Investigating the World
The social sciences not only help us understand the world around us. Political scientists, social workers, journalists, economists, anthropologists and other social scientists undertake crucial work that impacts and improves the world around us.
Social Sciences News
In On Wisconsin Magazine: From Wisconsin, with humor
Charlie Berens (BA'09 Journalism & Mass Communication, Geography) leans into his Badger State roots — and accent — to deliver the Manitowoc Minute, a comedic take on the news.Read More »
In On Wisconsin Magazine: Beata Nelson
Psychology major Beata Nelson began her swimming journey where any kid who loves the water might: at the neighborhood pool. Time spent there playing with friends quickly grew into swimming on club teams, competing for her high school, and committing to Wisconsin. And once a Badger, she found that her teammates offered the strongest support system she’d ever experienced.Read More »
Homo naledi had a tiny brain, but it looked a lot like ours Read More »
Departments, Programs & Professional Schools
Click to view all academic degree-granting program in the Social Sciences division.
Afro-American Studies, Department of
The Department of Afro-American Studies is committed to bringing academic research to the broadest possible audience, within and beyond the walls of the university. The department believes that the deepest understanding of the complex reality of race in America requires a truly interdisciplinary approach, one that draws on history and literature, the social sciences and the arts.
Department Chair: Christina Greene
American Indian Studies Program
The American Indian Studies Program works to foster an environment in which the university community can discover, examine, and appreciate the cultures, traditions, and values that reflect the many contributions American Indians have made and continue to make to the quality of life in contemporary society.
Director: Roberta Hill
Anthropology, Department of
Asian American Studies Program
The Asian American Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on the scholarship and experiences of Americans, Pacific Islanders, and immigrants to the United States from Asian heritage groups. The Program sheds light on Asian American experiences and concerns, both historically and in contemporary society.
Director: Leslie Bow
Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program
The Program in Chican@ and Latin@ Studies offers a systematic and interdisciplinary analysis of Mexican-and Latin-American-origin people, cultures, and collectivities within the United States. The program is designed to provide students with a broad knowledge base and the intellectual tools to understand the unity and diversity of U.S. Latina/o populations.
Associate Director: Ben MarquezMap Website
Communication Arts, Department of
The Department of Communication Arts offers two tracks of study at the undergraduate level: Rhetoric and Communication Science, and Radio-TV-Film. At the graduate level, degrees are offered in Media and Cultural Studies, Rhetoric, Politics, & Culture, Film, and Communication Science.
Department Chair: Michael Xenos
Criminal Justice Certificate Program
The Criminal Justice Certificate Program focuses on the causes of crime and delinquency, examine fundamental concepts underlying the practice of justice, and analyze the impact of crime on our society. The inner workings of criminal justice agencies are reviewed through an internship component and options for controlling crime are surveyed. Students are challenged to consider new ways of preventing and handling crime. Studies are completed in tandem with a chosen major.
Director: Alan Rubel
Economics, Department of
The Department of Economics is a top teaching and research department comprised of a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students who lead the field in current economic issues. The mission of the department is to understand the decisions of businesses and consumers as well as the implications and causes of contemporary economic issues by developing a systematic and thorough understanding of precisely how economic systems operate.
Department Chair: Ananth SeshadriMap Website
Geography, Department of
The L&S Honors Program serves over 1,300 students in the College of Letters and Science with an enriched undergraduate curriculum. Students in the program pursue the Honors in the Liberal Arts, Honors in the Major or Comprehensive Honors Degrees. The program began in response to a 1958 petition by students seeking more challenging work and opportunities to "delve more deeply" into their fields of interest.
Director: Sabine Gross
Information School (iSchool)
The Information School (Formally the School of Library & Information Studies) exists to educate professionals to bring together information in all its cultural forms and the people who need or want it. The iSchool at UW-Madison contributes to individual and collective knowledge, productivity, and well-being; and creates and disseminates knowledge about recordable information.
Director: Kristin EschenfelderMap Website
Journalism & Mass Communication, School of (SJMC)
As one of the oldest journalism programs in the nation, the School of Journalism & Mass Communication also stands as one of the best. With a rare blend of leading-edge research and professional training, the J-School is uncommon in its service to students and to the body of knowledge in mass communication.
Director: Hemant ShahMap Website
La Follette School of Public Affairs
The La Follette School of Public Affairs is a leading academic institution in improving the design, implementation, and evaluation of public policy and the practice of governance worldwide. The school produces and publishes innovative multidisciplinary policy and management research; trains, mentors, and educates students interested in domestic and international policy and governance in public, non-profit, and private settings; and informs the practice of public affairs locally, nationally, and globally by disseminating knowledge to practitioners and to the broader public.
Director: Donald MoynihanMap Website
Legal Studies Program
The Legal Studies Program's mission is to provide a liberal education across traditional disciplines, focusing on the theory and operation of law and legal institutions. The courses in the Legal Studies major expose students to the many facets of law as a social phenomenon - its evolution, function, motivating ideas and effects.
Director: Alan RubelMap Website
Planning and Landscape Architecture, Department of
Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture faculty and students have a long history of studying and contributing to applied research across a broad spectrum of planning issues here in Wisconsin and across the globe.
Planning and Landscape Architecture is the product of two previously separate academic departments that merged in summer 2017: The Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the Department of Landscape Architecture.
Department Chair: Ken GenskowMap Website
Political Science, Department of
The Political Science Department is one of the nation's oldest and most respected programs. The department is highly ranked in national surveys, and its award-winning faculty are known for innovative research on the discipline's most current and important questions.
Department Chair: John ZumbrunnenMap Website
Psychology, Department of
The Department of Psychology has established strong traditions of excellence in research, teaching, and in the training the next generation of psychological scientists. Faculty and students conduct cutting-edge, award-winning research that is at the forefront of discoveries in the field – research that both defines and shapes the future of psychological science.
Department Chair: Hill Goldsmith
Social Work, School of
Sociology, Department of
The Department of Sociology consistently ranks as one of the top Sociology departments in the country. The department excels in a wide variety of intellectual pursuits, including research, teaching, and public service.
Students have a wide range of interests reflecting disparate kinds of expertise in aging and the life course, class analysis, demography, economic sociology, education, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, family, gender, organizations, political sociology, social psychology, stratification, science and technology, and many other arenas of inquiry.
Department Chair: James RaymoMap Website
Interdisciplinary Centers, Institutes & Special Projects
Click to view all Social Sciences interdisciplinary centers and institutes.
Aging, Institute on
The UW-Madison Institute on Aging focuses on addressing the problems of aging, which include diseases and impairments (e.g., osteoporosis, dementia, Parkinson's, glaucoma, mobility problems) and the challenges of later life (e.g., widowhood, retirement, caregiving, relocation) as well as the potential of aging, which refers to the notable strengths, resources, and vitality of those in their 70's and beyond.
Director: Carol Ryff
Child Welfare Policy and Practice, Center on (CCWPP)
The Center on Child Welfare Policy and Practice (CCWPP) is a joint effort between the School of Social Work (SSW) and the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The CCWPP engages in inter-disciplinary efforts to inform child welfare policy and practice knowledge through enhanced collaboration and communication among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.
Center Co-Directors: Kristen Shook-Slack and Jennifer L. NoyesMap Website
Communications & Democracy, Center for
The Center for Communication and Democracy is a research and action project at UW-Madison. The goals of the center are to study how citizens can use new communications technologies to advance democratic discussion and civic participation; to explore the relationships between geographic communities and the emerging world of cyberspace; to explore the structural relations among communications and information markets, the civic sector, and government to find relationships necessary to build and sustain a public sphere in communication that is not dominated by the market, while sustaining economic growth and technological innovation; and to ask what government policies are most appropriate for combining the vibrancy of the market with the common needs of citizens in the sphere of communication.
Director: Lewis FriedlandMap
Communication Arts Instructional Media Center
The Instructional Media Center is the media hub of the Communication Arts Department. In addition to providing equipment and computer lab facilities for Communication Arts media production students, the IMC provides technical assistance to the graduate students, faculty, and staff of the department.
Supervisor: Erik GunnesonMap Website
Communication Research, Center for
The Center for Communication Research is dedicated to promoting communication research at the University of Wisconsin and beyond. Situated within the UW’s Department of Communication Arts and housed in Vilas Hall, the Center is staffed by the Department’s Communication Science faculty and graduate students.
Director: Michael XenosMap Website
COWS is a nonprofit think-and-do tank that promotes "high road" solutions to social problems. These treat shared growth and opportunity, environmental sustainability, and resilient democratic institutions as necessary and achievable complements in human development. Working with business, government, labor, and communities, COWS tries out new ideas, tests their effectiveness, and disseminates those with promise.
Director: Joel Rogers
Demography and Ecology, Center for
Demography of Health and Aging, Center for (CDHA)
The Center for Demography of Health and Aging (CDHA) at the University of Wisconsin - Madison is one of fourteen P30 demography centers on aging sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. Major research themes include: midlife development and aging, economics of population aging, inequalities in health and aging, and international comparative studies of health and aging.
Director: Alberto PalloniMap Website
Elections Research Center
The Elections Research Center fosters cutting edge academic analysis of national and state elections to further the scholarly understanding of factors that influence voter decision-making and election outcomes. It continues a long tradition of excellence in elections-related study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Director: Barry BurdenMap Website
Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change
Established in the Sociology Department in 1984, the Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change is dedicated to promoting intellectual reflection and exchange in the critical traditions of social thought, both within the academy as well as between it and the broader community. By fostering such interaction, the Havens Center seeks to contribute to the development of a society openly committed to reason, democracy, equality, and freedom.
Director: Erik Olin WrightMap Website
Harlow Center for Biological Psychology
The Harlow Center for Biological Psychology is located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is administered through the Department of Psychology and has long been home to internationally recognized research on behavioral and developmental psychology. The Harlow Center is affiliated with, but independent from, the adjacent Wisconsin Primate Research Center.
Director: Christopher CoeMap Website
Healthy Minds, Center for (CHM)
What if our world were a kinder, wiser, more compassionate place? A place where we exercise our minds just like we exercise our bodies? A place where transforming your mind not only improves your own well-being, but cascades to the well-being of others in your community and around the globe?
We’re making this vision a reality at the Center for Healthy Minds (CHM) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Faced with mental and physical health challenges at a global scale, we conduct rigorous scientific research to bring new insights and tools aimed at improving the well-being of people of all backgrounds and ages.Map Website
History of Cartography Project
The History of Cartography Project is a research, editorial, and publishing venture drawing international attention to the history of maps and mapping. The Project's major work is the multi-volume History of Cartography series. Its interdisciplinary approach brings together scholars in the arts, sciences, and humanities.
Director: Matthew Edney
History of Print and Digital Culture, Center for the
For nearly twenty years the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture has been fostering the interdisciplinary study of print, through lectures and colloquia, biennial conferences, and the University of Wisconsin Press series "Print Culture History in Modern America." The Center encourages scholarly work on the authorship, reading, publication and distribution of print--and now digital--materials, produced by those at both the center and the periphery of power.
Director: Jonathan SenchyneMap Website
Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies
The Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies seeks to understand how science and technology shape human lives and livelihoods and how society and culture, in turn, shape the development of science and technology. By focusing scholarly attention on science and technology as human institutions, situated in wider historical, social, and political contexts, the Center provides insights into the relationship between science and technology and such basic categories of social thought as race and gender, poverty and development, trust and credibility, participation and democracy, health and pathology, risk and uncertainty, globalization, and environmental protection.
Director: Samer AlatoutMap Website
Journalism Ethics, Center for
The Center for Journalism Ethics aims to advance the ethical standards and practices of democratic journalism through discussion, research, teaching, professional outreach, and newsroom partnerships. The Center is a voice for journalistic integrity, a forum for informed debate, and an incubator for new ideas and practices.
Director: Katy Culver
Law, Society, and Justice, Center for
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been recognized as a center for interdisciplinary studies related to law and legal institutions. The Center for Law, Society, and Justice (CLSJ) is the organizational home for academic programs related to law and legal institutions, other than the programs offered by the University of Wisconsin Law School. It currently houses the Legal Studies Program and the Criminal Justice Certificate Program.
Director: Alan RubelMap Website
Liberal Democracy, Center for the Study of
The Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy, located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was founded in the fall of 2006 by a core group of Madison faculty members with a diversity of perspectives. The Center's main objective is to probe the nature and prospects of liberal democracy and its core principles, practices, and institutions.
Co-Directors: Richard Avramenko and John SharplessMap Website
Mass Communication Research Center
The goal of this graduate student and faculty collaborative is to integrate scholarship from communications, political science, psychology and sociology to investigate the effects of mass media on political judgment and reasoning. This working group has a long history in the school, where it has been a center of research activity focusing on media and politics for over 35 years.
Director: Dhavan ShahMap Website
Politics, Center for the Study of
The Wisconsin NewsLab is a 2,500 square foot media analysis facility located at the center of the UW – Madison Campus. NewsLab is equipped with 35 Windows XP workstations each of them capable of digitizing video from DVD, video cassette, or other digital media. News is gathered, sorted, and archived automatically by NewsLab's InfoSite system. Staff then analyzes each segment answering questions provided by researchers.
Co-Directors: Kenneth Goldstein, James FowlerMap Website
Poverty, Institute for Research on (IRP)
IRP is a center for interdisciplinary research into the causes, consequences, and cures of poverty and social inequality in the United States. As one of three National Poverty Research Centers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, IRP has a particular interest in poverty and family welfare in Wisconsin and as well as the nation.
Director: Lonnie BergerMap Website
Psychology Research and Training Clinic
The Psychology Research and Training Clinic has existed for more than thirty years and has established a reputation for quality service. The success of the clinic is the result of both the ongoing training in advanced treatment methods as well as the extensive time dedicated to each case by the therapist of his or her supervisor.
Director: Linnea BurkMap Website
Social Science Computing Cooperative (SSCC)
The Social Science Computing Cooperative provides computer services for the Social Sciences. The Cooperative proper is made up of research agencies, departments and one School which contribute to the cooperative and receive services in return. However, the SSCC also provides some services to anyone in the Social Science Division of the University, including an instructional computer lab.
Director: Nancy McDermottMap Website
Social Science Research Services (SSRS)
Social Science Research Services (SSRS) serves social science researchers in the College of Letters and Science. The central function of SSRS is to provide specialized, high quality services to advance interdisciplinary social science research at the UW-Madison. SSRS provides an administrative "umbrella" to coordinate a variety of service-providing units. Any social science researcher or unit wishing to utilize the services provided through SSRS is welcome to contact us to determine the services that are available to them.
Director: Janet ClearMap Website
State, Local, and Tribal Governance, Wisconsin Center for
The Wisconsin Center for State, Local and Tribal Governance began in 1995 to house, in one spot, the numerous outreach efforts provided by La Follette School of Public Affairs professors who work with mayors, communities, tribes and others on issues such as youth violence, intergovernmental relations, leadership, personnel policies and more.
Director: Dennis DresangMap Website
Survey Center (UWSC)
For over 25 years, the University of Wisconsin Survey Center (UWSC) has provided a broad range of high quality survey research services to the UW faculty, staff and administrators, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. The Center helps design and implement all components of a survey ranging from questionnaire design and layout to data collection to report writing and analysis.
Director: Nora SchaefferMap Website
Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office (SCO)
The State Cartographer’s Office (SCO) is Wisconsin’s resource for information about maps, cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), land information systems (LIS), and geospatial technology. The office supports the state's geospatial community through presentations and educational workshops, technical consulting, print and digital publications, web-based catalogs and data services, and information about events, jobs and emerging trends.
Wisconsin State Cartographer: Howard VereginMap Website
The La Follette School of Public Affairs is ranked 13th among 272 graduate programs in public affairs, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 rankings. It also ranked in the top 12 for four specialty areas, including second in Social Policy.
Five Things You Need to Know about the Social Sciences
Social science is the study of life — of society and the ways humans behave and influence the world.
Five Things You Need to Know about the Social Sciences
The social sciences help explain events beyond our immediate experiences, from the causes of unemployment to what makes people happy.
Five Things You Need to Know about the Social Sciences
Social sciences do much more than study the obvious.
Five Things You Need to Know about the Social Sciences
Social sciences can change the world! Social scientists help solve problems such as political unrest, crime, energy crises, economic instability and health issues.