SJSU Social Sciences

One of the tasks those of us working in the social sciences and humanities have these days is assuring students that they can get good jobs with degrees in liberal arts fields. It’s heartening to see more opinion pieces popping up that support that effort. Recently, for instance, I came across three examples:

  1. In a Financial Times column the economist John Kay wrote about how a liberal education is now more useful than job-specific skills. He notes, “those who argue that more resources should be devoted to teaching STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have a point, but not the point they generally make…It is a mistake to focus basic education on job-specific skills that a changing world will render redundant in a few years. The objective should be to equip students to enjoy rewarding employment and fulfilling lives in a future environment whose demands we can neither anticipate nor predict.”
  2. The Washington Post published an article noting that tech companies are hiring more liberal-arts majors than you think. Brian Fung reports that “liberal arts graduates joined the ranks of tech companies at a faster clip in the past few years than their engineering and computer-science counterparts, according to an analysis by LinkedIn of its own users. And of the recent liberal arts grads the company examined, as many as 2 in 5 now work at an Internet or software company.”
  3. In the article “The Future of Work: Preparing Students for a Changing World of Work,” University of Maryland-Baltimore County President Freeman A. Hrabowski III discussed the skills developed in studying liberal arts fields: “As employers now routinely ask for T-shaped employees–those with deep technical knowledge and broad business and people skills–postsecondary institutions must now provide students with knowledge in their fields and encourage them to develop a strong work ethic and persistence; an appreciation of the larger contexts of their work; and the ability to work in groups and to market their ideas.”

Let’s hope that these types of articles continue to appear!

I recently learned about the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge (SVIC), an event that promotes creativity and entrepreneurship from San José State University students, alumni, faculty, and staff. The SVIC provides an opportunity for students to network with prospective employers, and they can win cash prizes for their entrepreneurial ideas. I am particularly interested in the social innovation category of the SVIC, so I will definitely attend to learn new ideas about processes and products that can improve the common good. For more information about the SVIC, visit its webpage!

Yesterday was the first day of fall semester classes here at San José State University. Seeing tons of students on campus was very strange, as the last time I was a member of an institution that started fall classes in August instead of September was 20 years ago while I was a graduate student at Indiana University. This week also felt weird because it was the first time since the early years on the faculty at the University of Minnesota where I was not involved in some sort of student orientation activity. In my two years at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside I participated in first week orientation activities, and after getting tenure at the University of Minnesota I did a lot of work with their Welcome Week activities. Going to the U of M New Student Convocation was a highlight of the year.

Here at SJSU my Associate Dean led a college-specific orientation session for transfer students. I’ll have to join her next year, as well as explore ways in which I can get involved in other SJSU orientation activities. I may also have to advocate for new activities. For example, SJSU does not have an orientation convocation that serves as an official welcome to the university, where new students are provided with an introduction to university history and traditions (like school songs, taught by the marching band after they enter in full uniform!), and hear from the president and students (such as an epic inspirational speech by a Georgia Tech student.) We’ve got to make that happen here!

The SJSU College of Social Sciences is now on Facebook and Twitter. We will start Instagram and LinkedIn pages later. Please “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!


Today I spoke with 8th grade students from the Upward Bound program of Tarrant County College (Fort Worth, TX). Thanks to SJSU Professor Wendy Ng for the action shots!

“What worries you most—and/or excites you most—about the future of work and workers? Put another way: What will be the most consequential changes in the world of work and workers, and what anxieties and possibilities will they produce?”

The above questions are posed on the Pacific Standard magazine’s online special section on “The Future of Work.”  In a project that begun on August 3, short essays and analyses are posted weekly, and the November/December 2015 print issue of the magazine will include new original work that will be published with some of the articles that are first posted online. It seems like a very intriguing project; a similar initiative could be launched by a college of social sciences!

This morning I got breakfast at a Whole Foods, and my bill came to $8.02. At first I was annoyed: why can’t they calculate prices and taxes that land the total on the dollar? My second thought was that maybe generating a ton of change is intentional, so that it’s easier to give homeless folks a little something as we walk out of stores. My third thought was about the wages paid to Whole Foods workers. [Don’t ask about how and why my mind skipped from thought to disparate thought!] Earlier in the week I learned about how SJSU sociology students helped raise the minimum wage in San José. That’s the type of story that makes me proud to be in my new post. I’m looking forward to learning about additional examples of the powerful use of the social sciences here in the San Francisco Bay Area!