Bill Falls photoWelcome from the Dean

An increasing number of students are taking the path less travelled when it comes to choosing a major. Many are avoiding the beaten track and venturing off-road, exploring places where traditional disciplines overlap.

For example, many students have expressed an interest in social science approaches to health, healing, and health care in human populations. In response, the College of Arts and Sciences is launching a new major this fall called Health and Society (HSOC), which was developed after years of hard work by the curriculum committee and will be led by Jeanne Shea, associate professor of anthropology.

Like several other CAS majors, including Global Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, this new major isn’t affiliated with a particular department, but is a free-standing academic program housed in CAS. Students in the major will be taught by faculty from many different departments. In fact, HSOC will offer courses from other UVM colleges, including Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Education and Social Services (CESS).

The program draws on a rich array of perspectives from anthropology, sociology, statistics, psychology, policy, and health sciences to construct a deep, far-reaching inquiry into health, healing and health care.

The program will be particularly attractive for students that are curious about medicine or public health but from a more nuanced understanding of sociocultural diversity, social determinants of health, and complex social systems.

For students like Charlotte Malling ’19, who is working in Kigali, Rwanda this summer for the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) Summer Internship, the major offers many potential career directions.

Originally a neuroscience major in CAS with the intent of practicing medicine, she became more interested in social determinants of health, and switched to anthropology with a global health concentration. She is developing a “big picture” view of health care in the U.S. and abroad through her classes, an internship in the emergency department in a Connecticut hospital, and her volunteer work for an AIDS nonprofit called Vermont CARES in Burlington. Now she’ll be building a more global perspective in Rwanda.

Charlotte hasn’t discounted medical school as a future option—she’s also considering a master’s in global health or an MBA in international healthcare management.  

“The social determinants of health disparities are a critical issue—that’s what I want to focus on right now,” she said in a recent interview. “I’d like to work for a few years before heading to grad school and see where my skills and experience would lend themselves best. The UGHE opportunity, which is open to all undergraduates at UVM, is a really good stepping stone for any of those options.”

Charlotte is one of our student trailblazers looking for an academic experience that draws on perspectives from multiple disciplines. That’s where the magic often lies.


Bill Falls signature

Bill Falls
Dean of Arts and Sciences

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