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November 16, 2006


Center for Social Sciences Established in Dalton
Steering Committee Seeks Participation, Ideas, Name

Dalton Hall

As an extensively renovated Dalton Hall opened this fall to bring four Bryn Mawr departments in the social sciences together under a single roof for the first time, its denizens busied themselves with creating a new conceptual space as well. A steering committee for a new social-sciences center has outlined a schedule of events that aims to draw attention to research and curricula in the social sciences at Bryn Mawr and generate ideas for the center's future directions.

The center has already sponsored several events focused on this fall's election, and the steering committee plans numerous events for the remainder of the academic year, including a dedication of the renovated Dalton Hall, a survey of interested faculty members about the new center's programs and the naming of the center.

David Karen
David Karen

During the spring semester of 2007, the center will host lunches at which social-science faculty present research and teaching ideas.

"We expect this sharing to lead to cross-disciplinary research and teaching that brings together faculty members and students from at least two social-science departments on similar topics," says center co-director David Karen, professor and chair of sociology. "We hope that such interaction will also yield suggestions for themes that will be an umbrella under which center activities will be organized."

Also in spring 2007, the center plans a panel discussion titled "Professors in Public Life," focusing on activities of some faculty members who hold positions in local government. Also on the agenda is "at least one other major speaker," says center co-director Michael Rock, professor and chair of economics.

Michael Rock
Michael Rock

The new center, which replaces the Center for Ethnicities, Communities and Social Policy, is meant to respond to the need for stronger linkages and cooperation among the social sciences at Bryn Mawr, organizers say. "Uniting the Social Sciences under an inclusive methodological umbrella, the Center will provide opportunities for consideration of broad substantive foci within the fundamentally comparative nature of the social-science disciplines, while training different disciplinary lenses on given issues," the center's mission statement says.

"With a new space devoted exclusively to four social-science departments, we hope that the shared space and new Center will engender deeper connections that will become a focal point for social science activity for both the members of these departments and others on campus who are interested in social science," says Rock. "We anticipate that the new building will allow us to integrate new faculty more easily as well as host visiting faculty and post-doctoral fellows more graciously."

Center Leadership

Center co-directors will generally hold their positions for two years, on a staggered basis. The steering committee currently includes one member from each of the four departments (anthropology, economics, political science and sociology) housed in Dalton, and representatives of the Growth and Structure of Cities Department, the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research and the history department. The steering committee expects to add representatives from psychology, education, and peace and conflict studies as well. The current steering committee consists of:

  • Ignacio Gallup Diaz, Associate Professor of History
  • Marissa Martino Golden, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science
  • Carola Hein, Associate Professor and Acting Director, Growth and Structure of Cities 
  • David Karen, center co-director, Professor and Chair of Sociology
  • Phil Kilbride, Professor and Chair of Anthropology
  • Michael Rock, center co-director, Professor and Chair of Economics
  • Tom Vartanian, Professor of Social Work and Social Research

Functions and Activities

The Center steering committee is currently undertaking a survey of the faculty to assist it in its planning activities and in generating ideas for a name. Among the functions and activities about which it is seeking counsel are:

Annual theme: Linking the interests of people in several departments, the theme would provide important opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. There would be an explicit effort to link the theme to course offerings, and at times, one interdepartmental course would be explicitly linked to the theme. While the theme would be a major focus of the Center's activities during the year, there would still be a good deal of room for other topics.

Speaker series: Invited speakers would address topics of interest to faculty and students in the social sciences as a whole. Often speakers would address questions central to the annual theme. For example, if poverty were the theme, each department might propose a speaker who represents a particular disciplinary viewpoint so that over the course of a year each department will be exposed to the assumptions, methods, and theories of the other social sciences.

Film Series: Perhaps linked to the same theme, a bimonthly film series for students and faculty would create the basis for many cross-disciplinary conversations.

Small conferences: At the initiative of individual or a group of faculty members, small conferences, perhaps linked to courses and to the annual theme, could be funded. Perhaps these conferences could be tied to specific social issues in the larger Philadelphia region.

Periodic public seminars: An important goal for the Center will be organizing periodic public seminars or discussions around breaking events of widespread interest to the campus. The goal would be to provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of social-science perspectives on the questions and a forum where members of the community can consider them in a thoughtful way.

Student-Faculty Research: On a competitive basis, grants of $5,000 would be made available to faculty-student research teams. Perhaps these research grants would be evaluated on the basis of their association with the center's annual theme, small conference topics, film series, or with center-related course initiatives.

Internship coordination: In addition to continuing the internship program of CECSP, the Center will coordinate internship opportunities across the Social Sciences (e.g. the Sociology Department's Pollak internships). Currently, without coordination, each body generally selects interns and organizes events for students to report their findings to the community; the new center would streamline these processes, coordinate intern selection and other activities, and bring together larger audiences for these center-sponsored, multi-department, community events.

Informal lunch presentations These would inform center participants about the research of their colleagues. The steering committee expects this program to be particularly useful for new faculty and visitors. In addition, however, lunches might be used for meetings with campus speakers, regular meetings during a presidential campaign, or discussion of ongoing policy proposals.

Newsletter: Once or twice per semester, the newsletter will inform the BMC community as well as Philadelphia-area colleagues about the activities of the center.


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