Jan 28, 2023  
Rensselaer Catalog 2007-2008 
Rensselaer Catalog 2007-2008 [Archived Catalog]

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

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Dean: John P. Harrington

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Curriculum Initiatives: C.L. Odell

Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Research Initiatives: Wayne D. Gray

Director of Student Services: Elizabeth Large

Director of Program Development: Dean Button

Director of External Communication: Donald Moore

School of Humanities and Social Sciences Home Page: http://www.hss.rpi.edu

In an historic technological institution, the Rensselaer School of Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS) offers exciting new institute research areas as well as broad university educational opportunities. The School’s five departments offer innovative and interdisciplinary programs of study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The undergraduate programs include: majors in humanities, social science, and arts disciplines; collaborations and dual majors for students of all schools; and a core curriculum that is a common element in the course of study for all Rensselaer students. The graduate programs in H&SS offer unique opportunities for study of the technological world, its impact on society, and its potential contributions to social, cultural, and artistic goals. All H&SS students have a broad choice of electives representing Rensselaer’s global vision and commitment to personal excellence though new studies in arts, communications, and culture studies as well as to the traditional areas of liberal arts and social sciences.

H&SS programs at Rensselaer give every student close contact with outstanding faculty members. Those faculty—scholars and practitioners themselves—create programs that are distinctive for research applications at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students also have access to field work and studio experiences, internships and professional co-op opportunities, outstanding electronic laboratories and computer facilities, and, above all, opportunities to cross boundaries and to develop new interdisciplinary projects. These programs integrate the intellectual depth and the practical experience needed for leadership careers in business, non-profit corporations, government and government-related organizations, higher education, and arts. Our students do not only participate in the technological world: they create it, and they shape it.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered in five degree granting departments, including Arts; Cognitive Science; Economics; Language, Literature, and Communication; and Science and Technology Studies. In addition, students can major in interdisciplinary programs that integrate scientific and technical tools with the arts, social sciences, communication, and humanities. These include Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC) and Design, Innovation and Society (DIS) at the undergraduate level; and Ecological Economics, Values, and Policy (EEVP) at the graduate level.

Degrees Offered and Associated Departments

Communication and Rhetoric
Ecological Economics
Ecological Economics, Values, and Policy
Electronic Arts
Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication
Design, Innovation and Society
Science, Technology, and Society
Science and Technology Studies
Technical Communication
  Language, Literature, and Communication
Language, Literature, and Communication
Cognitive Science
Cognitive Science
Science and Technology Studies
Science and Technology Studies
Language, Literature, and Communication

Overview of Undergraduate Programs

Individual departments in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences offer Bachelor of Science degree programs in each of the following curricula: Communication, Economics, Electronic Arts, Philosophy, Psychology, and Science and Technology Studies.

In addition, a number of interdisciplinary programs are also available. These programs are offered jointly between two or more departments within the school or with other Institute schools. H&SS interdisciplinary degree programs include the following, all of which are explained in greater detail under the heading Interdisciplinary Programs and Research at the end of the H&SS section of this catalog.

  • Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC) – The departments of Arts and of Language, Literature, and Communication (LL&C) offer this B.S. degree, which combines theory and practice through electronic media arts studio and theory courses.
  • Design, Innovation and Society (DIS) – This innovative design program combines engineering courses, STS courses, and design studios.

In all curriculum areas, H&SS strives to provide flexibility whenever possible. As part of this effort, the department offers the Independent Study Program, which fills specialized educational needs in areas that regular departmental offerings do not adequately serve. Independent Study is an individualized reading or research program that a student proposes to a faculty member whose expertise covers a specific area of interest. Students interested in Independent Study must meet a number of conditions including:

  • Demonstration of an ability to work independently as well as completion of the prerequisites needed to undertake the project successfully.
  • Evidence that no equivalent course is available at Rensselaer or at any of the consortium institutions in the Capital District or that the student is unable to schedule such a course due to unusual curricular demands.
  • The faculty member has sufficient time to supervise the proposed course of study.
  • Development of a written agreement spelling out the scope of the work to be done, the expected deliverables, and the evaluation criteria to be applied.
  • Provision of a description of the amount of work expected and an understanding that the level at which it is to be completed must be similar to the demands of an equivalent course.
  • The ability of faculty members to place additional constraints on the participation in the Independent Study.

H&SS Core Program

As part of their B.S. degree program, all Rensselaer undergraduates take a selection of H&SS courses referred to as the H&SS core. This core is the foundation of undergraduate education. In it, students develop the skills necessary for personal and professional success, and they also begin to explore the social and cultural areas of study and issues of debate that are important in the global society of the twenty-first century.

The core consists of 24 credit hours, or six courses distributed to afford students a breadth of perspective across the various disciplines as well as a more in-depth experience in at least one area. Engineering students automatically take two of the 24 credit hours as professional development in their engineering design sequence and take a two-credit H&SS professional development course in their junior year.

To ensure breadth in the core courses, students must select as least two courses (eight credit hours) from each of the lists below.


Humanities   Code   Social Sciences   Code
Foreign Languages
Science and Technology Studies, Humanities
Interdisciplinary Studies
Science and Technology Studies, Social Science
Interdisciplinary Studies

H&SS interdisciplinary courses may be substituted for courses in either category.

To ensure depth in the H&SS core, students must also take at least two courses within a single area code (STSH and STSS can be counted as a single area), at least one of which is taken at an advanced level (above 1000). No course within the depth sequence may be taken as Pass/No Credit.

No more than three 1000-level H&SS courses may be applied toward the H&SS core requirement, no more than six credits may be taken as Pass/No credit, and at least one course (four credits) must be at the 4000 level.

Students entering Rensselaer in their first year may transfer up to two H&SS courses (up to eight credit hours) toward their H&SS core requirement (including Advanced Placement credit).

Transfer students from an accredited collegiate program who have completed at least one college year but who come to Rensselaer with first-year status may qualify for additional core transfers at the discretion of the H&SS curriculum adviser. Transfer students entering Rensselaer at the sophomore level or above are not limited in the number of courses they may transfer for H&SS core credit. All others must take at least 16 credit hours of their H&SS core at Rensselaer.

Enrolled Rensselaer students wishing to take an H&SS course for credit at another accredited institution must obtain prior approval for the course from the core curriculum adviser. Applicants must furnish a catalog description of the proposed course and a completed copy of Rensselaer’s Transfer Credit Approval form to the core curriculum adviser. A maximum of two courses (up to eight credit hours) of transfers is allowed (including AP courses).

Special Undergraduate Opportunities

Accelerated Prelaw Program – This opportunity is offered within the Department of STS in cooperation with Albany Law School and other law schools. For additional details, see the Science and Technology Studies section of this catalog.

Overview of Graduate Programs

The School of Humanities and Social Sciences offers both master’s and doctoral level programs. In addition, it provides a selection of special certificate program opportunities.

Master’s Programs

Within H&SS, three types of master’s degrees are available. Among these are 30-credit-hour M.S. degrees, offered within the departments of Language, Literature, and Communication, Economics, and Science and Technology Studies.

Another 30-credit-hour Professional Master’s program is intended for individuals already in the work force who are seeking a professional focus. Professional Master’s are available in Ecological Economics, Values, and Policy (EEVP). Finally, H&SS offers a 60-credit-hour Master of Fine Arts in Electronic Arts through the Arts Department.

Doctoral Programs

Programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) are offered in Electronic Arts, Cognitive Science, Ecological Economics, Science and Technology Studies, and Communication and Rhetoric. Individual courses and opportunities for directed study are also available in other areas.

Special Graduate Opportunities

Certificate Programs – The Department of LL&C offers two specialization certificates, one in Graphics and the other in Human-Computer Interaction, as options in the master’s degree in technical communication.

Interdisciplinary Degree Programs

Few institutions better understand that, in an increasingly complex world, individuals often need a broader range of knowledge than can be obtained through study of a single discipline. As a result, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences has developed a strong selection of multidisciplinary academic and research programs. These programs cross not only disciplines, but allow Rensselaer schools to offer the highest possible degree of multidisciplinary education.

In addition to opportunities in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences described below, other interdisciplinary programs available at Rensselaer are listed in the Interdisciplinary Studies Index of this catalog and are described fully in the section pertaining to the associated Institute school or division.

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