Campus News

Socially Engaged and Solutions Oriented

The Faculty of Social Sciences applies teaching, research and outreach to the crises of today

By Dr Acolla Lewis-Cameron

We live on an island and in a region, a world that is constantly bombarded by crises that have disrupted the way we travel, the way we consume goods and services, the way we invest, and the way we live. It is a highly digitised, connected world that has disrupted the ways in which we access, process and share information. We live in a morally divisive world that has disrupted our thinking on what is right and wrong.

It is in this context that at the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) we have re-aligned our focus within recent times to become more socially engaged and solutions oriented. We understand that in serving our constituents, the FSS must now respond to the uncertain future more than we ever have in the past. As such, while we encourage students to focus on academic excellence, we also strive to continue to produce wholesome individuals who are deep thinkers and innovators of solutions. Our bank of highly competent researchers, educators and administrators continue to work with industry stakeholders to tackle the myriad of socio-economic issues through various initiatives which have positively impacted the lives of many.

One of the greatest strengths of the FSS is our multi-disciplinary nature which is of tremendous value to both staff and students, and by extension, the wider community. FSS’ programme offerings span a range of disciplines that include 18 undergraduate and 20 postgraduate programmes across four departments and 12 units, centres and institutes. Students have the option to either deepen their knowledge in a specific discipline (for example, Insurance and Risk Management, Economics or Social Work) or broaden their scope by pursuing two disciplines in one programme, such as the BSc Public Sector Management with Law for the Social Sciences. In response to a request from our constituents for more focus on leadership and innovation skills, the latest addition to the faculty’s offerings is the MSc in Strategic Leadership and Innovation. Moreover, underpinning the wide range of programme offerings is an emphasis on developing entrepreneurial thinking among students as they prepare to better navigate the world of work.

As our main constituent, the Faculty has been focusing on strengthening civic-mindedness among our students through opportunities for volunteerism, service learning and projects requiring community engagement. One such example is the UWI Farm Road (Curepe) Collaborative Project which involved the placement of Social Work students in the Farm Road community to engage with community members in specific areas. These included a vacation camp for children, homework/life skills support, and open air movie evenings for families. Another project is the At-Risk School in Laventille Project 2018-2020, where current FSS students and FSS alumni serve as peer-mentors/speakers. Economics students engage in an annual Youth Economic Forum as part of the Conference on the Economy, where they share their views on the annual Budget with government representatives.

In addition to nurturing students, FSS scholars have been at the forefront of knowledge-sharing through public displays and lectures; leadership through community conversations; and influencing public discourse on contemporary issues with editorials and social media campaigns. We have been leading the conversation on anti-bullying strategies for school-aged children, human trafficking, gang-based crime, and sport administration, to name a few.

More recently, our social scientists have been addressing concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic through a series of webinars such as “COVID-Mania – coping in the times of COVID-19” and “Loneliness and isolation in COVID times”. Alongside these webinars is the Faculty’s partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Faculty of Medical Sciences in preparing local communities for the roll out of a national vaccination campaign. Further, our scholars are frequently called upon by the various media houses to share their expert opinion on socio-economic and political issues. Most noteworthy is the thought leadership of our political scientists during the local and national elections.

The academic pursuit of a social science is a rewarding experience because the social scientist offers practical insights and solutions on critical matters such as the economy, legislation, crime, the family and our psychological nature. The social sciences provide insight into how science and innovation work – in effect, it is the science of science. It is connected to everyday life and has a profound effect on every facet of society. In the Faculty of Social Sciences, there is a community committed to ensuring that through teaching, scholarship and service, students and scholars are socially engaged and solutions oriented.

Dr Acolla Lewis-Cameron is the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.