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Social Theory and Practice (STP) (Major)

The Social Theory and Practice Major is open to ALL LSA Students.

The RC Social Theory and Practice Major supports students in developing the analytical and practical skills necessary for active engagement in the world and for building careers that promote equality and responsible citizenship. Faculty whose work encompasses sociology, political science, history, anthropology, economics, education, environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, geography, and psychology provide students with multi-disciplinary approaches to current issues in U.S. society and the global environment. Students learn theories, methods, and strategies that enable them to understand and critique social structures and processes and to become effective actors in struggles for justice. They take core courses together, and create individual major plans tailored to their specific interests. Recent STP concentrators have pursued such topics as “Health Policy in the United States,” “Tracking Globalization in Detroit,” “Juvenile Justice in the U.S. and Senegal,” “Urban Youth Empowerment,” “Sustainable Agriculture in Michigan and Cuba,” “Peace, Policy, and Public Health,” and “Community Dialogues.”

The STP Major Advisor advises students about requirements and course options, tracks their progress through the major, and signs release forms.

The student’s faculty mentor is an intellectual guide and companion who shares the student’s academic interests. STP students are linked with an initial faculty mentor during the semester they submit a major proposal (See “c” below), however a student might have multiple faculty mentors over the years.

Make an advising appointment to explore or declare the RC Social Theory and Practice Major. 

Learn more about the STP major on the RC Podcast, December 2019 episode: 

Major Prerequisites

Before declaring the RC Social Theory and Practice Major (typically at the end of the sophomore or early junior year), students must complete the following prerequisites:

  • RCSSCI 260: Understanding Power/Theorizing Knowledge and RCSSCI 290, a one-credit course taken in the same semester that helps them prepare their Individual Major Proposal (see third bullet).

  • One other social science “gateway” course at the 200 or low 300 level chosen in consultation with the STP Major Advisor. The aim of the gateway courses is to introduce students to issues and approaches in the social sciences as well as to the ways questions are framed from different disciplinary perspectives.

  • An Individual Major Proposal, which outlines the student’s own plan of study and is written in consultation with a faculty mentor assigned by the 290 instructor. The proposal should specify the intellectual rationale for the major, lay out the courses that the student might take, and indicate the kind of senior project the student may complete in the final semester or year. Students may continue to meet informally with their mentors throughout their years in the STP program, or they may choose another faculty mentor as their interests change.

Major Requirements

All concentrators must complete the following requirements in addition to the prerequisites:

Two courses provide the institutional framework common to all students:

  1. RCSSCI 301: The Origins of Social Science Thinking. This course focuses on the early development of political economy, sociology, and psychology in both Europe and the U.S.

  2. A research methods course that includes a quantitative component, usually STATS 250, SOC 310, or ECON 404.

A minimum of 18 credits (at least six upper-level courses) providing the thematic framework for the major as tentatively outlined in the student’s proposal . These 18 credits include:

  • A second social science theory course

  • A practicum/community engagement course

  • Electives

RCSSCI 460: Senior Project Seminar. Typically taken by all STP majors during the Fall of the senior year.

Completion of a Senior Project. This requirement, considered the culmination of the major, is usually completed through RCSSI 460 under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Students work closely with their respective faculty mentors, meeting regularly to discuss the projects and their writing. A Senior Project can take many forms:

  1. One type of senior project stems from an internship or field study in the U.S. or abroad which synthesizes on-going involvement in a “real world” setting with critical and conceptual analysis and personal reflection. Typically, the project is documented in a written report of about 15-25 pages.

  2. Another type of senior project is a more traditional semester-long thesis that explores themes from the student’s individual plan of study in the STP Major. The thesis is typically 30-50 pages in length, and either is organized around a series of analytical questions or makes an argument for a particular point of view or practical application.

  3. Ambitious students with an overall GPS of 3.4 or higher may consider completing an Honors Thesis. This year-long empirical research and writing project of around 60 pages allows a student to pursue a particular set of original research questions developed by the student in consultation with his or her thesis advisor or other instructor (generally within the RC) who agrees to be the “first reader” of the finished work. The student takes the initiative to find a “second reader” (often outside the RC), who agrees to read and evaluate the final draft of the student’s work. 

Honors & Honors Theses

FA22 Note: We are currently revising our honors thesis process and will have this information updated in early Winter 2023. In the meantime, please contact STP Program Head Becca Pickus at with any questions.

Social Theory & Practice Faculty and their Research Interests

David Burkam schooling; gender, race & social inequities in educational access; research methods; statistics

Sueann Caulfield Latin American & Brazilian history; gender, sexuality & human rights

Angela Dillard American & African-American intellectual & political history; critical race theory; religious studies; social movement history & theory; conservative thought

Jeff Evans creative process; clinical psychology; neuropsychology; arts in healthcare; narrative methods

Leila Kawar legal theory & culture; migration & citizenship; comparative social policy

Ashley Lucas arts practice & incarceration; theatre for social change; impact of incarceration on families; Latina/o Studies; comparative ethic studies

Virginia Murphy environmental activism; American environmental literature & travel narratives; food justice, sustainable agriculture & agricultural labor issues; climate & environmental justice

Becca Pickus critical pedagogies; racial justice; restorative justice & incarceration; grief, loss & trauma; trauma-responsive practices

Ian Robinson comparative & international political economy; unions & labor movements; organizing for social justice; trade policy & alternative models of North American integration; Mexican labor migration; experiential & community service learning

Mabel Rodriguez linguistics (second language acquisition, bilingualism, translation); migrant outreach & education; experiential & community service learning

Teresa Sanchez-Snell Spanish language-based Internships; service learning within the Latinx community; study of Latinx experiences in the United States

Heather Thompson American history; crime & justice; policing; prisons; labor; Detroit

Stephen Ward African-American history; Black Power Movement; community-based political activism; urban studies; Detroit

Nora Krinitsky: United States and African American history, urban studies, crime and justice, policing, prison and incarceration, law and society

Emeritus/Emerita Faculty

Charlie Bright

Helen Fox

Hank Greenspan

Ann Larimore

Jennifer Myers

Frank Thompson

David Turnley

Thomas Weisskopf


Revised 11.10.21