Human Sciences in the Contemporary World

Human Sciences: Making Theory Practical

The aim of the Human Sciences in the Contemporary World (HUSC) department is to cultivate in students a productive, philosophically- and historically-informed understanding of the world of the twenty-first century. We draw upon disciplines like anthropology, sociology, social psychology, linguistics, and social studies of science that have developed concepts essential for understanding the differences between traditional and modern cultures and societies. HUSC students learn how to apply broad-based theories learned in their classes to real-world issues currently being faced by contemporary societies.

The HUSC program is centered on the following three components:

Theory

What is it to be human, and where and how do human beings thrive? Addressing those questions is the heart of the program in Human Sciences in the Contemporary World.

            You might expect that answers to the questions need to come from, say, the philosophy or the theology or the psychology or the politics departments, on the one hand, and the biology department on the other. All of them, and others as well, have a great deal to say about the fundamental questions of being human. They also say different things: human beings are rational animals, made in the image and likeness of God, affective, desiring, and meaning-seeking animals, political and valuing animals, only animals (albeit of a distinctive type). It is, unfortunately, not immediately clear how to reconcile these divergent answers. Things get all the more complicated when one adds answers given by modern social and behavioral sciences like sociology, anthropology, economics, cognitive science, animal psychology, linguistics, etc., etc., etc. Is it left to each undergraduate (and human being!) to puzzle out matters for him- or herself? If you want a thoughtful response, come join us in Human Sciences in the Contemporary World to think about them together.

Practical Research

What are the institutions, structures, and practices that encourage change? What resources exist within contemporary societies to foster, to resist, and to adapt to change? Can a heritage or tradition be preserved in the face of unfettered dynamism? To what degree can we understand the forces and processes at work in the contemporary world, and how far can we guide our practice by what we learn of them? In light of the great Western traditions of learning, culture, and Christian belief, how can we productively and creatively address the impending future? These are the kinds of questions that are addressed by the concentration and the major in Human Sciences in the Contemporary World.

            Each student will have the opportunity to explore these questions through their own guided research project(s). Students develop practical skills in research design, interviewing, and data analysis. Previous research projects have addressed food insecurity in South Dallas, experiences of loneliness in college dorms, understandings of the word “ghetto”, body image and religiosity, and representations of mental illness among Latinos in film.

Interdisciplinary Electives

A major goal of the HUSC program is to counteract the divisive force of intellectual overspecialization and compartmentalization by drawing on all the social and behavioral sciences, as well as appropriate humanities and scientific disciplines, in order to understand the constitution of human meaning.

            A unique component of the degree plan for HUSC majors is the interdisciplinary elective requirement. In conversation with their major advisor, HUSC students select up to 12 hours of electives that will help guide their thesis development.

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