History & Context

Commitment to Reconciliation

The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences is situated on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron people. From the Anishinaabe to the Haudenosaunee and the Métis, these treaty lands are steeped in rich indigenous history and modern traditions.

Today, this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Acknowledging them reminds us of the College's important connections to this land where we learn and work as well as the communities with whom we work.

Our plans for moving the College forward are informed by our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Our Roots

A dynamic and diverse college with a long history of commitment to hands-on learning, socially responsive research, local and global community engagement, and mobilization and exchange of knowledge, the College traces its roots back to Macdonald Institute, founded in 1903 to educate young women in domestic sciences and thus improve the health and well-being of families and society.

Over the following decades, the Institute grew and evolved with the needs of a changing society. In 1964, it joined with the Ontario Agricultural College and Ontario Veterinary College to form the University of Guelph. A new unit, Wellington College, was formed at the University that year to deliver arts and sciences programs.

Over time, Macdonald Institute was renamed the College of Family and Consumer Studies, and Wellington College was divided into three Colleges, including the College of Social Sciences. The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences was formed in 1998 from the merger of Family and Consumer Studies and Social Sciences.


The College has existed in its current form since 2006, with five diverse departments: Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology and Anthropology. It is currently home to approximately 5000 undergraduate students, 365 graduate students, 125 faculty, and 70 staff.

The College provides exemplary undergraduate and graduate programs in each of its disciplines, and also delivers interdisciplinary programs such as International Development, Environmental Governance, and Criminal Justice and Public Policy. As well, the College is a partner in the interdisciplinary neuroscience program that will begin admitting students in fall 2017.

The programs offered by the College span social, applied and natural sciences, as indicated by the degrees offered, which include the BA, BASc, BSc, MA, MSc and PhD. Accredited professional programs include the Masters of Applied Nutrition (MAN), MSc in Couple and Family Therapy, and the PhD in Clinical Psychology.

The learner-centred programs offered by the College provide students with a solid grounding in disciplinary theory and methods, as well as the application of that learning to contemporary issues relating to justice, inequality, social change, health and well-being, the environment, and development.

Throughout, there is an emphasis on experiential learning and application of knowledge in community, research, professional and policy settings.

Our Research

The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences is a research-intensive unit where faculty members have active research programs of national and international stature. Research in the College is funded by all three of Canada's federal funding agencies (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), as well as other public and private sources.

The College houses 7 Canada Research Chairs, the Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work, and (starting in 2018) the Arrell Chair in Food, Policy, and Society. Much of the research produced within the College aligns solidly within the scholarly disciplines represented in the College, but many faculty are also engaged in interdisciplinary work.

Examples of this are found in the College's Centre for Families, Work and Well-being, which addresses the interface between family, paid work, and contextual factors that shape workplace experiences. The College also facilitates teaching and research collaborations with community partners through the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI).

Where We Are Going

The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences is on solid footing, with a well-loved institutional history that has firm links to its current strengths in teaching and research that address societal needs.

Building on those achievements to ensure the continued success of the College requires a shared understanding of where we want to go as a community, how we want to focus our energy, and where we will allocate the financial, human and physical resources available to us in the coming years.

The processes we engaged in to develop this Strategic Plan allowed us to develop and articulate that shared understanding of our path forward.