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Social Thought and Political Economy (STPEC)

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Sara Lennox, Director or
Katherine Mallory, Chief Academic Adviser
Office: E-27A Machmer
Phone: (413) 545-0043
Program Coordinator: Deborah Reiter
Email: stpec@sbs.umass.edu
Website: www.umass.edu/stpec

The Program

The Social Thought and Political Economy Program is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences 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. Through the content of its curriculum, STPEC demonstrates its commitment to multiculturalism and racial and ethic diversity. 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 encourages its students to involve themselves in practice as well as theory by enrolling in internships as part of their undergraduate education, by playing a role in University and community affairs, and by assuming an active responsibility for the shape of their own education within the STPEC Program.

The Major

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. STPEC also 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 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 40 credits within the STPEC Program distributed as follows:

A) Five upper-level courses (15 credits): Includes one course each in modern Western 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.

B) One upper- or lower-level history course (3 credits).

C) One graded internship (3 credits minimum).

D) Four STPEC seminars (16 credits):
a) Two junior seminars: A two-semester sequence initiating the in-depth interdisciplinary study of Western and non-Western social and political theory and its application in particular situations. Enrollment limited to 25 STPEC majors. Both seminars offered every semester.
b) Two senior seminars: Opportunity for students to engage in intensive work in specific areas of interest decided by the professor and students. Recent seminars have addressed such topics as “Law and the American Working Class,” “Race and Urban Political Economy,” “Gandhi’s Critique of Modernity,” “Latino Politics and Identities,” “Theory and Practice of Education,” “Social Construction of the Body,” “Economies of the Middle East and North Africa,” “The Political Economy of Race and Class,” “U.S. Women’s Lives,” “Conquest of the Americas,” “Representation of the Holocaust in Film,” “Reading and Creating Political Autobiography,” “Queer Theories/Social Realities,” and “Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Seatbelts: Individual Liberty, Morality, and Politics.”

E) STPEC 393A Writing for Critical Consciousness (3 credits). Fulfills the University’s Junior Year Writing requirement. Offered every semester; enrollment limited to 20 STPEC majors.
Grades of C or better must be obtained in all courses required for the STPEC major.

Note: All requirements for completing a degree in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences apply, including the Global Education requirement.

Matriculated students new to the STPEC Program must contact the STPEC office for an initial advising session, complete an application form, and attend an introductory meeting with the STPEC Program Director and several STPEC students.

Career Opportunities

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.