Course Summary

Course Description

Imagine a society in which the problems of inequality, criminal behavior, prejudice, and an unfair legal system are reduced or even eliminated altogether. The Designing Societies concentration is ideal for students who want to make this vision a reality. Students are prepared for a variety of professions in social justice, politics, and creating and understanding social movements.

Career Possibilities

  • Urban Planner
  • Lawyer with Specialization in Criminal Law
  • Community Organizer
  • Public Relations Director
  • Employment Specialist
  • Market Researcher

Major Foundation Requirements

SS300 / Boom, Bust, and Bubbles: The Free Enterprise System

Market inefficiencies are critical drivers of global financial instability. Study the utility of specific economic principles by examining systemic market failures such as the Japanese boom and bust of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the various asset price bubbles (equity, housing, commodities, etc.), and periods of relative market calm and prosperity. What trigger events turn market vulnerabilities into panics or manias? What impact can regulation have on lessening or heightening market volatility? Students predict the next "bubble" in the global economy.

SS301 / Cognitive Neuroscience

How does the brain give rise to the mind? Learn about neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the brain, and consider the role of this physical substrate in neural computation. The focus is on higher cognitive functions. Topics include the effects of exercise on the brain, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, sex differences in brain structure and organization, and the brain basis of mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia

SS302 / Social Inequality

Do the same factors underlie inequality in different countries or at different points in history? Examine key empirical findings and theories about social inequality, with an international focus. Look at mechanisms for upward mobility and ways in which those mechanisms are constrained by various economic, psychological and cultural factors. Includes political and economic implications of inequality throughout history and in contemporary societies.

Concentration Core Requirements

SS351 / Social Psychology in Action

Apply concepts from social psychology to contemporary issues such as decreasing aggression, encouraging helping behaviors, reducing racism and stigma, and encouraging green-friendly behaviors. Public policy implications and pro-social messaging (public service announcements) are an integral part of the material.

SS371 / Social Movements

Social movements have shaped every culture throughout history. Study major social movements beginning in the 18th century and continuing to the present time, with an emphasis on the global and transnational social movements. Activities focus on research findings and theory.

SS374 / Modeling Complex Phenomena

Development of thinking in terms of models. Students work with modeling software to create a society that meets specified criteria. Addresses interesting problems in multidisciplinary model-building.

Concentration Electives

SS331 / Poverty, Politics and Governments

What role should governments play in addressing poverty, in their own countries and in others? How do political considerations factor into a leader’s policies on poverty? Learn about countries dealing with poverty on a global scale, and have an opportunity to suggest and argue for solutions to this complex problem.

SS372 / Sociology of Organizations

Research the characteristics of organizations that have different goals, histories, sizes, and niches. Discuss what makes an organization successful and how those factors change at different stages of an organization’s "life cycle."

SS471 / International Entrepreneurs

New companies are the lifeblood of any economy, but the level of difficulty in creating and running them varies in different countries. Brainstorm and review strategies for enterprise formation and management in different parts of the world, with a focus on information-age companies. Examine policies that encourage and discourage entrepreneurship in various societies.

SS472 / Social Class Over Time and Place

Social classes have always existed, but their meaning has changed over time and varies over place. Research key empirical findings about social class as well as structural theories, race, discrimination, and mechanisms for change. Further topics include the unequal distribution of wealth, the possibility of class warfare, and the meaning of "fairness." Is it possible or desirable to have a classless society?

SS571 / Poverty and Justice

Must poverty always exist? Critically examine theories of why poverty exists, facts about the causes of poverty from the beginning of the 20th century to the present, and efforts to eliminate poverty. All students spend time with people living in poverty, seeing firsthand how they actually live.

SS572 / Family: An International Perspective

Explore how the concept of family is evolving in different societies. Discuss the roles of the family in individualist versus collectivist cultures, and look into how concepts about family are transmitted via the media and how they affect other cultures.

SS573 / Ethnicity and Nationalism Throughout History

Focus on notions of national and ethnic identity and cultural values, the role of natural and human resources in creating great trade economies, political movements, and the tension between the individual and the collective in different societies throughout the world and throughout history.

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