Connections 15 Digital File

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Many of today's academic disciplines find their origins in specific historical periods. The humanities arguably have their roots in the Renaissance when beauty, in art and literature, became an object of sustained study. The hard sciences, of course, were born a century later in the Scientific Revolution. And modern engineering and technology derive in part from the technical and material advances of the industrial Revolution. The social sciences too arose from a particular period and are among the most fledgling of academic pursuits. Most, in their current forms, sprang up during the heady Enlightenment, when individuals, with an audacious confidence, began to apply human reason to the study of human societies and institutions. Maybe not surprisingly, the study of humans and human societies has arguably proved more complex, challenging, and certainly more contested than the study of either art or nature, in part because the stakes are so high. Enlightenment thinkers scrutinized society with the object of applying intelligence to improving the human condition. Locke, who examined the nature of social power, was arguably our first modern political scientist; Smith, who took an analytical look at the world of human commerce, our first economist; Beccaria questioned Europe's violent penal system, coining the phrase Dear Alumni and Friends, Shawn Miller Associate Dean "cruel and unusual punishments," which might make him our first sociologist; von Humboldt, who attempted to understand the earth holistically—man, land, and nature—may be our first environmental geographer; and Voltaire and Gibbon could be the first of modern historians for having ameliorating agendas that went beyond mere chronology. There are certainly other claimants to being first in each of these disciplines (and founders of other societal disciplines would follow), but this gives a sense of the timing of the origins of the social sciences. This tradition of striving, through our research and teaching, to better understand who we are as people at many scales—individuals, families, institutions, and nations—and to consider how we can make the communities we live in better, happier, and healthier, continues. The nine programs that make up our college embody these pursuits. The problems remain complex and the answers contested, but we have arguably made significant progress on many fronts, and we, as possibly any people in any time, are more distinctly aware of our social, behavioral, and family challenges. Our agenda, we hope, is not cynical, jaded, and esoteric, one driven by an effete intellectualism that simply turns out published pages to no particular purpose. We remain concerned with the practical concerns of our everyday presents and everyday futures. Hence, we again hope there is little in the way of ivory in the Kimball Tower, or, for that matter, in any of the towers that contain our many labs and classrooms. We, both faculty and students, remain enthusiastically engaged in many good causes, and we are deeply grateful to those who share our vision and continue to support us in these pursuits. Best,

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