The first women at the Michigan Agricultural College enrolled in 1896 in the "women's course," taught by Edith F. McDermott, Professor of Domestic Economy and Household Science. In 1899, the Michigan Legislature appropriated $89,000 for a new building for women. Morrill Hall was dedicated in 1900 as the first residential college on campus, housing 120 female students. Although the early program was undifferentiated from the academic program for men, it soon grew to include content of interest to women in their family roles. In 1908, the women's course became known as Home Economics, and Maude Gilchrist was named the first dean. By the 1920s, the program included education, child development, foods and nutrition, home management, and clothing and textiles. The Home Economics building opened in 1924, one of several classroom and research buildings erected between World Wars I and II, to house new classrooms and specialized training. After World War II, the Home Management House was established (1947) and offered a residential experience to home economics students studying the organization and management of the modern home. The School of Home Economics became the College of Home Economics in 1956.
A 1967 study of the future of home economics
resulted in a change in direction and in a new name for the college. The change to the College of Human Ecology on July 1, 1970, signaled the new focus on the study of the interaction of humans with their environments. Professor Beatrice Paolucci was a leader in helping define the direction of the College and the field, and developed an international reputation for her role in advancing the theories and strategies for the ecological studies of individuals and families. In 1989, the Home Management House was renamed the Paolucci Building.
In 2006, all programs within the College were integrated into four other MSU colleges, with the close of the College of Human Ecology on August 1, 2006.