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Faculty Focus: Social Science

Q&A with Robert Andersen, Dean, Faculty of Social Science, Professor of Sociology

August 31, 2016

Faculty Focus: Social Science
Robert Andersen, Dean, Faculty of Social Science and Professor of Sociology, Political Science, Statistics and Actuarial Science.

Q: What do you hope students will take from their experiences studying in Western’s Faculty of Social Science?
: A social science education – in addition to giving students the tools to succeed in areas related to social science – enables students to hone general skills, such as communication and problem-solving, which are essential in countless professions. Research has shown that social science programs teach the skills necessary to move up in the real world.

Q: What are some of the challenges currently facing Social Science?
: The social sciences, generally, are suffering from an identity problem because instead of coming together, we’re too often working on our own and not collaborating in the ways we could be to get the best results. We also need to promote the importance and value of what social scientists can do through analyzing empirical data and looking to other countries for information to address so many of the issues in the world. We need to draw more attention to what Social Science can offer. If we invested a little more in these areas, we could come up with programs that would limit problems in other areas that aren’t necessarily seen as directly related, such as health care or terrorism. We’re uniquely situated to be able to tackle the largest issues facing society and providing solutions.

Q:What are a few of the new initiatives on the horizon?
: We’re in the process of developing an Institute for Social and Economic Policy that will bring together top researchers in our faculty and elsewhere to conduct research and enable us to address critical issues facing our world today, such as immigration, ethnic relations, income disparity, human capital and economic prosperity, as well as produce first-rate academic research. Our aim is to foster a multidisciplinary approach to using advanced data creation and analytic techniques to generate evidence-based policy research that will inform social and economic policy. This institute will set Social Science apart and help to shine a light on the value of collaboration by social scientists, in general. We are also in the process of creating a much-needed Social Science Student Reading Room. Once renovated, this signature space will be located in the former Map Library and will address the need for study and collaboration space in our ever-growing faculty. Currently, study space is at a premium, with students often having to sit on floors and in stairwells to study.

Q: Why should donors consider supporting Social Science?
: There are many ways in which donors can and do provide a tremendous amount of support to our faculty and for which we are very grateful. I think it’s important that donors are excited about the projects and students they support. New initiatives like the institute and the reading room will truly make a difference to our students, our researchers and, ultimately, to our society because of the impact social scientists have on understanding and shaping our world. We want to work with donors to find projects that interest them and have meaning for them so they can feel like they’re part of something of value.

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Impact Western
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