What is Social Science?

UMA Social Science Professor Lorien Lake-Corral

Social Science Begins where Common Sense Ends…

From the 19th Century to the 21st Century, social science has shown a knack for upending ‘common sense.’ Have you ever asked yourself…

  • Why history unfolds the way it does? Whether it could have gone differently?
  • Why some people are successful in life while others struggle?
  • How politicians manage to gain and lose followers?
  • Why your thoughts and feelings collide?
  • How your community will manage climate change?
  • What it takes to stop crime?
  • Why people don’t always do what’s best for their health?
  • Whether you would follow a madman off a cliff?

… and has anyone ever told you the answer is “common sense” or “obvious?”

Well, they’re wrong.

Social science begins with the insight that our “common sense” or “obvious” ideas about how human individuals, groups, communities and societies behave just don’t match up with the way they actually behave. Social science is a systematic way of getting past “common sense” to study the surprising cognitive and social lives of human beings. We find that various contexts shape the way human beings think and the way human societies act.

Social Science is Many Ways of Seeing

Social science is composed of many disciplines. This means that when you graduate with a social science degree, you’ll be able to study, understand and work with the many different kinds of context that affect our lives. Each different social context is studied by a different social science.

Social Science is…

  • Anthropology: the study of the global development and diversity of human culture
  • Communications: the study of how spoken, written, and non-verbal messages create meaning
  • Economics: the study of how the distribution of resources and value affects behavior
  • Geography: the study of how human behavior is affected by the physical environment
  • Political Science: the study of the emergence, function and change of systems of government
  • Psychology: the study of the mind and its effect on individual and group behavior
  • Sociology: the study of groups, communities and societies that shape individuals and one another

The Social Science B.A. challenges you to consider how of these contexts affects outcomes as small as the course of an individual life and as large as the fate of civilization itself.

Social Science is Empirical

Social scientists appreciate a good story as much as anyone else, but we don’t stop there. Social scientists develop particular kinds of stories called “theories” that try to explain why the world works the way it does, but we also test those theories by watching the world carefully and noticing whether the world actually works the way our theories suggest. Both the generation of theory and the testing of theory happen through observation of the world: this makes social science empirical. The systematic approach we take to observing and analyzing the world makes our field a research-driven science.

Students studying for a Social Science B.A. gain a variety of skills in social research. You’ll learn about techniques from experiments to surveys, practice analysis using both hard numbers and in-depth qualitative field notes, and take advantage of opportunities for applied research in current topics like social network analysis, climate change community study, policy scholarship and social media analytics.

Social Science is Changing

Social Science at UMA

In the 21st Century, social scientists are using computers and the online environment to study the world, to reach the world, and to communicate with the world using cutting-edge technologies. As a Social Science student, you won’t just be a consumer in the Information Age; at a time when information is the new currency and knowledge is power, you’ll gain the ability to evaluate the value of information with a critical eye and to create new knowledge about the world around you.

What Kind of Person Makes a Great Social Science Major?

Social Science isn’t right for everybody, but it just might be right for you. In our experience, a student who gets the most out of a Social Science degree is…

  • Someone who doesn’t accept common wisdom at face value
  • Someone who enjoys considering multiple possibilities
  • Someone who is (or wants to become) a keen observer of their environment
  • Someone who notices patterns
  • Someone who is not satisfied with the way things are
  • Someone who wants to chart their own course in work and in life
  • Someone who wants to change the world

If this describes you, we’d love to talk with you and explore the possibilities. 

What Do People do with a Social Science Degree?

Because the scope of Social Science is as broad as society itself, the range of possibilities for a purpose-driven career and a meaningful life with a Social Science degree is staggeringly wide. What do people do with a Social Science degree? Among other things, they:

  • Address food insecurity
  • Advocate for better policy
  • Agitate for human rights
  • Anticipate breakdowns in public safety
  • Archive history as it happens
  • Break into business
  • Bring communities together
  • Broaden horizons
  • Call on clients in social work
  • Collect data for the government
  • Consult to improve workplaces
  • Cultivate connections
  • Direct social programs
  • Divert bullying and violence
  • Draft legislation
  • Enter academics
  • Fight crime
  • Call on clients in social work
  • Collect data for the government
  • Consult to improve workplaces
  • Cultivate connections
  • Direct social programs
  • Divert bullying and violence
  • Draft legislation
  • Enter academics
  • Fight crime
  • Head to law school
  • Hear others’ stories
  • Help organ donation drives work better
  • Imagine alternatives
  • Improve childhood outcomes
  • Invent new forms of social media
  • Measure inequality
  • Mediate conflicts
  • Mentor the next generation
  • Notice difference
  • Open clinical practice
  • Organize
  • Prevent and treat substance abuse
  • Release breaking news
  • Respond to natural and human disasters
  • Run for public office
  • Serve as victim advocates
  • Speak truth to power
  • Stop epidemics
  • Teach what they know
  • Track aging populations
  • Work as lobbyists

We care. We think. We research. And then we act. Through this combination, in ways large and small, we change the world.

We’re Here For You

Because it encompasses so many different disciplines, so many different ways of knowing, such a broad range of possible courses, and so many different ways of delivering courses (in person, in the field, over video and online), the UMA Social Science degree is perfect for a student who is looking for flexibility in a program of study. In the Social Science program, we offer a number of ways to fit our courses to your need, rather than demanding that you fit yourself to our needs.

The UMA Social Science faculty are here for you, to help you become more than you are, to help you accomplish a degree with meaning and potential. Interested in the Social Science B.A.? Get in touch; we’d love to talk.

UMA Social Science Mission and Vision Statements

  • Mission Statement
    UMA’s Social Science program provides students with a curriculum and academic supports to increase their knowledge and skills in the social sciences. The program offers courses supporting UMA’s General Education requirements as well as in-depth training for social science majors. Because the Social Science program values community development & engagement, our learning community is committed to supporting institution-wide research literacy and engaging in applied social science research projects.

  • Vision Statement
    The Social Science Program is society-centered.  We believe a better world is possible through empirical observation and action.  We help students build their capacity for action in the world through mastery of theoretical frames, the development of research skills, and the practices of community intervention.  We aim to graduate students who are self-directed lifelong learners and professionals, who critically reflect on the world around them and who engage in the local and global communities in which they live.