“Health and Society” has been added as a new academic major thanks in large part to recent student-initiated majors in this area, and growing interest from prospective students. Cathy van de Ruit, an assistant professor of health and exercise physiology, says the major “builds students’ capacity to approach the study of health problems and proposed solutions by harnessing the strengths of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to promote ethical, creative, and politically engaged health research and policy interventions.”
“All too often public health is perceived to be a technical domain of expertise,” added Lauren Wynne, an assistant professor of anthropology and sociology. “Students entering public health fields gain training in quantitative research techniques and applied project management skills that add to their tool kits as public health practitioners. However, this ‘tool kit approach’ often fails to examine the underlying social, cultural, philosophical underpinnings of health and healing, which confines our ability to imagine bold and just solutions to entrenched health disparities and gaps in health services.”
Courses within the new major will incorporate elements that will allow students to reflect on the four questions of the Ursinus Quest: Open Questions Open Minds core curriculum while also providing students with experiential learning opportunities.
The major will also serve to challenge students to think about human health from a liberal arts perspective by asking questions like, “What are our responsibilities and obligations to each other about health?” and “How can we understand human health in terms of biological capability and function, social constructions, or both?”
“Health and Society offers a unique perspective on health and healing by drawing on disciplines across the liberal arts,” Wynne said. “As such, students approach the study of health through a critical and historically informed lens that examines the importance of diverse cultural, philosophical, and scientific perspectives in understanding the biological and social foundations of health and healing.”