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A Brief History of The Department of Social Sciences

By Dr. John Hayden, Bernhardt Professor of History

When Southwestern Normal School opened its doors in 1903, tuition was free, and new enrollees with questions about room and board in Weatherford (there were no school dorms) were advised to visit the university president himself for advice on local lodging. Since those first days, Southwestern has gone through many name changes. Tuition is no longer free, and the duties of university administrators have evolved; but through it all, Southwestern has always offered degrees in the social sciences.

Originally, the diplomas granted from Southwestern Normal School were five year certificates that allowed graduates to teach at any of the public schools in Oklahoma. In 1903, the department that dealt with most of what are now considered the social sciences was the Department of History, Civics, and Economics. The first department chair was Robert Neely Linville. By 1908, courses in Geography were being offered through the Department of Astronomy, Geology, and Geography. In 1920, Sociology became one of the offerings of the Department of History, Civics, and Government.

In the fall of 1927, teachers colleges in Oklahoma began granting non-teaching degrees. At Southwestern, for example, students could now major in History and Government or Economics and Sociology. In the late 1930s, Southwestern opened a separate Division of Arts and Sciences, and by 1940, this division was offering degrees in History or Sociology, among others. Through this period, Southwestern continued to offer teaching certificates as well. Students could now earn certificates in Civics, Economics, Sociology, and Problems of Democracy or in Industrial Geography or in Physical Geography or in History. In 1941, Southwestern began recommending Pre-Law courses for those students interested in attending law school.

In 1948, the Division of Arts and Sciences was formally comprised of departments. The Department of History, headed by L.E. Peevey, offered courses in History, Government, Sociology, and Geography. These offerings through one department became the nucleus for the modern Department of Social Sciences. The department at this time also offered a teaching certificate in Economics, Sociology, and Government as well as one in History.

During the boom years of the 1960s and 1970s, the department faculty numbered between sixteen and twenty-two. In addition to majors in social science disciplines, a degree in Social Science Education was also offered. Beginning in 1993, a new degree in History Education became available through the department. In 1994, the department initiated a Social Work Program. In 1996, a degree in Criminal Justice was introduced. In 2005, the department added a minor in American Indian Studies and incorporated three economics faculty members from the School of Business.

Throughout its history, Southwestern's Department of Social Sciences has responded to societal trends and student interests by revising and updating its degree offerings. In addition, through its large role in Southwestern's General Education Program, the department works to ensure that the learning experience of Southwestern students has the breadth appropriate to an educated person. In these ways, the department strives to graduate students holding relevant degrees enabling them to function as informed citizens in a variety of vocations.

Today, thirteen faculty members comprise the Department of Social Sciences, one of the seven departments located within the College of Arts and Sciences at Southwestern. The department offers degrees in Criminal Justice, History, History Education, and Political Science. (In 2003, the Social Work Program was relocated to the College of Professional and Graduate Studies.) Through the department, current students can minor in Criminal Justice, Economics, History, Political Science, Pre-Law, and American Indian Studies. As of Spring 2010, there were over 200 undergraduate majors in departmental programs along with several graduate students. In addition, there were over 75 minors in departmental programs.

In addition to major and minor programs, the Department of Social Sciences contributes seven courses to the General Education program: American Government and Politics, United States History, World History, World Cultural Geography, Introduction to Macroeconomics, Introduction to Microeconomics, and Introduction to Sociology. The department also features several active student organizations, such as the Criminal Justice Students’ Association, the Southwestern History Club, Phi Alpha Theta (a branch of the national history honor society), the Political Science Association, and Phi Alpha Delta (a pre-law fraternity).

During most semesters, the department offers over 75 sections with more than 2,500 students enrolled. Approximately 25 sections are offered during summer terms.

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