Scaramella appointed director of Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Thursday, April 11, 2019
The McClelland Park building houses the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. (Photo by Edwin Remsberg)

Laura Scaramella is the new director of the University of Arizona’s Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences after more than 15 years of experience at the University of New Orleans (UNO). She begins her new role at the University of Arizona on June 1.

Scaramella has been chair of UNO’s Department of Psychology for the past three years. Her research interests have focused on parenting and child development.  

She plans to work with faculty and community partners to reimagine the school’s strategic vision to better match community and research needs, securing more resources for its programs in doing so. She also plans to support a diverse student population with a curriculum that extends learning outside the classroom.

“I am excited to partner with the faculty, staff and students to create a bold and innovative path for the Norton School,” said Scaramella. “This path will uniquely leverage our greatest assets: the culture and diversity of Arizona’s heritage. Together, we will discover and disseminate new knowledge that will improve the lives of students, families and industry for decades to come.”

Shane Burgess, Charles-Sander Dean of the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, said Director Scaramella is prepared to lead the challenges of driving forward all aspects of the school, including its diverse research agenda. “Laura comes to us with a wealth of experience in adaptive leadership in some of the most challenging academic circumstances imaginable.”

“President Robert C. Robbins’ Fourth Industrial Revolution vision for us to fulfill at the UA, and its reality in the world tomorrow, brings great challenges. We must prepare our students not only to do, but also to create, tomorrow’s jobs – jobs that we may not even be able to imagine today. Dr. Scaramella is highly motivated to ensure the Norton School’s graduates can and will meet the Fourth Industrial Revolution challenge.”

An alumna of Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School, Scaramella earned her Ph.D. and master’s degree in family studies and child development from the University of Arizona in 1994 and 1991, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Catholic University of America in 1988. She spent two years as an associate research scientist at Iowa State University before joining the faculty at UNO in 2000. She has over 50 publications.

As psychology graduate coordinator for ten years during her tenure at UNO, she mentored students on their career plans, beginning as early as their application process, and ensured they were ready for the workplace by matching them with applied experiences in teaching or administering treatment and interventions in community settings.

Since 2013, Scaramella has partnered with colleagues from the University of Maryland and the University of Florida to examine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill for families residing in rural Gulf Coast communities.

She served as chair of a National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review study section from 2013 to 2015 and said these experiences in teambuilding and leadership were particularly significant among many professional and university service commitments during her years at UNO.

Scaramella was the recipient of the UA Alumni Association’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award.

The Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences’ retailing and consumer sciences undergraduate degree is considered one of the top retail business programs in the country. Together with degrees in family studies and human development as well as personal and family financial planning, the school has nearly 1,000 undergraduates and also offers a graduate program in family studies and human development. The Norton School has three multidisciplinary research, outreach, and corporate engagement entities: the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families, the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, and the Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research.

“Critically, Laura appreciates how all the Norton School’s programs have a common heritage in home economics,” Burgess said. “She also shares with me and college leaders our very strong motivation to continue our research strengths in Family Studies and Human Development and to develop an internationally recognized research program in Consumer Sciences areas of the future.”

“The changing global marketplace requires innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship,” Scaramella said. “The Norton School’s longstanding tradition of research excellence and community-based partnerships means the school is well positioned to lead and shape the next generation of retail and consumer scholars and professionals.”

“I am amazed at the quality of the partnerships and programming developed through Cooperative Extension,” she added. “Creating and sharing new knowledge that directly impacts families and individuals is central to the UA, CALES, and Norton School missions.”

“I am excited to support and help develop the work of our extension faculty.”

UA is Arizona’s land-grant university, available online at

Bethany Rutledge
Director of Administration and Communications, Office of the Vice President and Dean / ALVSCE Administration