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Dean's Message

Dean Carol Padden 2016 - photo by Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego PublicationsWe are faced with complex challenges at home and in every region around the globe. These range from addressing our changing climate to providing people with education and basic health services.

For each of these complex issues, there are important social and political dimensions. As our sea levels continue to rise around the world, how can and should governments respond to protect their citizens?  How should scarce resources, such as fresh water or medical care, be distributed among a population? What forms of public communication about health issues can be effective? What are the ways that social environments affect timely language development in young children?  In societies with an aging population, how do we support their continued active participation in their communities?

For each of these dimensions, social scientists at UC San Diego play an important role. We have faculty who study how governments communicate with their constituents in Latin America, Europe and elsewhere in the world. Our faculty debate economies of scale for scarce resources.  We train graduate students in methods of teaching literacy to young children whose first language is not English. 

In the Division of Social Sciences, we are the glue, the substance that links theory to action. We study how resources are collected and distributed according to political and social imperatives. We also study the complex mechanisms of learning and memory in humans. We use big data to track language change over time, giving us a way to observe changes in social groupings within society.  We devise early education programs to ensure that young children receive sufficient language input at home so they are prepared to learn to read and write at school.  We compare competing models for funding poverty programs around the world to see which work better.  We identify social networks of friends and observe how they promote collective decision-making and community well-being. We extract artifacts from ancient civilizations and extrapolate how societies lived three thousand years ago.

More than half of all students at UC San Diego come into contact with faculty in the social sciences through our courses.  With 10 departments and six interdisciplinary degree-granting programs, we are the largest division on campus, with over 9,000 majors. Social science faculty members address some of the most pressing social problems and devise ideas, proposals and strategies.

As we plan another cycle of hiring new faculty in the social sciences, we continue to search for individuals who can deliver imaginative ways of tackling our society’s problems: new models, new approaches and new solutions.  Our undergraduate and graduate students become apprentices and partners in our quest for an engaged and vibrant approach to the social sciences.  Our broader project is to understand complexity, and propose ways of bringing our problems to human scale. We invite you to browse through our different programs and descriptions of faculty and student projects. Welcome to the Social Sciences at UC San Diego.

Carol Padden
Dean of Social Sciences
Sanford I. Berman Chair in Language and Human Communication