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MIT Course Catalog 2013-2014

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School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

The great strength of MIT lies not only in the fact that it fosters creativity and innovation in science and technology, but that it also pioneers in exploring the social and cultural environments in which science and technology are produced. Meeting great challenges requires technical and scientific creativity, and an understanding of the world’s human complexities—cultural, political, and economic. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) disciplines empower young engineers and scientists with a range of critical skills needed for success in every endeavor. The cultural and historical perspectives, creativity, judgment, communication, and critical thinking skills gained in engagement with the School's disciplines help MIT students create innovations—and lives—that are rich in meaning and wisdom.

The School is made up of the following departments, programs, and sections: Anthropology; Comparative Media Studies/Writing; Economics; Foreign Languages and Literatures; History; Linguistics and Philosophy; Literature; Music and Theater Arts; Political Science; Science, Technology, and Society; and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Each year hundreds of MIT students graduate with majors and minors in over 20 SHASS fields. In addition, the School provides the majority of subjects used to fulfill the Institute's Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement. The object of the requirement, broadly stated, is to ensure that every undergraduate at MIT is exposed to a wide range of interpretive and analytic approaches in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Humanities, arts, and social science programs emphasize teaching, research, and performance. Through their publications, lectures, and seminars, the faculty strive to expand the frontiers of human knowledge and awareness. Interdisciplinary collaboration is a hallmark of this activity.

Research and Innovation

SHASS is home to research that has a global impact, and to superb graduate programs, all recognized as among the finest in the world. The School offers five doctoral programs in Economics; History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS); Linguistics; Philosophy; and Political Science. These are among the leading graduate programs of their kind in the world. They prepare students primarily for teaching and research careers in universities and colleges, but also for government service, industry, and finance. The School also offers master's degrees in Comparative Media Studies, Economics, Political Science, and Science Writing.


In addition to the classical humanities, arts, and social sciences fields of study, the School houses three interdisciplinary programs: Comparative Media Studies/Writing; Science, Technology and Society; and Women’s and Gender Studies. Within the departments, programs, and sections, students may also study several interdisciplinary fields: Ancient and Medieval Studies, Applied International Studies, Public Policy, and five Regional Studies areas (African and African Diaspora Studies, Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Russian and Eurasian Studies).

The interdepartmental centers, groups, and programs that reside in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences include the following:

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Laboratory
Center for International Studies
Knight Science Journalism Program
Women's and Gender Studies Program

See Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3 for further information.

Global Citizens

The School has a central role in international education at MIT, and in preparing students to be leaders and good global citizens. The MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program, located at the Center for International Studies, supports student internships in Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland. Through MISTI, the School's applied international education program, MIT students learn how to work, collaborate, and thrive in cultures around the globe. More locally, the Foreign Languages and Literatures Section offers language and culture programs in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. The Japanese Language and Cultural Program has built the most technologically advanced Japanese language and culture education curriculum in the world, using online computer networks and interactive videos.


MIT's Course 21 (Humanities) was considered innovative when it was established in the 1950s, although its roots go back to the opening of the Institute in 1865. During the 1960s the School grew rapidly, was reorganized into most of its current departments and sections, and began to grant full-scale degrees. In the 1970s and 1980s, the School continued to define separate programs and rearrange sections. In 1990 the School replaced the generic SB degree in Humanities with SB degrees in specified areas of humanistic study: Anthropology, History, Literature, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Music, and Writing. To reflect the growth and incorporation of the arts at MIT, and in celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2000, the School changed its name to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Office of the Dean

Deborah K. Fitzgerald, PhD
Professor of the History of Technology
Kenan Sahin Dean

Kai von Fintel, PhD
Professor of Linguistics
Associate Dean

Marc B. Jones, BA
Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration

Anne Marie Michel, MA
Assistant Dean for Development

Erminia Piccinonno
Director of Human Resources

Emily Hiestand, MA
Senior Communications Officer

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