Social Theory and Practice Major

Note: The Social Theory and Practice Major is open to ALL LSA Students.

The RC Social Theory and Practice Major supports students in developing the analytical and practical skills necessary for active engagement in the world and for building careers that promote equality and responsible citizenship. Faculty whose work encompasses sociology, political science, history, anthropology, economics, education, environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, geography, and psychology provide students with multi-disciplinary approaches to current issues in U.S. society and the global environment. Students learn theories, methods, and strategies that enable them to understand and critique social structures and processes and to become effective actors in struggles for justice. They take core courses together, and create individual major plans tailored to their specific interests. Recent STP concentrators have pursued such topics as “Health Policy in the United States,” “Tracking Globalization in Detroit,” “Juvenile Justice in the U.S. and Senegal,” “Urban Youth Empowerment,” “Sustainable Agriculture in Michigan and Cuba,” “Peace, Policy, and Public Health,” and “Community Dialogues.”

The STP Major Advisor, David Burkam, advises students about requirements and course options, tracks their progress through the major, and signs release forms.

The student’s faculty mentor is an intellectual guide and companion who shares the student’s academic interests. STP students are linked with a faculty mentor during the semester they submit a major proposal (See “c” below), however a student might have multiple faculty mentors over the years.

Major Prerequisites

Before declaring the RC Social Theory and Practice Major (typically at the end of the sophomore or early junior year), students complete the following prerequisites:

a) RCSSCI 260: Understanding Power/Theorizing Knowledge and RCSSCI 290, a one credit course taken in the same semester that helps them prepare their Individual Major Proposal (see c below).

b) One other RCSSCI “gateway” course at the 200 or low 300 level chosen in consultation with the STP Major Advisor. The aim of the gateway courses is to introduce students to issues and approaches in the social sciences as well as to the ways questions are framed from different disciplinary perspectives.

c) An Individual Major Proposal, which outlines the student’s own plan of study and is written in consultation with a faculty mentor assigned by the 290 instructor. The proposal should specify the intellectual rationale for the major, lay out the courses that the student might take, and indicate the kind of senior project the student may complete in the final semester or year. Students may continue to meet informally with their mentors throughout their years in the STP program, or they may choose another faculty mentor as their interests change.

Major Requirements

All concentrators must complete the following requirements in addition to the prerequisites:

1) Two courses devoted to social theory. One of these must be RCSSCI 301: The Origins of Social Science Thinking. This course focuses on the early development of political economy, sociology, and psychology in both Europe and the U.S. The second theory course will be chosen in consultation with the STP Major advisor.

2) At least one research methods course in social science inquiry that includes a quantitative component, usually STATS 250, SOC 310, or ECON 404.

3) A minimum of 16 credits and four upper-level courses, at least one of these outside the RC, that are integral to the plan the student outlined in the Individual Major Proposal.

4) RCSSCI 460: Senior Project Seminar. Typically taken by all STP majors during the Fall of the senior year.

5) Completion of a Senior Project. This requirement, considered the culmination of the major, is usually completed through RCSSI 460 under the supervision of a faculty mentor.  Students work closely with their respective faculty mentors, meeting regularly to discuss the projects and their writing. A Senior Project can take many forms:

a) One type of senior project stems from an internship or field study in the U.S. or abroad which synthesizes on-going involvement in a “real world” setting with critical and conceptual analysis and personal reflection. Typically, the project is documented in a written report of about 15-25 pages.

b) Another type of senior project is a more traditional semester-long thesis that explores themes from the student’s individual plan of study in the STP Major. The thesis is typically 30-50 pages in length, and either is organized around a series of analytical questions or makes an argument for a particular point of view or practical application.

c) Ambitious students with an overall GPS of 3.4 or higher may consider completing an Honors Thesis. This year-long empirical research and writing project of around 60 pages allows a student to pursue a particular set of original research questions developed by the student in consultation with his or her thesis advisor or other instructor (generally within the RC) who agrees to be the “first reader” of the finished work. The student takes the initiative to find a “second reader” (often outside the RC), who agrees to read and evaluate the final draft of the student’s work.  

A student deemed eligible to attempt Honors typically completes the following process:

1. During the fall semester when the student is enrolled in RCSSCI 460, the student begins the research process, and the student and thesis advisor meet fairly regularly to discuss appropriate resources and preliminary plans. The student and instructor of RCSSCI 460 will also determine how much of thesis must be completed during the fall semester in order to satisfy the requirements of the Senior Seminar course.

2. As the fall semester concludes, the student, thesis advisor, and RCSSCI 460 instructor will decide if the work is to continue into the winter semester or whether the student will complete a non-Honors senior project.

3. If the student continues to write an Honors thesis in the winter semester, the student may register for up to 4 credits of Core 490, Honors Thesis.

4. At the completion of the thesis, the first and second readers agree on a level of Honors. Awarding Graduation Honors in the major for Honors candidates is not automatic. Satisfying the eligibility requirements for Honors and writing an Honors thesis does not guarantee Graduation Honors. The student’s course work in the senior year must continue to be of very high quality, and the thesis project must meet one of the standards listed below.

Honors certifies excellent intellectual and/or creative achievement and originality of thought in the honors thesis.

High Honors recognizes an unusually high level of achievement and is awarded only when the honors thesis is of outstanding quality and special originality.

Highest Honors is a rare award, given from time to time, for a truly brilliant honors thesis.

If the quality of the course work, honors thesis, and any other program-specific requirements justify the awarding of graduation with Honors in the view of the faculty readers, the student’s name and the level of the award to be received will be sent by the principal thesis advisor to the STP major advisor and the RC’s Academic Services Office, at which time the information will be forwarded to the University Recorder’s Office for posting on the final transcript and on the diploma.

Social Theory and Practice Faculty and Their Interests

Charlie Bright : history; global, geopolitics and war; punishment and prisons; U.S. politics; Detroit.

David Burkam : schooling; gender, race, and social inequities in educational access; research methods; statistics.  

Sueann Caulfield:  Latin American history, emphasis on Brazil; gender, sexuality, and human rights.

Angela Dillard : American and African-American intellectual history; political ideology; conservative thought; critical race  theory; religious studies; U.S. social movements.

Jeff Evans :  psychology of creativity; clinical psychology; neuropsychology, concept of the person.

Hank Greenspan : holocaust and genocide; clinical psychology; oral history; health policy.

Ashley Lucas :  arts practice and incarceration, theatre for social change, impact of incarceration on families, Latina/o Studies, comparative ethic studies.

Michelle McClellan : addiction; public history; historical preservation and sustainability; Michigan history; Detroit.

Virginia Murphy :environmental justice; social justice; sustainability.

Jennifer Myers : developmental psychology; early adult development, impact of illness on development.

Ian Robinson : Comparative and international political economy; unions and labor movements; organizing for social justice; ethical consumption; worker rights and trade policy; neoliberal and alternative models of North American integration; Mexican labor migration; the situation of Mexican workers in the U.S. economy; political struggles in Mexico; the corporatization of higher education; the pedagogy of experiential and community service learning.

Stephen Ward : African-American history; the Black Power Movement; community-based political activism; urban studies; Detroit.

Revised 1-28-2014