When you think about curing diseases, you might think of scientists in labs using test tubes and high-tech equipment to develop vaccines. In reality, the world looks to both laboratories and libraries when it comes to finding these solutions—drawing on the well-read wisdom of today’s top social scientists.
If you’re an analytical, big-picture thinker, you might make a great social scientist. Social sciences are subjects that study the relationship between science, human behavior and society.
Knowledge in these areas is indispensable when it comes to managing outbreaks. While administering and developing a vaccine falls to doctors, chemists and biologists, understanding how a disease spreads, how a population’s behavior affects its susceptibility and the best way to keep epidemics under control are all the purview of social scientists.
Read on to learn more about how you can help stop epidemics with a social sciences degree.
Epidemiology, defined as “the study and analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions,” is central to dealing with crises like the recent Ebola outbreak. One of the main responsibilities of an epidemiologist when disease starts to spread is to predict where it might go, by analyzing global and social interaction patterns.
For example, there are multiple organizations devoted to studying the spread of infectious diseases via social science studies, most prominent being Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC). Throughout the Ebola crisis, R2H2 funded research of the 'social routes’ of the virus. It cited burial practices as common points of Ebola transmission, which helped humanitarians in the field to better manage these practices and make citizens aware of the dangers they posed.
Social scientists analyze and improve relief efforts, helping to control outbreaks worldwide
One crucial responsibility, which falls to social scientists when dealing with disease outbreaks, is understanding how different populations will respond to efforts to control the spread.
Unfortunately, resistance to so-called ‘control strategies’ for diseases like malaria and Ebola is very common. This is usually due to mistrust of the motives of aid workers and government officials, or because these strategies interrupt cultural practices that people see as central to their lives.
Cultural anthropologists who take liberal arts college courses in the social sciences are able to formulate the most effective strategies. They’re equipped to handle disease control on a culture-to-culture basis. For example, amongst people that have a history of exploitation and suppression, the arrival of officials with strict rules and orders can often feel threatening. Knowing how these cultural characteristics will impact relief efforts is vital to ensuring that affected communities are both protected and respected.
Once preventative practices have been instituted, social scientists have further responsibilities in the management of disease control and policy development.
Political scientists gauge the public perception of response to the crisis, and advise governments and aid organizations of positive steps they could take in future situations. Communication experts communicate effective practices for future disease prevention. Medical anthropologists help design clinical trials for different populations and offer guidance to medical professionals.
Many graduates of social science courses dedicate their lives to helping communities overcome the life and death issues of an epidemic. When you graduate from a liberal arts college, you may choose to join global organizations like the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies or the Emergency Response Anthropology Platform.
With the right training, you could become part of a life-saving research and response team
Are you interested in pursuing social science courses?
Visit Shimer for information about starting your own studies in this fast-paced field.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day—or as the Irish say, lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! And you don’t need to go to the Emerald Isle to experience authentic Irish spirit. You can find one of the world’s largest, proudest and most longstanding Irish communities right here in Chicago!
There’s a reason we dye our river green every March 17. Landmarks like Gaelic Park, Comiskey Park and O’Hare International Airport stand to prove that Irish culture has left a deep impression upon Chicago. Modern Irish icons like ‘Lord of the Dance’ Michael Flatley also call Chicago home.
Those who study liberal arts amidst this vibrant Irish community can even enrich their cultural understandings with a closer look at the history, literature and political activism that made Chicago’s Irish who they are today.
Read on to learn why liberal arts students in Chicago are perfectly positioned to celebrate Irish culture here this March.
In the early 1800s, construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal brought hundreds of Irish laborers and settlers to Chicago. In the 1940s, it became a major destination for Irish emigrants escaping the Great Famine.
According to the Irish American Magazine, by the 1870s, the 70,000-strong Irish population of Chicago made up over 25 percent of the city’s people. By the 1880s, 30 percent of Chicago’s civil service jobs were held by Irish Americans.
Many of the humanities programs Chicago has to offer can help students gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical foundations laid by Irish settlers. This is because these programs often include courses on understanding culture and history and they explore concepts like diaspora, patriotism, assimilation and multicultural integration—all of which can help create a more thorough understanding of the Irish contributions to the colonization of America.
Students dress in colonial garb at Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade
The Irish have been playing a crucial political role in Chicago for over 150 years. While building the Canal, Irish workers fought hard to create Chicago’s first labor unions. As a vocal minority, they also worked to build lasting coalitions among other ethnic and religious groups.
Their political passion for independence from England and justice in the face of a prejudiced New World birthed such notable activists as County Cork native Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. A prominent labor and community organizer at the turn of the 19th century, she helped coordinate major strikes, cofounded the Industrial Workers of the World, and inspired the popular progressive magazine now printed in her name.
By the early 1900s, Chicago’s most influential leaders also included Margaret Haley, president of the Chicago Teachers Federation, and John Fitzpatrick, leader of Chicago’s Federation of Labor. In 1979, Irish Jane Byrne became the first woman to ever serve as mayor of Chicago. Even President Obama, based in Chicago for most of his political career, is Irish on his mother’s side.
Political engagement is the heart of great liberal arts colleges like Shimer. Our self-governing body, called the Assembly, meets regularly for open dialogues and votes on matters that affect our community. If you’re passionate about speaking for democratic justice, take cues from the Irish and consider studying here.
Liberal arts programs are well known for using great books as primary sources in their curriculums. If you’d like to hone your creative writing skills while in college, certain Irish texts will help you on your way.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is one example of great Irish literature you’re likely to encounter at a liberal arts college. Ulysses is an artful homage to Homer’s Odyssey, following the journey of a young man through Dublin. Other great Irish writers, poets and playwrights include W. B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Seamus Heaney, who have all made their mark on the world’s literary scene.
A monument to James Joyce’s famous book, Ulysses
You can make your own mark with an education in the vibrant multicultural, historical and political community of Chicago.
Are you interested in trying your luck at a small liberal arts college in Chicago?
Visit Shimer to learn more about what can offer you.
“Call me Ishmael.”
These three words begin ‘Moby Dick’ or ‘The Whale,’ the 1851 masterpiece of American author Herman Melville. The epic work tells the story of a sailor (Ishmael) who joins the crew of the whaling ship ‘Pequod.’ The ship’s Captain Ahab is dead-set on finding and killing Moby Dick—the great white whale that caused him to lose one of his legs long ago. In the end, Moby Dick capsizes Pequod, leaving Ishmael as the sole survivor while dragging Ahab down into the depths by the rope of his own harpoon.
A staple of school curricula around the world, the 930-page novel has a reputation for being as formidable as its eponymous monster. When you attend a top liberal arts college, iconic books like these will not only be included in your curriculum, but they’ll comprise the curriculum itself. Passionate professors will guide you through writings like Melville’s that have shaped our modern literary and cultural world.
Read on for our guide to modern works inspired by Melville’s most famous great book:
There have been quite a few film adaptations of Moby Dick made since the age of Hollywood began, with varying degrees of fidelity to the book. The classic tale of revenge has also inspired a few unconventional homages.
A 1929 silent movie called The Sea Beast was loosely based off the novel, and featured Ahab as a fiancé with an evil brother vying for his soon-to-be wife. Ahab then captures and kills Moby Dick, securing his fiancé’s affections and the film’s happy ending. The novel would wait another quarter-century before a more accurate adaptation would be released: Moby Dick, a 1956 film starring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab, with a screenplay by writer Ray Bradbury.
This century has seen several new takes on the novel. Age of Dragons, a 2011 movie starring actor Danny Glover turned Captain Ahab into a knight searching for the great white dragon that once burned him. Most recently, Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea tells the true story of a sinking whaling ship in Essex in 1820 said to have originally inspired Melville.
Moby Dick’s looming presence threatens the ship and its inhabitants throughout Melville’s novel
If not its plot, the novel's spirit has also made its mark on film. At this great books foundations are the famous Ahab/Moby Dick revenge dynamics that never stay away from theatres for long.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan features an old spaceship captain seeking revenge on his nemesis Captain Kirk, who once stranded him on a deserted planet. “From Hell's heart...I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee,” gasps Khan as he mimics Captain Ahab's final showdown with the whale.
As a masterpiece and mainstay of collegiate great books studies, it would be surprising if there were not a number of written adaptations of Moby Dick. Ray Bradbury returned to the story with Leviathan '99, a written spin-off of Moby-Dick set in space in 2099, with the whale replaced by a comet.
China Miéville's novel Railsea is set on railroad tracks instead of on the ocean, and has been described as 'an affectionate parody' of the novel. Philip Jose Farmer wrote a sequel called The Wind Whales of Ishmael, in which Ishmael is transported to the far-future where flying whales are hunted from aircraft.
When you immerse yourself in great books like Melville’s Moby Dick, you too may find yourself inspired to take its themes and characters to new and even greater heights!
Are you interested in studying at a great books college?
Visit Shimer to discover what we have to offer.
Many of the world’s most exciting innovations and advancements come from the fields of liberal arts and social sciences. From philosophy to literature to sociology and more, these disciplines have attracted some of history’s greatest analytical and progressive thinkers.
The latest issues to appear within the liberal arts were discussed in-depth at the 2016 Liberal Arts International Conference (LAIC) in Qatar. Here, scholars in the social sciences, arts and humanities engaged with colleagues from around the world to stimulate research on the hottest concepts of our time.
If you’re interested in contributing to global discourse on important issues like climate change, consent, and more, consider studying the liberal arts. At schools like Shimer, you’ll engage with the precise theories and complexities challenging today’s great minds.
To get started, check out these 4 topics discussed at the recent LAIC:
At Shimer, the social sciences of psychology and sociology are part of your basic core courses. These disciplines are all about how people interact with each other. The importance of 'consent' in interactions as diverse as trade, personal relationships, and even between a government and its citizens was a main matter of discussion as researchers from all over the world met in Qatar.
Does yes always mean yes? Who gets to decide what’s best for others in their care? Understanding what constitutes consensual exchanges between societies is both a perennial and contemporary issue—and one you’re likely to encounter in your liberal arts studies.
As well as being a boon to the progress of liberal arts studies, technology has also muddied the waters in terms of education.
“The spread of the internet and modern technology, along with many social and cultural misconceptions about academic behaviors and regulations, have resulted in vague understanding of the accepted academic behaviors and activities in school,” said conference speaker Gamil Alamrani of Saudi Arabia.
For instance, when is Wikipedia acceptable as a source? How should students around the world be assessed on a level playing field? These questions inspired discussion and new research now being conducted by scholars in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Justice Claims in Multilateral Climate Change Negotiations was the title of one prominent panel at the LAIC, which focused on how international law should deal with the pressing impact of climate change on countries around the world.
In natural sciences studies, you'll learn about the science behind climate change and gain an understanding of the historical development of contemporary climate theories. Climate change is one of the most cutting-edge issues in international law—a field pursued by many graduates of liberal arts schools. If climate justice speaks to you, consider pursuing an accelerated law degree program from a liberal arts college like Shimer.
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” This quotation was used as an introduction to a LAIC discussion of the cultural narratives that shape how countries interact and view each other.
Of particular interest to the panel dealing with this issue was how dominant cultural ideas interact with indigenous cultures, which have diverse beliefs about life. You'll encounter questions like these in your studies as you research the history of cultural interactions and the consequences of colonialism and diaspora.
Are you interested in puzzling out these kinds of issues at a top liberal arts school?
Visit Shimer to learn more about what we have to offer.
In a small book called The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, Lewis Buzbee recounts the wonders of wandering around bookstores, working in bookstores, and much more. Such places, in his view, are unique in that they allow for browsing, and they allow for being alone together. As we browse, we know that there are others browsing, and when we sit down on the floor (or a convenient chair) and read a chapter, we are, also, reading alone together.
Buzbee is not a Shimerian in the sense of having graduated from Shimer or even having attended for a semester. And yet, his book made me think that if he arrived here tomorrow, he would find something familiar – reading alone, and reading together. Indeed, the bookstore where I purchased The Yellow Lighted Bookshop is a place where I know the owners will ask me how Shimer is doing each time I come in for a browse.
There are many ways to join Shimer in reading along and reading together, for we are also about conversation and discussion, whether in the classroom, the hallways, in coffee shops or online. In this we challenge what Buzbee describes as a “silent” community of readers. We are as sure that reading improves with conversation as that reading is worthwhile. For those of you who are far distant from our hallways, we hope you have found congenial Shimer-ish places to continue the conversation and the reading, and that you will take seriously the opportunity to do so with us through online discussions (insert link) which include faculty from Shimer.
And, we hope you will continue to do what all aficionados of good bookstores do – share the knowledge, recruit new Shimerians, and contribute your treasure to help sustain the discussions that are Shimer’s mission. As you do so, you can think of the conversation I overheard at Sandemeyer’s recently, where I purchased The Yellow Lighted Bookshop. “I am buying this,” said a visitor from Milwaukee, “because I was once a bookseller, and I know that you need the dollars to continue to support both those who browse and those who buy. I love bookstores, and I know you need my help.”
I do, by the way, recommend the book!
We know that you don’t want to be just an armchair observer of Shimer alumni events.
There are many opportunities for you to become involved and move to – um – a different armchair. For example:
1. There are regularly scheduled alumni get-togethers that are happening and/or planned in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and other areas. These present opportunities to meet with other Shimer folks for a pot luck, book discussion, or any other style event of your choosing. You also might want to be involved in planning an alumni event in your area. It’s easy – just make a few calls and the Alumni in your area will beat a path to your door.
2. The Shimer Alumni Board is growing. We are planning to attend the commencement on April 30, and then meet on campus on May 1. The Alumni Board provides mentorship for students and ex-students in career choices, attends college fairs to support the school, and plans other events, such as a possible lecture series or reunion.
3. This month there is an opportunity to meet an alumni author, Young Kim, who recently had his book, Justice as Right Actions, published (congratulations!). Young Kim will be discussing his book on campus March 23, which will provide an opportunity to mingle with students and other alumni in a stimulating conversation of the type we all remember from our days at Shimer.
For information about attending any of these events contact me at: email@example.com or Alex Rosenberg at the school: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Seasons in My Garden, award-winning writer Sr. Elizabeth Wagner reveals how tending to a garden in her Maine hermitage brought her to a deeper understanding of what it means to have faith, love others, and hope in the mercy of God. Her keen eye for the most intricate details of nature will help you find a path that brings you closer to God as well.
Sr. Elizabeth Wagner believed God was calling her into deeper contemplation, so she built a hermitage in the Maine wilderness in order to ponder nature and become closer to God.
Seasons in My Garden is a thought-provoking series of meditations, written as Sr. Wagner watched her own monastic garden progress through the seasons. Her reflections invite you to look over her shoulder as she tends to her beautiful garden and meditates on the mysteries of God’s creation and how it corresponds with her own life.
In this captivating book, you will relate to Sr. Wagner as she struggles with feelings of a cold heart—just as her garden lay frozen under a foot of snow—and realizing that God was working to renew her spirit. As sudden storms threatened to destroy her hard work, Sr. Wagner will help you understand that careful preparation of the soul will help you resist the temptation to resent others.
Seasons in My Garden intricately weaves insights from Sr. Wagner’s own growth through the seasons with spiritual guidance and an understanding that patient tending to your soul will help you grow into a beautiful garden that God can use to reflect his glory.
Read more here.
For alternative liberal arts colleges, small is a choice. They’re not big colleges in the making, on their way to amassing students and developing themselves into larger institutions. These schools are small by intention, established in their own right with close-knit campus communities, small student to teacher ratios, and a host of other social and educational advantages.
At Shimer, our campus has been kept small for over 160 years! Recent studies by research groups like the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English Studies and Literature) back up what we have always known: there are big benefits to attending a small college.
Findings consistently show the value of small class sizes when it comes to engaging students with the campus community and the subjects at hand. The smaller the class, the more likely each student is to contribute to discussion, instead of passively taking in the information.
This smaller community also means that even though there are less people around, your likelihood of making strong friendships is greater than it might be at a large university, where like-minded people can get lost in the crowd.
"The assumption is that it will be easier to find friends when you have 25,000 people to choose from," says Mark Montgomery, Denver-based professor and educational consultant, "but among all those people, it's hard to find the few who are like you and could become good friends."
Extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and campus organizations are also made much more accessible to students at small liberal arts colleges because having fewer students makes each person’s individual contributions that much more meaningful. For example, Shimer’s self-governing student body of approximately 100 allows each student an important vote in every policy change or campus-wide issue of interest.
“Overall, research shows that students in smaller classes perform better in all subjects and on all assessments when compared to their peers in larger classes,” reports the NCTE. Their findings even show a higher retention level (lower dropout rate) among American small-college students compared to their large-college counterparts.
Students get the attention of passionate, engaged professors in small liberal arts colleges.
This improved academic performance is credited to the quality of individualized instruction students access in small liberal arts college courses, and the higher degree of detail in feedback professors give to each student’s work. Your work can be read and considered more carefully by a professor of 12 students than by a professor of 120. At Shimer, the average class size is 7, and the average student to faculty ratio is 8:1.
Low student to teacher ratios give professors the chance to actually know their students by name, notice when they are struggling, offer personalized insights, and build relationships that often continue into the students’ post-grad pursuits and careers.
The benefits of small colleges don’t end at graduation. Those who study at small, alternative liberal arts colleges enjoy excellent employment rates in a wide range of fields. And small colleges like Shimer are known for producing active and close-knit alumni, a valuable resource for helping graduates’ career networking and employment potential.
Smaller colleges lay foundations for strong, tight-knit alumni networks that support students.
Perhaps the greatest lasting benefit of studying as part of a close-knit campus community is the chance to truly develop your own individuality and identity among diverse and supportive peers.
"A small campus offers you a chance to forge a real personality,” says Montgomery, “not just 'wear the colors' of the institution."
Your work will be noticed, your ideas will be valued, and your voice will be heard when you choose to go small.
Are you interested in pursuing a small, alternative liberal arts college?
Visit Shimer to learn what our community can offer you.
The opinions expressed by the Shimer bloggers are theirs alone, are subject to change upon each blogger's reflection, and do not reflect the opinions of Shimer College. Shimer is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any of the information supplied on this blog and strongly encourages you to contact the Shimer Admission Office directly if you have questions about Shimer. The entries on this blog belong to their authors and to Shimer College. Shimer encourages and deeply values discussion, but the college is not responsible for what is posted by commenters and reserves the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever. Deletions will likely be made if commentary is commercial, irrelevant, abusive, profane, rude, or destructively inaccurate. Shimer students on the regular staff of this blog are modestly compensated for their efforts.