Home » Newsletters » September 2018 » Letter from the Dean, September 2018


Letter from the Dean, September 2018

Facebook Twitter Google Print Friendly and PDF

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

As the (hot) Boston summer draws to a close, it is a pleasure to welcome all of you to the new fall semester to share updates from the last few months and to look ahead. This summer, CSSH faculty worked with undergraduates and other learners on a broad range of courses and programs in Boston, Seattle and around the globe. Bret Keeling from the English Department led a NUterm program on cultural resilience and environmental sustainability on our Seattle Campus, and CSSH colleagues took students on 26 Dialogues of Civilizations in locations from Tokyo to Geneva to Johannesburg. Also on our Seattle Campus, Jennie Stephens, director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, in collaboration with public and private sector partners, ran an executive education program on energy resilience. (Ann Lesperance, our newly appointed director of CSSH programs in Seattle, will lead a similar program on smart cities and critical infrastructure in December.) In July, PIKSI (Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute) came to the Boston campus, sponsored by Northeastern’s Ethics Institute and CSSH, with support from the Marc Sanders Institute. Led by Northeastern’s Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Branden Fitelson and Maureen Eckert, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UMass Dartmouth, 11 college students from eight institutions across the US, the UK, and Australia spent five intensive days on challenges in logic, including deontic logic, truth & paradox, vagueness, conditionals, and applied logic. Each day featured interaction with an international group of faculty experts from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Australia.

In August, we learned that 20 Northeastern students have been named Millennium Fellows, a global program through which they will develop leadership skills and tackle pressing challenges to society, including climate change, poverty, and education. Rebecca Riccio, Khaled and Olfat Juffali Director of the Social Impact Lab (SIL), and her team will advise fellows on their projects, and help them plug into Northeastern’s campus-wide social change and social justice ecosystem. Also in August, Political Science hosted a dialogue for students from Meiji University on the Boston Campus. And just this past week, colleagues from Political Science and SPPUA brought over 200 attendees of the American Political Science Association annual meeting to the Boston campus for a conference on “Politics and Computational Social Science” and a short course on “Governing Urban Resilience: New Comparative Approaches.” On our Faculty in the News page, you can find the multiple ways in which our colleagues continue to impact public debates, from Ben Schmidt on the humanities, to Anthony Braga on guns and deaths.

We are delighted to welcome our new students, faculty and staff members to campus. One of the major initiatives that we will pursue this year in CSSH is Digital Integration. Integrating new, digital proficiencies with liberal arts capacities at all levels of the curriculum is central to the Experiential Liberal Arts mission of the College and the Humanics mission of Northeastern University. Big data, powerful social media, and artificial intelligence are inescapable features of our twenty-first century intellectual, civic, and professional communities, and we are committed to helping students shape their impact. CSSH’s students and faculty utilize digital methods and curate data sets to investigate key queries about humankind and to inform public policy. They also examine the ethical and social questions raised by new digital technologies and artificial intelligence, such as algorithmic bias or violations of privacy. In other words, we integrate human, data, and technological literacies with experiential learning.

In the course of our College Review in 2017 and in a survey conducted by the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks, students have told us that they welcome early and frequent exposure to opportunities for digital integration with the liberal arts. In this context, we have built nine combined majors with the College of Computer and Information Science, offer minors in Digital Methods in the Humanities and Computational Social Science, and a variety of integrative classes such as “Digital Methods for Social Sciences and Humanities,” “Bostonography: The City Through Data, Texts, Maps, and Networks,” and “Reading and Writing in the Digital Age.” Certificates in data analytics, digital humanities, and urban analytics provide graduate-level opportunities to enhance existing competencies or develop new ones.

This year we are building out additional opportunities including “Data Science 2000,” co-taught with Computer Science, which will feature modules developed by Laura Nelson from Sociology drawing on questions and data from the social sciences and humanities. With support from the Aegerter Family Digital Fellows Fund and the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks, we are also expanding collaborations between faculty and graduate students that will increase the number of introductory-level classes featuring digital integration modules in areas ranging from topic modeling to geo-coding to information ethics.

As the fall semester gets underway, I hope you will join the conversations at our multifaceted and exciting lecture series and events addressing complex questions of our past, present, and future. The Myra Kraft Open Classroom will take participants inside the nation’s newsrooms as they cover the midterm elections and gear up for 2020. Other series include Us vs. Them: Taming the Biology of Otherness (Center for International Affairs and World Cultures), Contemporary Issues in Security and Resilience Studies (Center for International Affairs and World Cultures and Humanities Center) and Digital Storytelling (NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks). In November, Heather Streets-Salter, chair of the History Department, will convene a conference on “Anti-Colonial Solidarities in the Interwar and Early Postwar World,” and in December, the residential fellows of the Humanities Center will present their work on this year’s theme “Cultures of Ability.” To check on these and many other opportunities, please visit our calendar of events.

Later this month, I hope to see you at our annual fall welcome receptions. Faculty and staff will welcome our newest colleagues at a reception on September 20, 3:30-5:30 p.m., at 909 Renaissance Park. Students, faculty and staff will be able to vote for the winners of the CSSH Experiential Liberal Arts Photo Contest at a reception hosted by CSSH Advising on September 20, 3-5 p.m., at 180 Renaissance Park. I also encourage students, faculty and staff to attend our second CSSH Co-op Poster Expo on September 27, 3-5 p.m., at 909 Renaissance Park. Students who have recently returned from co-op placements will share their experiences and how these have impacted their pathways in the Experiential Liberal Arts.

I wish all of you on the Boston campus and throughout our network a successful year, and look forward to what we can learn and accomplish together.


Uta Poiger
Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities