in the social sciences are deeply committed to
research. Some of this research is done by individual
faculty members with the assistance of one or
two collaborators (other faculty members, post-docs,
graduate students, and/or undergraduates). This
will always be a significant component of what
we do. But at the same time, we have established
three areas for priority enhancement. The goal
is to bring together students and faculty from
across the school to create or enhance teaching
and research. The areas for priority enhancement
are: (1) cognitive neurosciences, (2) race, ethnicity
and diversity, and (3) public policy.
Cognitive neuroscience studies the biological
foundations of mental phenomena. This is an area
of study that is of interest to a number of faculty
in the department of psychology, as well as in
several departments outside the social sciences
(ecology and evolutionary biology, computational
and applied mathematics, and computer science).
Increasingly, this field is seen as one that can
help account for human behavior in a variety of
spheres. Consequently, within the social sciences
at Rice, interest in cognitive neuroscience extends
beyond psychology to other social science disciplines.
This burgeoning area offers the opportunity for
the School of Social Sciences to become an international
leader in the application of cognitive neuroscience
to the study of human behavior.
Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity
Questions about the nature and effects of
social inequality and diversity have been central
to the social sciences since their inception.
The past decades have seen great changes in the
parameters of these issues. For example, localities
and nations have been challenged by the rise of
regional ethnic solidarity, global circuits of
trade and migration, and the resurgence of religious
fundamentalisms. Such developments pose opportunities
for social science theory, research, and policy.
Every department in the Rice University School
of Social Sciences has strong research and teaching
interests in these areas. Colleagues in other
schools at Rice have interests that both overlap
and complement those in the School of Social Science.
We stand poised to focus and concentrate our efforts
to achieve a qualitative leap ahead in scholarly
excellence and public visibility, as well as a
closer relationship with the community.
Public policy covers a range of areas and
a number of our faculty have proven interests
in a variety of policy topics. At Rice, we eschew
the traditional approach of organizing around
several policy issues. Instead, we use the organizing
principles of institutional design and methods
of inquiry. The structure of an institution has
a major impact on how it functions and the impacts
it produces. Different approaches to formulate
policy problems and their solutions are likely
to increase the chances that the best means to
achieve policy goals can be identified. Social
science faculty members from all our departments
have interests in public policy, and these interests
are shared by various faculty across the campus.
In each area, we have a core
of strong faculty and student interest. Furthermore,
there are faculty and students in other schools
at Rice who share these interests. We believe
that we can achieve national and international
excellence in each area. This will provide unique
and expanding opportunities not only for our faculty,
but also for our students who will be active participants
in the search for new knowledge.