At the University of Georgia's College of Family and Consumer Sciences, nutrition science major Brandon Esco is part of a growing trend. Five years ago, only 10 percent of the college's students were men. Last year, nearly one-third of the 1,700 students -- and about 40 percent of the tenure-track faculty -- were men.
Those changes are helping to undermine the stereotypes long acquainted with home economic programs, often sneeringly chided as a "Mrs." degree.
Experts say even the moniker "home ec" itself is outdated: Many schools have changed their programs to terms such as "human sciences" to reflect a broader nature.
"Our students graduate to become lawyers, loan counselors, directors of day care, dietitians," said Sharon Nickols, dean of UGA's College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "We just don't know their major because they don't say, 'I'm a family and consumer scientist.' "
The cookie-baking classes and pop quizzes on laundry essentials that once dominated some home ec courses in junior high have broadened into courses geared toward "life skills," including tips for budgeting and basic knowledge of supply and demand.
Those changes have drawn more male students, said Don Bower, president of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, once called the American Home Economics Association.
"Today's the golden age of home ec," said Dennis Savaiano, the dean of Purdue University's College of Consumer and Family Sciences. "We're directing all the same issues -- family, food and finance -- in a much broader, societal way. These are issues that transcend the home and reflect society in every way."
In the 1950s, Americans recovering from World War II -- when the men fought overseas and their wives took their jobs in factories -- reemphasized the value of working in the home for women. By the 1970s, programs began to branch out more and niche topics such as child development, marriage counseling and family therapy became separate studies at many schools.
Within the last decade, that pace has quickened. It is not uncommon to find schools offering specialized degrees that focus on property management or courses that tackle nutrition and fitness through a neuroscience lens.
Those increasingly specialized programs have helped draw more women and men.
Florida State University's College of Human Sciences, for instance, has taken an athletic training program under its umbrella while expanding its offering into more sub-specialties. Dean Penny Ralston said that has helped the school almost triple in size in seven years and attract more men.
But there is still the persistent question of how to broaden the appeal of woman-friendly programs.
"Men need nutrition, counseling and health classes just as much as women," said University of Georgia professor Mary Ann Johnson.
Esco said he was lured to the University of Georgia by the promise of a good pre-dentistry program. But he ended up choosing a nutrition science major instead of a more traditional biology or chemistry track.
"They look at nutrition and how it affects your whole body in a holistic way, then break it down to a cellular level," he said of his professors. "And it's so much more -- they teach you how to be humble, how to be a leader."
Students Talia DeLuca, left, and Alan Gilmer, who are majoring in furnishings and interiors at Georgia, work together on a residential design project.