Every day as I walk to my office as dean of the Division, I can’t help noticing that the map of the Social Sciences at UChicago is being redrawn. In part, I mean literally. This academic year saw a dramatic expansion of the Division’s space. The opening of Saieh Hall for Economics in October represented the single most significant addition, in terms of square footage, to the Division since the Social Sciences Research Building opened in the 1920s. Saieh Hall is home to the Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics within the stunningly restored and expanded walls of the former Chicago Theological Seminary. In spring 2015—in yet another former seminary—the Division and the University will celebrate the opening of 5701 South Woodlawn as the base of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.
The landscape that these buildings transform is intellectual as well as spatial. Saieh Hall and 5701 South Woodlawn are both overflowing with resources for collaborative research: specially designed spaces in which groups of scholars can work together over long periods of time, media technology for global collaborations, and chapels and libraries reconfigured to intensify the intellectual ferment that has always nourished the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.
The Becker Friedman Institute and the Collegium are both powerful examples of ways in which faculty and students are constantly moving across disciplines and spaces in pursuit of their questions. The BFI unites Chicago Booth, the Law School, and the Social Sciences, bringing economic methods to bear on any number of new problems. And just up the block at the Neubauer Collegium, anthropologists work with public health experts on health care in India, professors of cinema and statisticians analyze the history of montage, and economists, archaeologists, historians, and classicists are creating a new discipline of comparative economics.
Which is all to say: these are exciting times in the Social Sciences. I urge you to visit and experience with me the changing shape of our Division, this campus, and our ideas.
Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Social Thought, Medieval History, Middle East Studies, and the College
Dean, Division of the Social Sciences