Social Thought and Political Economy
The Social Thought and Political Economy Program is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program for students who want a challenging major. Courses meeting STPEC requirements are drawn from a variety of departments in the humanities and social sciences, including Afro-American studies, anthropology, economics, history, Judaic and Near Eastern studies, legal studies, philosophy, political science, sociology, and women’s studies.
The STPEC Program encourages students to engage in a critical examination of society and to develop their own capacities for critical reading, writing, and thinking. STPEC students cross disciplinary lines to confront fundamental questions often ignored or neglected by traditional academic thought. Many of the issues STPEC students explore involve relations between individuals and society. STPEC courses may deal with issues such as freedom and the state; power relations; structural inequality in the economy; work and work relations; the relationship of Western to non-Western cultures; the intersection of class, race, gender, and sexuality; and theories of social change.
As STPEC students acquire an understanding of social relationships, they frequently develop a need to put their knowledge to work. The program requires its students to involve themselves in practice as well as theory by enrolling in internships as part of their undergraduate education. Students are encouraged to play a role in UMass Amherst and community affairs, and by assuming an active responsibility for the shape of their own education within the STPEC Program.
Course requirements for STPEC majors are both flexible and highly directed. Students are able to develop their own individualized course of study while they acquire a foundation in areas of concern to the STPEC Program. Courses in these areas are chosen from a list of recommended courses drawn up each semester and available from the STPEC office. Transfer students may petition to have courses taken at other institutions accepted for STPEC credit.
Students must take two introductory courses selected from the STPEC course list, one in social theory and one in political economy, before they will be admitted to STPEC’s Junior Seminar I. Once admitted, students must complete at least forty credits within the STPEC program. These include five upper-level courses, consisting of one course each in modern social theory, political economy, history and politics of women, history and politics of race in the U.S., and the non-Western world, all of which must be selected from the STPEC course list; one upper- or lower-level history course; one graded internship; and STPEC 393A: Writing for Critical Consciousness, which fulfills the junior year writing requirement. Students also complete four STPEC seminars: a two-semester junior seminar sequence initiating the in-depth interdisciplinary study of social and political theory and its application in particular situations, and two senior seminars providing the opportunity for students to engage in intensive work in specific areas of interest decided by the professor and students.
No minor in STPEC is available.
Contact the program director for information on how to pursue honors opportunities within the major.
STPEC encourages its students to spend one or two semesters studying abroad and, with program approval, to use courses taken abroad to satisfy STPEC requirements. Students should contact the International Programs Office (413-545-2710) and work closely with their academic advisor to choose the appropriate courses in preparation.
Since STPEC is an interdisciplinary program, possible career opportunities for its graduates vary according to the focus of each student’s program of study. Many STPEC graduates continue on to law school or to graduate study in fields such as American studies, anthropology, education, economics, history, international relations, labor studies, political theory, social work, and urban planning. Others pursue careers in social service work, teaching, community, grassroots, and labor union organizing, political advocacy, alternative publishing houses and journals, government service, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Possibilities for employment upon graduation are similar to those available to students graduating from any of the other departments in the social sciences.
Social Thought and Political Economy Program
Undergraduate Academic Advisor: Katherine Mallory, E-27A Machmer Hall, 413.545.0043