The School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts offers a broad range of programs dedicated to preparing students for varied roles as responsible and thoughtful citizens and leaders. We offer research and academic programs that prepare students for meaningful careers and professions; encourage intellectual and moral growth; promote sound decision-making; instill the values of lifelong learning; and encourage civic responsibility, public service and understanding in a diverse, global society.
Anthropology is dedicated to understanding humankind’s diversity as well as what makes us uniquely human. Through the specific perspectives and methods of socio-cultural, archaeological, and biological anthropology, students learn how the human experience (past and present) is constituted through the interaction of social, cultural, political, material, historical, environmental, and biological factors. Anthropology strives for a holistic understanding of humankind and, depending on the questions asked and the means used to discover answers, anthropological knowledge can straddle the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences.
Undergraduate majors in Anthropology develop critical skills in thought, written and oral expression and the application of knowledge, as well as a valuable understanding of human cultural diversity. In an increasingly globalized world in which interaction with people of diverse cultures is becoming the norm, developing a cross cultural understanding about complexities of human societies past and present is what makes Anthropology an ideal education for the 21st century. A bachelor’s degree in Anthropology is valuable preparation for a career in law, medicine, education, business, government, museums and various areas of nonprofit, public and international service, including public policy and cultural resource management.
Cognitive Science is the interdisciplinary study of human thought and behavior. It combines methods, theories, and applications from many disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, and biology.
The Cognitive Science majors, B.A. and B.S., provide a broad knowledge of cognitive science, including language and communication, reasoning, memory, categorization, cognitive modeling, perception and action, philosophical foundations, artificial intelligence, cognitive engineering, and cognitive science applications for the business setting.
A degree in Cognitive Science provides in-depth training in research methods, data analysis, modeling, and lab-based research, and it provides excellent training for jobs in high-tech companies. It is ideal for students who want to pursue graduate work in cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, computer science and engineering, information sciences and information management, communications, medicine, business, management, law, and education.
Students can work with cognitive science faculty to tailor their own program of study to emphasize one or two specific areas within cognitive science. Example specializations include cognitive neuroscience, cognitive linguistics, computational modeling, decision sciences, and philosophy of cognitive science.
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) is an interdisciplinary field of study that seeks to understand the ways society is culturally and institutionally constituted by ideas of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and nation. The program provides an innovative, multidisciplinary paradigm that employs global (Western and non-Western), relational, and intersectional methods for producing knowledge about power and inequality, including systems of knowledge that have emerged from racialized and indigenous communities. In using race, ethnicity, and indigeneity as ideological frameworks, CRES aims to scrutinize cultures of power and domination as well as highlight and imagine struggles for liberation and self-determination.
With outstanding faculty who already teach in programs across campus, undergraduates in the CRES program have a valuable opportunity to create a course of study that gives them strong theoretical grounding and a wide range of topics to explore. Students will engage in a multidisciplinary and supportive academic environment. Critical Race and Ethnic Studies is an exciting and valuable degree that prepares students to enter the workforce as informed citizens in a diverse and challenging society. The major offers a strong liberal arts education for students considering admission to graduate or professional schools and careers in education, law, medicine, public health, social work, counseling, journalism, business, city planning, politics, psychology, international relations, creative writing, and the arts.
The Economics major is built on a foundation of strong theoretical and statistical training. The major provides students solid grounding in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, statistical and econometric methodology and applied economic analysis. The Economics major emphasizes the role of incentives and institutions in shaping economic outcomes and how public policies influence economic performance and individual outcomes. Special emphases in the program include development economics, economic growth, economic history, empirical methods, environmental economics, health economics, international trade, labor economics, law and economics, political economy and public economics.
In addition to having a solid understanding of economic theory, our program has a special emphasis on empirical research methods in economics. All students engage in research (with faculty members, in teams and independently) that involves analyzing data and answering well-formulated questions related to public policies. With these research experiences, our students are competitive for research internships, fellowships and pre-graduate summer programs while still in school.
The major in English at the University of California, Merced, asks students to recognize the complex interactions of culture and literature. Literature and literary criticism are significant parts of an ages old, continuing conversation about the meaning and value of human society.
Unlike scientific or social scientific approaches to this conversation, literary discourse emphasizes the particular in the dialog between particular and universal. It always arises out of specific times, places and cultural traditions, and it often gives powerful voice to cultural differences and individual differences against the backdrop of larger, homogenizing forces. Moreover, literature has traditionally fore-grounded questions of value over questions of definition, or rather, sees questions of value as central to the definition of humanity itself.
The study of literature enables one to engage this conversation richly, both for personal development and for the ability it gives one to be a responsible agent in the many societies each person inhabits. Moreover, literary study gives one insight into how cultures operate in such a way as to facilitate ethical cross-cultural interactions. Literary study facilitates such agency by teaching readers how to understand — an understanding that engages intellectual, ethical and aesthetic faculties — and then critique literary artifacts.
The Global Arts Studies Program combines the study of visual arts and music, as well as the interactions of sight and sound in film, television, dance, theater, videogames, and other multimedia. We study these arts in historical and cultural context all around the world, learning about their inner workings as well as their place in society. The GASP major combines scholarly courses with practical hands-on training in ensemble and studio settings, for a rounded education in artistic theory and practice.
The program is global in many senses of the word. We look to the whole world, without privileging one geographical space over another. We are rigorous in the study of all realms of creative expression, from film screen to dance club, from ritual and touristic practice to museum and concert hall. Our faculty of music scholars and art historians helps students refine the skills they need to critically engage culturally diverse media. Lecture courses, seminars, studio classes, and ensembles are designed to explore creative processes and material connections.
Working closely with faculty, our students conduct original research and acquire nuanced insights into both sonic and visual realms. Students further deepen their understanding of global arts through hands-on training in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, music, and dance in a variety of cultures and media. They develop professional skills by participating in community-based events, curating exhibitions, managing the UC Merced Art Gallery, and organizing and performing in recitals, concerts, and multimedia presentations.
History is a set of evolving rules and tools that allows us to interpret processes and phenomena in the past with clarity and rigor. It requires evidence, sophisticated use of information, and a deliberative stance to explain change and continuity over time.
As a profoundly public pursuit, it is essential to active and empathetic public engagement and world citizenship and requires effective communication to make the past accessible for multiple audiences. It is a craft with a set of professional ethics and standards that demand peer review, citation and toleration for the provisional nature of knowledge.
The History major at UC Merced emphasizes the many ways in which connections between regions and nations have existed over time. All students gain familiarity with world history, learn interpretive skills and take at least one course focused on research, and also undertake a capstone research project; they have opportunities to apply their classroom learning to research problems outside the classroom, contributing to expanding public knowledge and awareness of cultural issues. Students may explore thematic topics such as environmental history, the history of science and technology, and the history of migration and cultural intersections, as well as issues of world, national, state and local history.
Though rooted in the study of the past, the tools employed by historians are useful in a broad array of modern careers and professions. History, with it focus on research, writing and augmentation, is well known as an excellent preparation for graduate school, law school and other professions. History majors may also find employment related to their degrees in schools, museums, editing and publishing, archives, historic preservation, federal, state and local agencies, and as consultants and contractors.
UC Merced's Management and Business Economics major responds to the growing demands and needs of the modern business world. The major provides rigorous analytical and quantitative training from a blend of fields including accounting, economics, finance, marketing and strategy.
Today's managers tackle issues involving a number of management functions and do not always fit neatly into subject areas. The UC Merced approach is to integrate key ideas and approaches from across subject areas to evaluate and understand all the dimensions of a given issue. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are emphasized.
The Management and Business Economics major prepares students for a broad range of management-related careers. The major reflects the demands of private- and public-sector organizations for employees who are trained in analytical and quantitative decision-making, who work effectively in teams and on projects, who are comfortable in various cultures, who are "well rounded" in sciences and humanities and who have learned the art of self-directed learning.
The curriculum provides a strong foundation in analysis and problem solving across a wide spectrum of management activities, and promotes reasoning skills and critical analysis as required in a modern, volatile business environment. The theoretical underpinning for the undergraduate program comes from business economics and management disciplines that use tools and techniques based on applied mathematics and statistics to solve problems in virtually all areas of business operations. The typical undergraduate student develops skills to build quantitative models of complex operations in competitive and in imperfect markets and will be able to use these models to facilitate decision-making.
UC Merced emphasizes interdisciplinary and applied research programs, and the Philosophy major has developed accordingly, with initial emphases in philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of social and political science. Philosophy undergraduate students have the flexibility to study a wide variety of interdisciplinary topics, either as part of our regular course offerings or as part of independent undergraduate studies.
Beyond this emphasis on interdisciplinary and applied philosophy, UC Merced also supports and maintains traditional approaches to philosophy. Core areas of contemporary philosophy—including ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion—are offered on a regular basis, as are historical courses in ancient and modern philosophy.
Political Science is the social scientific study of political institutions and political behavior. The study of political institutions includes topics such as the effect of the design of electoral systems on the quality of representation in government, the formal and informal elements of the legislative process and their implications for the making of law, and the impact of domestic political institutions on the incidence of international conflict. Under the rubric of political behavior, political scientists study how and why people choose to participate in politics, the determinants of vote choice, and the nature and origins of public opinion. Students studying political science at UC Merced develop a strong substantive understanding of both political institutions and behavior. Students also learn the theories that help us better understand the political world and the methods by which these theories are tested and refined.
Political Science majors choose courses from four subfields of the discipline: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Pre-Law. The study of institutions and behavior is central to all four of these subfields, although the substantive emphasis differs. Courses in American Politics focus on domestic politics in the U.S., while courses in Comparative Politics examine government and politics in other nations. International Relations classes address issues in foreign policy, international conflict, and the institutions intended to govern the interactions between nations. Pre-Law classes involve legal institutions and the behavior of legal actors. Students choose two subfields on which to focus.
The knowledge and skills acquired with the Political Science Major should provide a strong foundation for graduate training in law, political science or other social sciences. Students graduating with a degree in political science can also pursue a wide variety of other careers, such as public administration, campaign management or consultation, grassroots political organization, corporate governmental affairs, Foreign Service, journalism, lobbying or teaching.
Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and mental states, and of human and animal behavior. The field of psychology can be both applied and theoretical, and is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing together aspects of the natural and social sciences, humanities and the arts to address specific problems. For example, research psychologists might study the functions of neurons in the brain, complex mathematical processes, how to collect and analyze data, the growth of children, health and behavioral physiology, learning in animals, psychological stress, the basis of artistic talent, evolution, sensory perception, parent-infant attachment, psychiatric disorders or any of a wide variety of other topics.
The undergraduate major in Psychology provides students with an understanding of the major questions and methodologies across Psychology, including a common core of statistical and experimental methods courses. Upper division courses and projects allow students to explore the various substantive specialties in psychology, and to identify the areas of psychology that they might wish to pursue further. Many students with an undergraduate degree in psychology go on to graduate study in psychology or closely related fields such as cognitive science or organizational behavior, as well as other fields such as social work, medicine and law. The psychology program strongly encourages further graduate study, and supports its undergraduate majors in reaching this goal by providing opportunities to work with faculty on research.
The Psychology major also prepares undergraduates for many other careers even without further graduate training. The American Psychological Association reports that only about 5% bachelor’s degree psychology major graduates had taken a job that is actually in psychology. This is largely because work directly in psychology typically requires a graduate degree. Most psychology major graduates—about two thirds—took employment in private sector business settings. Graduates with an undergraduate psychology major are highly marketable because they are trained to have good research and writing skills, to be effective problem solvers in both team and individual settings, and to use critical thinking skills to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. Specific examples of employment include administrative support, public affairs, education, business, sales, service industries, health, the biological sciences, computer programming, employment counselors, correction counselor trainees, interviewers, personnel analysts, probation officers, and writers. APA also reports that two thirds of psychology major graduates believe their job is closely or somewhat related to their psychology background and that their jobs hold career potential.
Public Health is an interdisciplinary field drawing on the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to promote health, prevent disease, prolong life and improve quality of life through organized efforts by society. Focusing on the health and well-being of populations, Public Health complements medicine’s concern for individuals with diseases. Through activities ranging from basic research to frontline efforts such as vaccination programs, promotion of health lifestyles and environments, disease control, and leadership on health policy formation, the field of public health makes diverse, far reaching contributions to societal well-being.
At UC Merced, a key mission in Public Health is to bring our resources to bear on the needs of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most economically important yet underprivileged regions of the United States, and home to our institution. Our nearness to this underserved population provides unique opportunities to work on local problems through basic research and service. Undergraduates in Public Health learn and participate in these activities both inside and ouside the classroom.
Our undergraduate program aims to provide students with broad knowledge through rigorous course work in an intellectually challenging environment, hands-on experience in public health research, and ample opportunity to work directly with expert faculty.
Sociology is the scientific study of society, social institutions and social relationships. A key contribution of the discipline is that social factors matter; our lives are not only shaped by personal psychology, but also by our place in the social world. Sociology’s areas of inquiry range from intimate family relationships to ties between nation-states; from divisions by race, class, gender and sexuality to shared ideas of common culture; and from understanding the influence of broad-scale social movements to analyzing how adolescents become productive adults. Sociologists help develop theories to understand how the social world works and also use analytic tools to craft policies and create programs that address important social issues, such as neighborhood and educational inequality. Few disciplines offer such a broad scope of relevance for understanding individual and collective relations in society.
The substantive breadth and skills in conducting and analyzing research that sociology majors obtain can be useful for a range of career paths including: business and marketing, criminal justice, education, environment and technology, graduate school, law, public health, leadership in faith communities, non-profit and social service organizations, public policy, social welfare and social work. Students will leave the major with research skills developed in conjunction with knowledge of substantive material relevant to a variety of social service and non-profit research positions. They also will have an excellent basis for pursuing graduate studies in law, sociology and other social and cultural studies programs.
With more than 400 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world, and the second in the United States, where it is spoken by upwards of 41 million people. Spanish is also one of the languages most often used in California and in the Central Valley, as well as one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Beyond its relevance in the world, Spanish should also be well represented locally, since the University of California, Merced is a Hispanic Serving Institution. The major in Spanish at UC Merced will provide students with the linguistic skills and necessary cultural background to communicate their ideas in Spanish in different professional contexts, to think critically, and to analyze literary works. In doing so, the major in Spanish will help students to face the demands of an ever more globalized society, one that requires and values linguistic and cultural competence in more than one language.
Most employers appreciate employees with knowledge of a second language, Spanish being one of the languages most demanded. In order to use a language in an efficient manner, the speaker should be familiar with the main social traits that define the native speakers of such a language, as well as with their cultural manifestations, literature and history. Knowledge of the particularities of the language associated with professions is also a relevant tool to relate to and work with native speakers.