robust, that needs a successful program at WSU. Perhaps surprisingly, Washington’s apparel industry ranks third in the nation in overall size. Due to the work of the faculty, John Gardner, and industry partners, the industry is in position to be Enterprise Seattle’s focus economic cluster in 2009.

New faculty resources, facilities, and leadership do not come without high expectations. Our goal is to become one of the leading apparel, merchandising, design, and textiles units in the nation, and to become a regional leader in these areas.

Kim Kidwell, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, often refers to the human science units as “the Big ‘H’” in CAHNRS, emphasizing that they have equal importance relative to other program areas in the college (i.e., agriculture and natural resources). No longer do we have “teaching departments” which will carry the brunt of the undergraduate teaching load for the college. These units (including AMDT, Human Development and Interior Design) are transforming themselves in order to make significant impacts in research, graduate education and outreach, as well as continuing to excel in their traditional roles of providing world-class undergraduate instruction.

Go Cougs!