I am pleased to announce the formation of the CAS Taskforce on the Social Sciences, which has convened for the first time this week. The taskforce has been charged to look towards a vision for the “next generation” of the social sciences broadly across the College. Specifically, the taskforce will aim 1) to develop four to five cross-cutting themes where CAS has distinctive strengths and is positioned to lead research and education in the social sciences, 2) to articulate the essential roles that social sciences can play across BU’s interdisciplinary programs and centers, and 3) to outline the structure and resources needed in CAS to support and grow a more vibrant social science research and educational community at BU. As BU works towards its next strategic plan, now is an opportune time to renew our commitment to the social sciences and their critical role within CAS and BU. This commitment is something I raised during my interview process and the taskforce is one of the first major initiatives I am undertaking as the CAS Dean.

Taskforce members:

  • Peter Blake, Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Deborah Carr, Professor and Chair of Sociology (taskforce chair)
  • Dino Christenson, Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Robert Hefner, Professor of Anthropology and International Relations
  • Margarita Guillory, Associate Professor of Religion
  • Timothy Longman, Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science
  • Katharine Lusk, Co-Director of Initiative on Cities
  • Eugenio Menegon, Associate Professor of History
  • Johannes Schmieder, Associate Professor of Economics
  • Ian Sue Wing, Associate Professor of Earth & Environment

Representing the CAS Dean’s Office and supporting the committee as ex officio members:

  • Margaret Bolter, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives
  • Nazli Kibria, Professor of Sociology, Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Social Sciences

We intend for there to be close consultation with faculty and staff in departments and interdisciplinary programs, as well as undergraduate and graduate students and alumni. The taskforce will prepare a preliminary draft report by early June and submit a final report by the end of the summer. It is my hope to start work towards action on recommendations of the taskforce starting in the Fall 2020 semester.

Social Sciences Taskforce: Charge

The taskforce is asked to develop a vision for the “next generation” of the social sciences in the College. The taskforce is encouraged to take a broad view of the social sciences as a category of academic disciplines that bring a variety of methods and traditions of inquiry to bear on the study of human society and social behavior.

Foundational work on data gathering and consultation:

  • What are upcoming grand challenges and significant upcoming trends in social sciences?
  • What are the essential social science mindsets and skillsets our undergraduate and graduate students will need for success in addressing future challenges in their lives, their work, and their world?
  • What are our peer institutions doing to foster leading-edge social science research and education that could be models for propelling future success and innovation of social sciences at BU?

The taskforce is encouraged to focus on initiatives that support the future of the social sciences broadly defined, including the departments, programs, and institutes in the Social Sciences Division but also social scientists across CAS. The taskforce is asked to identify cross-cutting opportunities, trends, and themes that transcend a single department or program.

Given the committee’s vision for the future of social sciences research and education:

  • What are four to five cross-cutting social science themes where BU has distinctive strengths and could be positioned to lead in next-generation social science research and education? Why?
  • What are essential roles that social scientists can play across the full range of BU’s interdisciplinary programs, including collaboration within CAS, and/or in partnerships with other BU schools and colleges in research and education?
  • What structure and resources are needed in CAS to support and grow a more vibrant and visible social science research and educational communities at BU?

I would like to thank Professor Deborah Carr and the taskforce members for agreeing to lead this important effort in the College, and I greatly appreciate all input and support from the CAS faculty, staff, students and alumni in this process.

Stan Sclaroff
Dean of Arts & Sciences
Boston University