Life in a Fish Bowl
NC State’s female students get their own counselor
to help them adjust.
The cartoon in a 1962 issue of State College News was meant to illustrate what it felt like to be a female stu- dent on NC State’s overwhelmingly male campus.
“Life on a predominantly male campus,” the caption reads,
“often gives the State coed the feeling of a ‘fish in a big bowl.’”
It was that atmosphere that led the college to create a new
position of adviser to women. Julia Miller, whose husband was
head of the psychology department, filled the post, having worked
as a counselor at the University of Buffalo and Penn State.
“The charming adviser, the mother of two daughters. . . has
an innate ability to recognize problems facing young women
today,” read the article in State College News (the precursor to
NC State magazine). “At times she plays the part of a fairy god-
mother waving her magic wand, vanishing what previously
seemed to be a mountain-high problem.”
Those problems ranged from boys to curricula, Miller said.
The biggest challenge faced by female students, she said, was
adjusting to life on a large college campus in which they were
the minority. At the time, there were 220 women on a campus
of 7,000 students. “A
coed very often finds
that she is the only girl
in a class. . . . The men
students stare at the
pretty young things as
they walk from class to class,” read the article.
Then there was the lack of on-campus housing for women.
Miller said problems arose when female students were “living
in rented rooms or apartments in town where they do not have
the usual dormitory rules and regulations to follow.” Some of
the female students told Miller they had a hard time convincing their mothers to let them enroll at NC State because of
the lack of dorms. (That changed in 1964 when Watauga Hall
was remodeled and opened as a women’s dorm, complete with
curfews on weeknights and weekends.)
Despite all the issues, Miller said, the “coeds” at NC State
were a happy lot. “I haven’t heard of one single girl who doesn’t
like it here,” she said. —Sylvia Adcock ’81
Julia Miller, NC State’s first counselor
for women, advises a student. Below, a
cartoon gives a depiction of what life was
like for female students in the 1960s.