What’s in a name? In the case of Redeemer’s newly named Applied Social Sciences department, quite a lot.
Redeemer has offered a combined program in Sociology and Social Work since 2000. The program provides graduates with entry into a wide array of careers in human and social services and prepares students for further graduate study in social work, sociology and related programs.
However, the name “Sociology/Social Work” never quite did justice to the unique interdisciplinary approach that has always characterized the department. “Sociology and social work have always overlapped, particularly in the 19th century when they both began,” explains associate professor of sociology Dr. Timothy Epp, who has been with the department since 2002. “We’ve always envisioned our program as one that combines the best of both sociology and social work.”
Historically, sociology has often been thought of as the discipline that provides theoretical understanding of the social world, while social work focuses on the practical side of working with people. But that distinction is too simplistic. While in the academic world, theory and practice can often be artificially divided, in the real world, addressing people’s problems is more complex.
The intentional blending of sociology and social work in Redeemer’s newly named Applied Social Sciences program is consistent with a long Christian tradition in which wisdom is paired with action for social change. “Rather than having to choose between one or the other,” Epp continues, “the department’s new name makes it more clear that we need both.” For students who want to make a difference, Applied Social Sciences provides a launching pad for a diverse range of career options.
“While in the academic world, theory and practice can often be artificially divided, in the real world, addressing people’s problems is more complex.”
A 2015 departmental review gave the department a catalyst to to re-imagine its name. All Redeemer programs are required to undergo a thorough quality assurance review, including close scrutiny from external reviewers. “One of the things that became clear when we took a close look at our curriculum,” department chair Dr. Jim Vanderwoerd remembers, “was how connected our courses were, whether they were sociology or social work.”
Students can choose a general Applied Social Sciences major, or they can focus their studies by pursuing an honours major with a Social Work stream. Either way, they will take internship courses in which they work in local agencies to put into practice what they’re learning in the classroom. There are also several specific minors including Criminal Justice, Disability Studies or Social Justice.
With a new name and a renewed focus, the department of Applied Social Sciences is well positioned to serve students who are motivated to take up the challenge of serving “the least of these.”