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FCS Connections, December 2021

Director's Message

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

There’s a version of this quote in the Niccolls Building administrative suite, situated right where students can see it while they wait for their advising appointment. Some would say this quote is audacious. Why strive for such lofty goals when life would be so much easier without them? Some would argue that dreaming big and acting on those dreams takes away from living a balanced life. I disagree.

Goals and dreams move us forward. They provide benchmarks and milestones that are satisfying when we achieve them. Without goals, paths can become aimless and take us places that aren’t particularly meaningful. Goals should be big. They should be challenging. Goals should push us to reach our potential. The best goals and dreams should be about making a difference — beyond ourselves. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the author of this quote and recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process, walked this talk. The first woman in Africa elected as president of her country, Sirleaf was no stranger to big scary dreams. Her election as president of Liberia in 2005 did not come easily. Rather, it followed more than 20 years of political upheaval, including a violent coup d’état, imprisonment and exile. Big dreams are worth the effort because they change people’s lives.

The faculty, staff and students in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences dream big, and our goals are lofty. What other university department or school’s vision is as audacious as “helping others live their best lives?” That’s a tall order, but we’re up to the task.

This fall has been a perfect example of the scope and scale of all that we do, and you will read about several of our accomplishments in this edition of FCS Connections. For example, students in our apparel, textiles and design classes have experienced real-life partnerships with wool growers, weavers, professionals at Cotton, Inc. and Nike Swim, the U of I College of Engineering, Idaho-based clothing manufacturers, and even the VandalStore (check out these fabulous Niccolls Building inspired hats and ties). Our faculty and students in early childhood development and education are researching how children think and learn and the benefits of couching science education in the realm of food and agriculture. Our food and nutrition faculty both teach students the basics regarding food preparation, nutrition and health and also conduct research that impacts individuals, families and communities in Idaho, the nation and the world.

We were founded as the Department of Domestic Sciences in 1902, and our home economics roots run deep and strong. As we enter our 120th year at the University of Idaho, you can rest assured that our dreams are as big, strong and scary as ever.

I hope you enjoy this edition of FCS Connections.

Shelley McGuire signature imageSincerely,

Shelley McGuire
Director and Professor of Nutrition


Our stories

Uniquely Idaho

A collaboration between the University of Idaho Sheep Center and students in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences has resulted in a uniquely Idaho product.

An idea to honor retiring U of I shepherd Dave Casebolt turned into an opportunity for apparel, textiles and design students to create a blanket utilizing wool from the sheep that Casebolt spent so many years caring for.

Holiday Recipes

Each year, students in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences’ dietetics program create holiday-appropriate recipes to share with the Vandal family. Students develop recipes while learning and practicing principles of quantity food production. For this project, students work in pairs to create recipes that reflect the spirit of the season and Vandal pride.

The challenge for 2021 was: Brave. Bold. Students were challenged to create recipes that embody what it means to be brave and bold. Whether it’s bold flavors and colors, or a brave dish presentation, students were asked to think of dishes that harness the Brave. Bold. spirit.

This year’s wining recipe was a Bold Vandal Soup Shooter Combo from the kitchen of Rachael Rager, Sidney Schmidt and Ryanne Rogers. View all the 2021 holiday recipes and make them part of your celebrations this holiday season

Bacteria and Infant Growth

As a product made within the body, human milk was traditionally considered to be sterile. However, several studies in recent years, including the first study which was published by FCS alumna Katherine Yahveh as part of her U of I dissertation, have discovered that scientists at the University of Idaho are interested in discovering any associations between those bacteria and infant growth.

Alex Gogel, a U of I doctoral student, is working with Shelley McGuire, director of the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, and researchers at Johns Hopkins University to identify what bacteria are present in human milk samples and how those bacteria may be associated with infant growth.

“We want to understand more about the bacteria present in milk and how that might be important for infant health,” Gogel said.

Gogel has extracted DNA from 120 milk samples from mothers in rural Bangladesh at three months post-partum. The samples were part of a larger study by Johns Hopkins University that was evaluating the impact of multiple micronutrient supplements on infant birthrates, birth weight, infant mortality and premature birth. The samples Gogel is evaluating came from mothers in the control group, who received the standard care of iron folic acid.

“Right now, there just hasn’t been research on milk bacteria specifically and infant growth, so we had this unique opportunity to evaluate that at a very high level of data,” Gogel said.

As part of the initial study, researchers also gathered data from the infants, including length, weight and head circumference at three months old. Gogel is taking that data, along with the DNA of the identified bacteria, and running analyses to determine if there is a correlation between the diversity of a mother’s milk bacteria and the overall growth of their infant. Some milk samples have a lot of bacteria and an evenness in types of bacteria, while other samples are less rich and uneven.

This is the first research project specifically looking at the potential associations between milk bacteria and infant growth or infant size. Gogel’s findings are suggesting that associations do exist, meaning that future research is needed on the topic.

“Some of the interesting things we are finding is that there is some associations of variation in milk microbiome to infant size at three months,” she said. “We’re establishing, do these relationships exist? And if they do, that warrants more investigation.”

Gogel is finishing her analyses and will submit her findings to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“I have really fallen in love with maternal and infant nutrition,” Gogel said. “What’s so fascinating to me is that this is nutrition that is designed for us to consume. You can argue that no other thing we eat is designed for us. We eat plants and animals, but that’s our choice. Versus milk, which is designed to keep us alive. I think it’s really important to uncover aspects of human health, starting right at the beginning.”

Ramsay Research Unit Honors a Life's Work

Family members, students, colleagues and friends of the late Samantha Ramsay, a successful young associate professor in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, gathered to honor her memory and dedicate the Ramsay Research Unit in the Niccolls Building.

Mentors from Washington State University, former U of I graduate students and faculty colleagues described Ramsay, a nutritional physiology researcher, as a fierce advocate for her work and her students.

She earned bachelor and master’s degrees from WSU and her doctorate from U of I. She served on the U of I faculty from 2010-17.

Similar successes marked Ramsay’s life and career, her family, students and colleagues noted, from winning a faculty promotion and tenure to establishing a research program early in an academic career. Her life and career ended in 2017 in an accident as she pursued her passion for outdoor adventures, establishing strong bonds with fellow faculty members and scores of students.

She traveled internationally to establish ties with other researchers, and she pursued ties with Idaho-based funders seldom approached by those in her discipline.

Among those funding her work was the Idaho Wheat Commission which funded her project to test children’s taste preferences for whole-grain breads made from hard white wheat and the more traditional hard red wheat.

To accurately gather the scientific data needed for her work, Ramsay influenced a major building remodel to incorporate a versatile workspace to interview and test subjects, and an observation booth to monitor them.

Those areas provide the core of the Ramsay Research Unit that provides space and equipment for students to conduct nutrition research with human subjects.

The lab will help future researchers continue her efforts to understand better nutritional physiology for people of all ages.

The space will accommodate teaching, research and outreach. It will also serve as a student lounge and study space for family and consumer sciences students.

Faculty and student success

Apparel, textiles and design students created a necktie and beanie as part of the design and development for a client class last year. The students worked with the VandalStore this semester to turn their ideas into reality and their products are now for sale.

Dietetics master’s students Megan Follett and Katie Messerly were named North Idaho Area Health Education Center Scholars for 2021-2023. The AHEC Scholars program brings together students from multiple health disciplines, emphasizing a team-based approach to addressing health disparities.

FCS director Shelley McGuire was recently named a member of the expert committee of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research Breastfeeding and Global Education Initiative.

FCS professors Shelley McGuire and Ginny Lane were interviewed by the Idaho Statesman about childhood obesity trends in Idaho.

FCS students Maggie Zee, McKenna Graves, Anna Humphrey, Gavin Silguero-Perez and Montana Keating received a combined $20,550 in competitive scholarships from the Phi Upsilon Omicron Educational Foundation.

Child development graduate student Rebecca Sermeno’s conference proposal was recently accepted by the American Educational Research Association — a prestigious and the largest education research association in America. She will present her thesis project on early science education with her advisor, FCS Assistant Professor Shiyi Chen, in San Diego in April 2022.

Apparel, textiles and design instructor Chelsey Lewallen partnered with students in the U of I College of Engineering to develop a knitting bike.

Apparel, textiles and design students from the portfolio development course visited the development center for Cotton Inc. in Raleigh North Carolina to view fabrics, knitting/weaving techniques, and finishing/surface design/dyeing techniques to brainstorm ways to include cotton in a design project with Nike Swim.

Associate Professor and Extension Specialist Luke Erickson was interviewed on the MoneyFit podcast to discuss first-time homebuying in a hot housing market. He also authored a chapter in a new book, Financialization, Financial Literacy and Social Education.

Research corner

Assistant Professor Shiyi Chen recently received a three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to develop a professional development program, rooted in research on metacognition, to enhance rural educators and students’ food and agricultural literacy. The project is a joint effort between Chen and FCS faculty Ling-Ling Tsao and Annie Roe, UI Extension educator Ariel Agenbroad and Farm to Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator Alleah Schweitzer, leveraging expertise in educational psychology, child development, nutrition education and community outreach. Chen’s lab studies the development of metacognition and its application in learning. She plans to integrate evidence-based metacognitive teaching and learning strategies into the Farm to Early Care and Education program.

Ginny Lane, Ph.D., recently joined the FCS faculty as an assistant professor in nutrition. She was most recently at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, where she served as an adjunct professor, completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the School of Public Health, and graduated with a doctorate from the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. Her research focuses on food security and nutritional risks among vulnerable populations, including international and Indigenous contexts; determinants of chronic disease; and multidisciplinary mixed methods approaches to complex issues.

In collaboration with the Universidad de San Carlos, Lane has established a food security research project in Momostenango, Guatemala, a highly food insecure rural area largely populated by Indigenous Mayan people. Initial research focused on characterizing the experience of food insecurity to explore opportunities to intervene. Early results indicate that 85% of rural households are food insecure. During periods of food scarcity, food insecure families often reduce portion sizes, while food secure families only eat less preferred foods. Overall, food insecure households are larger, have an older mother with less education, and derive most family income from agricultural day labor.

In response to community member interest in establishing hen and egg operations to support long-term family food security, a pilot project was initiated with ten families in 2019. Lane plans to evaluate food security and health outcomes associated with the pilot project and expand the research team to include University of Idaho interdisciplinary faculty members and graduate students over the next few years.

Thank you!

FCS students and faculty will benefit from two newly established endowments in the department. Special thanks to Linda Fox and Euclid Lee and all of our FCS donors.

Linda Kirk Fox Faculty Excellence Endowment

Linda Kirk Fox, Ph.D., began her career at the University of Idaho, spanning 20 years from 1981-2001. During that time, she served as a UI Extension home economist in Boundary County, professor and Extension family economics specialist and became director of the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences. She recently retired as dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia and established this endowment to support FCS faculty in their research and public service efforts.

Shirley Carnie Lee Memorial Scholarship Endowment

Euclid Lee established the Shirley Carnie Lee Memorial Scholarship in memory of his wife, Shirley, who passed away in 2020. Shirley was a graduate of the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences and was a mentee of Margaret Ritchie. Shirley was able to attend the University of Idaho because of the proceeds from her county grand champion steer and the merit-based scholarships she received from Raymond Gray, Union Pacific and the University of Idaho Alumni Association. The endowment will support a freshman or transfer student at $4,000 per year and is renewable until their graduation.

If you are interested in learning more about establishing endowments to benefit FCS, please contact Ann Barrington at or 208-885-8606.

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