Dr. Melissa Sloan

USFSM Social Sciences program puts focus on problem solving

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: April 26, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (April 26, 2016) – USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Interdisciplinary Social Sciences program is adapting to tackle real-world problems.

The ISS program, popular with students for offering a variety of classes, from environmental sciences to political science, will be revamped starting Fall 2016. The program’s course offerings will remain as wide-ranging and challenging as ever, but they will be organized under a structure of “multidisciplinary” concentrations, or themed topics of study.

Returning students and those newly enrolled at the campus will find five areas of concentration: Environmental Science & Policy; Government & Global Affairs; Crime, Law & Justice; Applied Aging & Wellbeing; and Social Relations & Policy.

Drawn from an assortment of academic disciplines, the courses offered under each area will relate to one another as well as to the theme or topic of their concentration.

Students enrolled in Environmental Science & Policy, for example, will see a comprehensive menu of thought-provoking courses in biology, law, environmental studies, international relations and political science, among others, related to Environmental Science & Policy issues.

Meanwhile, students taking courses in Social Relations & Policy can look for array of classes in psychology, sociology, social work, anthropology and gerontology that also fall under the Social Relations & Policy theme.

These changes, intended to encourage students to think critically and to uncover connections among seemingly diverse disciplines, will prepare students for a variety of career options.

Students enrolled in Environmental Science & Policy, for instance, will be equipped to work in environmental advocacy and law, government, conservation and the energy sector, among other fields.

Students focused on Social Relations & Policy will be prepared for careers in human relations, communications and marketing, social research, recruiting, community organizing and social services.

Adding to their career-readiness, ISS program students will be urged to pursue internships related to their concentrations to aid in their transition from college life to meaningful employment. These internships will provide real-world applications of classroom lessons and connect students with potential employers.

“We’ve been able to create an incredible interdisciplinary program and these changes will only help us to strengthen that program,” Dr. Melissa Sloan, associate professor of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, said.

Dr. Sloan spearheaded the changes, along with Dr. Eric Hodges and Dr. Jane Rose, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

“The pressing social issues we face today cannot be solved from a single perspective,” Dr. Hodges said. “We redesigned the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences program to reflect that reality. Learning how to think critically and integrate different perspectives will better prepare our students to tackles critical issues in both their careers and their lives.”

Dr. Hodges teaches political science. He joined USFSM two years ago. Dr. Sloan teaches sociology and heads the campus’ honors initiative. She arrived at USFSM six years ago. These latest changes to Interdisciplinary Social Sciences – the most comprehensive yet – are the result of a year-long collaboration involving Drs. Rose, Hodges and Sloan.

Unique to the USFSM campus, the ISS program encourages students to combine academic content from classroom instruction with an understanding of statistics and research methods to develop creative solutions to problems.

“This experience takes a diverse set of ideas and combines them to form a more holistic approach to problem solving,” Dr. Sloan said, summing up. “There aren’t many college programs that take this approach and are truly interdisciplinary.”

Overall, she said, she wants students enrolled in ISS to think creatively and realize that political, socio-economic and environmental problems are often intertwined, requiring integrative solutions. The ISS program endeavors to prepare students for critical thinking and the career flexibility necessary to succeed in today’s labor market.

Read more news stories below or view as a list