Shimer students working in collaboration with a professor in our campus library
There are no bystanders at Shimer. Here, every student is a director of their own educational experience. If you’d rather march to the beat of your drum than step in time with traditional educational conventions, a social sciences degree from a college like ours might be perfect for you.
Those who study the social sciences (politics, sociology, anthropology, history, economics, social studies, and more) at a liberal arts college like Shimer get to take a hands-on approach to their education by choosing what they study, how they study it, and what policies govern their time in school.
Here are three ways these students can (and do!) lead their own social sciences training.
1. Taking Part in the Student-Driven Dialogue of Social Sciences Studies Classrooms
Because Shimer is all about “education centered on discussion” (as cited in our Mission Statement), our classes are made of teachers and students perpetually in partnership—discussing and developing ideas, exchanging insightful interpretations, and more. This aligns our programs with the current higher-education trend of ‘student-led learning.’
“Student-led learning programs aim to engage teachers and learners in a much more meaningful, and more equal, relationship,” explains Chris Havergal, teaching and learning reporter at Times Higher Education.
For example, if you were reading and discussing a great book like Beowulf at an alternative liberal arts college like Shimer, your ideas about the work would structure how your class time was spent. Aggravated by the anti-feminist overtones regarding Grendel’s mother? Curious about the historical climate of the 11th century (when Beowulf was written)? In our student-led learning environment, you can bring your voice to the table and engage in dialogue with peers and professors that can expand your thinking in the directions you have chosen.
Discussion is not led by a professor with a dusty textbook, but by students like you. The lesson is where you take it!
A Shimer student speaking up to an audience of her peers and professors
2. Choose to Specialize in an Area of Social Sciences Studies that Interests You
Similarly, students of social sciences training at Shimer are invited to take the lead when it comes to choosing their elective courses and theses. Through 40 elective courses of their choosing, students can follow their interests to focus their learning on the particular aspects of social science that inspire them most. Then in senior year, students demonstrate their passion and expertise by presenting their chosen topic as an undergraduate thesis.
It may seem typical of a higher education institution to allow students these kinds of options, but student-led study is taken to the next level at Shimer with our open-minded attitude toward topic choice. When we say you can choose your own focus, we mean it.
“When I came here, nobody was really doing art theses,” shares Shimer alumnus Lynne Lee. “I did an art thesis and it was completely accepted in the community. Everyone’s been so amazingly supportive.”
3. Take the Lead on School Policy-Making and Campus Governance
At Shimer, the fate of issues impacting your education—which include everything from enrollment, to curricular programs, finances, and campus diversification—are not left in the hands of outside professionals. Through our school-wide democratic ‘Assembly,’ each student gets to speak up, ask big questions, and cast important votes.
“I think that as students we can be looked down upon by the adults around us. It creates this environment of rather ageist tension between students and faculty and staff that just doesn’t happen at Shimer,” explains Lynne. “Questions are not a burden at Shimer, they’re an addition to the magic.”
“I love the fact that my voice is a crucial part of this community, both in the classroom and through school governance, through the Assembly,” adds Shimer student Ari Robbins.
Shimer students together with members of our teaching staff and administration
Are you interested in making your mark on our community and taking the lead on your own social sciences studies education?
Visit Shimer to get started.