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Demography Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary

September 18, 2017

In the 1960s, concerns about population growth in the U.S. and the world were at their height. For nearly two decades, scientists from a variety of disciplines had been warning about mass starvations, environmental crises and major societal upheavals due to the increasing number of people on the planet, culminating in the 1968 publication of the best-selling and controversial book “The Population Bomb” by Paul and Anne Ehrlich.

Even as that book argued for immediate action to address population growth, research and scholarship were already under way at Florida State University. In 1967, the Population and Manpower Resource Center was established at FSU, conducting research and training with support from the federal government.

Under the directorship of Charles Nam, the center recruited David Sly and Bob Weller from the Department of Sociology and Tom Espenshade from the Department of Economics. They were given joint appointments in the center, bringing academic skills that made it possible to build the population program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and attract students to it.

In 1970 the officers of the Population Association of America (PAA) invited Nam to assume editorship of Demography, at the time the PAA’s still young journal. With Sly, Espenshade, and Weller as associate editors, the journal was edited at FSU for three years. The success of that undertaking helped the center achieve greater recognition in the profession and laid the foundation for its continued growth and development.

As time went on and the rate of population growth began to subside, the center focused research attention on critical issues that remained, such as population aging, immigration, shifts in the causes of death and concentration of people in cities. While changing titles a couple times over the next few years, the center expanded its scope to also include geographers, urban and regional planners and political scientists.

The Florida Board of Regents approved a Master of Science in Demography (MSD) in 1984. Because of its interdisciplinary character, the MSD program was housed in the center, establishing formal training and research functions. Initially a two-year program, the MSD was later tailored to make it the intensive one-year program it is today. It is the longest-running MSD program in the nation and boasts 90 percent in-field job placement within six months of attaining the degree.

In 1985, the Center for Demography and Population Health (CDPH) was recognized as an independent unit of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. Today, students in the program are trained as applied demographers in preparation for jobs requiring advanced skills in data analysis and data management. Graduates of the MSD program are located in both government and private sector positions in the U.S. and throughout the world.

The center has thrived through the decades supporting evidence-based public policy through interdisciplinary research on demographic processes and population health. Research focuses include children, youth, and families; disparities in health and survival; environment and health; fertility and reproductive health; stress processes; and statistical and mathematical demography.

In its 50-year history, the Center for Demography and Population Health has had six directors: Charles Nam (1967-1981), David Sly (1981-1990), William Serow (1990-2003), Elwood Carlson (2003-2007), Isaac Eberstein (2007-2010) and Karin Brewster (2010-present). Each has made a significant contribution to strengthening the center and building its reputation.

CDHP will mark these achievements, celebrate its anniversary and look to the future with the following events that are free and open to the public:

“Alumni ‘Doing Good’ Through Applied Research”
Panel showcasing the work of
Mathew Hauer, Ph.D.
Neha Nanda, Ph.D.
Kara Riehman, Ph.D.
Friday October 6, 2017
12:00—1:00 p.m.

DeVoe Moore Conference Room
150E Bellamy Building

Charles B. Nam Lecture:
“Spatial Disparities in Mortality: Where We've Been and Where We're Headed”

Jeralynne S. Cossman, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
West Virginia University
Friday October 6, 2017
3:00-4:30 p.m.

Broad Auditorium, Pepper Center
636 W. Call St.
Reception to follow

The anniversary celebration will continue on Saturday, October 7, with two invitation-only events for alumni, faculty, staff, students, supporters, and friends of the center: a panel of alumni offering their perspectives of the center through the decades and an anniversary gala in the evening, featuring remarks by Professor Emeritus Charles Nam. As the center’s founding director, Nam is looking forward to welcoming alumni back for this special occasion.

“We’re understandably very proud that the center has a great national and international reputation,” said Nam. “So many of the students we trained took positions in governments and private industry, and those who went on to teach at colleges and universities have used their skills to train another generation of students.”

For more information about the Center for Demography and Population health, visit this link.


Dr. Charles B. Nam (seated, with glasses) and colleagues at the
start of the center in 1967.