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For First-Year Students in the Class of 2027,

If you have an interest in the Social Sciences, we would like you to consider the College of Social Studies as your major.

The CSS offers a distinct approach to the social sciences. First, and most obviously, it is a multidisciplinary program of study in Government, History, Economics, and Social Theory. Given that social reality does not come carved up into neat compartments corresponding to academic disciplines, students develop a better understanding of the subject matter and the nature of each discipline by considering it in relation to the others.

The College also offers a distinctive pedagogy centered on the weekly tutorial. We place great emphasis on reading, writing and discussion meaning that our class size in the tutorials is small. During your sophomore year, your work in the College consists of three intensive tutorials in Government, History, and Economics spread over the academic year with no more than 10 students in each and one larger colloquium in Modern Social Theory in the fall semester in which all the sophomores meet together. As you undoubtedly know, small classes are hard to find in the Social Sciences at Wesleyan. CSS tutorials make it possible for you to work closely with each other and with your CSS Tutors to develop your writing and analytical skills. In addition, CSS classes are not open to students from outside the College so that your work in the sophomore year with a cohort of your peers fosters closer relationships than you may find elsewhere in the University.

Our pedagogy is distinctive in its emphasis on the students' responsibility for their own education. In the CSS, you will write papers on a subject in advance of meeting with your tutor in the tutorial. Tutors don’t lecture in the tutorials; rather an inclusive discussion of the topic based on the tutorial papers written by the students is fostered. Thus, you are given the opportunity to develop your own perspective on the readings and a synthesis of the materials you have read in your own voice. In the process, you will receive support during the week in small, informal groups with other students, from the teaching assistant (Preceptor) assigned to each class, and from your tutor. Nonetheless, you will own the final product of your work and present your perspective in the tutorial discussion.

Finally, the CSS is a community dedicated to ongoing learning and intellectual camaraderie. We believe our intellectual curiosity does not end at the classroom door. Outside the classroom, CSS students are as likely to talk about the current economic state of the world or the relevance of Marxist theory as they would their plans for an evening dinner. As a community, we are dedicated to learning with each other.

If CSS is of interest to you, and you want to learn more about the major, watch for detailed announcements regarding the Info Sessions to be held in the late Fall and after Winter Break. The Info Sessions and application announcements will be posted on your Class Dean’s blog and on this CSS website. See below for more on the CSS.



Introduction to the College of Social Studies

The College of Social Studies, founded in 1959, is one of the oldest of Wesleyan University’s existing interdisciplinary programs, along with the College of Letters. Created as a residential college, the CSS had its first quarters in Harriman Hall (the Public Affairs Center, or PAC), and its student majors lived in the same building. From 1965 to 1985, the CSS had its home in what is now Butterfield A, with its students at first living overhead. During these years, CSS students, by their own choice, dispersed across the various kinds of University housing, so that the College ceased to be residential; however, the proximity of faculty offices, classrooms, and social areas continued to foster informal academic and non-academic exchange among students and between students and CSS tutors. In January 1986, the College returned to the PAC, where it occupied most of the fourth floor of what was an academic building. The renovation of the PAC, begun in the past summer, has necessitated a move to 330 High Street for the CSS Office and some of the CSS tutors. The new space includes a seminar room with the CSS library (pared down to meet the space constraints).

From the start, the CSS has been a coordinated, multidisciplinary program in Government, History, Economics, and Social Theory, taught in group tutorials and colloquia. The College was created in the belief that different forms of the social sciences are best pursued in conjunction with each other rather than in isolation leading students to a better understanding of the subject matter and nature of each discipline. The CSS curriculum stresses basic techniques of conceptual analysis and evidenced-based application to the subject matters of the four fields. All classes are participatory; students write regularly and receive timely comments on their writing from their CSS tutors. In addition, visiting speakers, some of them CSS graduates, and regularly scheduled social events (Monday Lunch Talks and the post-Tutorial Social Hours on Fridays) provide a sense of community that enhances the educational mission of the College.


Highlights about the CSS Major

The College of Social Studies (CSS) offers a distinctive blend of teaching methods, subject matter, and educational structure. Courses taken within the College combined with courses from the University curriculum selected by the student in consultation with a CSS faculty advisor allow each student to design an integrated education in the social sciences. CSS has provided an unusual educational opportunity for many Wesleyan students; our graduates go on to successful careers in medicine, law, forestry college teaching, international business, acting and public service to name only a few.

Admission to CSS: Interested students apply for admission to CSS during the spring of their first year. Each applicant is interviewed by a team of consisting of a tutor and two current CSS students. All CSS majors must complete the Economics prerequisite EITHER by taking ECON 101 or ECON 110 (for which a full-year of college-level calculus is required) and achieving a letter grade of at least C- before taking the sophomore tutorial in Economics. Students are advised to have completed this required course before entering the College to promote flexibility in scheduling the tutorials over the academic year. However, some students who have not completed the Economics prerequisite are admitted each year on the understanding that they will complete the requirement in the fall semester of the sophomore year. A student who has taken an introductory Economics course in the first year but has not achieved a grade of C - or higher, must take another Economics course, which will normally be a 200-level elective, and achieve a grade of C- or better. A score of 4 or 5 on the AP exams in BOTH Microeconomics and Macroeconomics or a score of 5 or higher on the IB exam in Economics is sufficient to satisfy the Economics requirement for the CSS. Failure to complete the Economics requirement by the end of the fall semester in the sophomore year will result in separation from the College.

Completion of the University's General Education Expectations at both Stage I and Stage II is required of all CSS majors. Because of the intensive nature of the CSS sophomore year schedule requires that the bulk of the student’s time and course work be done in the College, CSS majors are given until the end of the junior year to complete Stage 1 expectations. Stage 2 expectations must be completed no later than the final semester of the senior year. Failure to do so jeopardizes certification as a CSS major.

Sophomore year: At the heart of the program in the sophomore year is the tutorial (normally meeting on Friday afternoon). The tutorial essay is designed to develop the student’s conceptual and analytical skills as well as promote precision in writing and argument. The academic year is composed of three trimesters of eight weeks each. Each student takes a tutorial in History, Government, and Economics. Due to their intensive nature, tutorials account for roughly half of the student's work during the academic year as the student earns a total of 4.5 course credits for work in the three tutorials. A semester-length colloquium in Social Theory in the fall and selected courses within and outside the social sciences complete the sophomore program. Comprehensive Examinations, administered by external examiners at the end of the sophomore year, yield the only official grade for work during the sophomore year. The CSS courses and the courses taken outside the College by sophomores appear on their academic histories as graded CR/U. Following the policy that applies to the Economics requirement, all letter grades in outside courses that are C- or above are converted to CR on the CSS transcript.

Junior year: In the first semester of the junior year, no CSS courses are required. This allows the student flexibility to take courses outside the College to work on completing a second major (a choice selected by about half of the CSS juniors) or to take a semester of study abroad or elsewhere (about half of our majors take this option). The second semester of the junior year consists of a semester-long Social Theory Colloquium focusing on the modes of inquiry in the social sciences and a sequence of two seven-week tutorials, each carrying one course credit for a total of 3 course credits. Each junior chooses two from among the three tutorials offered in the three disciplines, namely Government, History and Economics. Students also take one or at most two elective courses outside of the CSS to complete the spring course work. Attention should be given to courses that develop further the student’s research skills and ability to complete a substantial writing project in the social sciences in the senior year.

Senior year: In addition to a CSS Colloquium in the fall semester, the senior year requires a substantial capstone project. This project is often a two-semester Senior Thesis but the requirement may also be satisfied by a one-semester (fall or spring) Senior Essay. In either case, the capstone project involves a large-scale, sustained, and serious investigation of an intellectual topic in the social sciences.


CSS Student Learning Goals

  • Critical Thinking
  • Creative Thinking 
  • Ability to write a high-quality academic paper with supportive evidence and argumentation
  • Experience to debate and discuss, in a respectful manner, in the classroom
  • Learning how to use comments from tutors to improve written work
  • Comfort in talking about academic subjects and current events in informal settings with peers and tutors


Applying to CSS

Click here for information on the CSS Application Process.