Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program

The Summer Humanities & Social Sciences program(SHSS) is a five-week program for talented incoming first-year students with a passion for the humanities or social sciences who are from underrepresented minority groups and/or who are first-generation college students. SHSS combines classes taught by Williams professors with an introduction to the many resources available to Williams students. Throughout the program, students engage with faculty, academic staff, and peer advisors to introduce students to a wide array of intellectual, research, and writing opportunities. SHSS students will be matched with program faculty for first-year academic advising, so there is ample time to discuss course selection and future academic opportunities. Learn more about SHSS from students who have gone through the program.

The program has two main goals. First, it provides students with a preview of the Williams experience and familiarizes them with some of the extraordinary academic opportunities the college offers. Second, we hope that the glimpse of research and teaching afforded by our faculty and resident mentors will inspire some of our students to consider a career in one of the academic fields of the humanities and social sciences.

How to Apply

To apply for the SHSS program, simply complete this Interest Form. Regular decision admits by May 3. Because we are committed to working closely with individual students as well as the whole group, the number of openings in SHSS is limited to 24. Typically, we have more students applying to the program than we can accommodate; therefore, we choose participants by lottery. We try to do the lottery as quickly as possible, and we will let you know by email whether or not you are selected. Please forward any questions about SHSS to Robert Blay at [email protected]

SHSS video by Eddy Varela, Class of 2020

2023 Courses

As a SHSS student in 2023, you will take four courses.   Your work in SHSS courses is assigned grades, so that you may get a sense of where you stand, but these grades do not count toward your GPA, nor is any college credit granted for SHSS courses. The 2023 courses are as follows:

The Economics of Public Policy
Sara LaLumia – Professor of Economics
This course will use tools of microeconomic and macroeconomic analysis to explore issues related to economic policy-making in the United States.  Under what circumstances should the government intervene in a market economy? We will discuss the government’s role in correcting externalities, which are created when costs or benefits spill over to parties not directly involved in a transaction.  For example, what is the government’s role in responding to climate change? We will also discuss the government’s role in redistributing income through taxes and spending programs (as illustrated by the Earned Income Tax Credit), and in stabilizing the economy during a recession.

The Self in Society
Christina Simko- Associate Professor of Sociology
We often think of the transition to a residential college as a process of self-discovery. Many of us are buoyed by the hope that living independently and pursuing our distinctive interests will help us to understand “who we really are.” Sociologists take a less individualistic view of the self, however: underscoring how our identities are shaped by broader systems of meaning and hierarchies of power. In this course, we will use a sociological perspective to critically interrogate the systems and structures that shape our identities. We will pay particular attention to how the categories of race, class, and gender influence both our subjective sense of self and our more objective “life chances.” In doing so, we will juxtapose “classic” sociological statements on the self by thinkers such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Erving Goffman with more recent work such as Karida Brown’s Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia and Tey Meadow’s Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century. Throughout our five weeks together, we will explore the paradox that sociology “frees us by freeing us from the illusion of freedom,” as the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu put it. That is, understanding the systems that shape and constrain our lives is the first step in projects of critique, resistance, and social transformation.

Christophe A. Koné- Associate Professor of German
Students will be invited to spend five weeks “playing” with dolls. They will explore the peculiar presence of anthropomorphic artifacts and life-size replica in literary texts, paintings, and photographs as well as in dance performances, films, and fashion shows. Emphasis will be on developing critical reading, writing, and oral skills. Students will be asked to submit oral or written assignments weekly.

Introduction to Black & White Analog Photography
Daniel Goudrouffle – Art Department
This course is an introduction to the black & white silver photographic process. Students will learn the mechanics of the analog 35mm camera, the process of developing films into negatives, and the technique of printing in the darkroom. By studying the documentary Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People students will develop their personal Vision and create a series of images. By the end of the program each student will exhibit a triptych along with an artist statement.

Contemporary Mexican Cinema and the World
Ricardo Wilson – Assistant Professor of English
Grounded in an exploration of contemporary Mexican cinema and develops students’ ability to critically write about film. We focus on feature-length films, documentaries, and short films that not only grapple with Mexican history and identity but also those that travel beyond the borders of Mexico. The list of directors whose work is considered in the full course includes Natalia Beristáin, Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alejandra Márquez Abella, Kenya Márquez, Jorge Pérez Solano, and Patricia Riggen.

Other Academic Activities

Writing Workshop sessions will provide an opportunity to focus on developing skills and practices that are key to success in college-level writing. The content of the sessions will address specific demands of writing assignments required in the SHSS courses.

  • Librarians and Information Technology Specialists will help you learn how to navigate the various network and computer tools available at Williams, as well as all the other resources in the library and around campus.
  • Faculty from various fields will give guest lectures designed to introduce you to some of the subjects you can study at Williams.
  • Once a week we will convene to discuss topics related to success at Williams. Various members of the staff as well as upper-class students will be invited to help introduce you to college life.
  • Resident Mentors often initiate discussions of cultural events and workshops or brainstorming sessions on various aspects of college life.

Recreational and Cultural Activities

  • The group, together with faculty, staff, and Resident Mentors, attends performances and exhibitions at the various cultural venues in the Berkshires, which may include the Williams College Museum of Art, the Clark Art Institute, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA), the Williamstown Theater Festival, Shakespeare and Company, and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
  • Finally, there will be plenty of time for the purely fun stuff: swimming, sports, excursions into the lovely natural environment surrounding the college, pizza parties, and hanging out!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the program cost?
The program does not cost anything to participants. The college will pay for room and board and round-trip transportation to Williamstown for students who are selected. All texts and supplies will be provided and students will receive a $250 stipend.

How long is the program and when does it run?
The program is 5 weeks long and runs from June 24 – July 29, 2023.

Where do students live?
The SHSS class lives in  Perry House, a “row house”, often picked into by upper-class students during the school year. Everyone has a single room. Living with the pre-frosh in Perry House are four upper-class Resident Mentors who serve as academic resources, social directors, and general friends and mentors for the students.

Who is invited?
We invite students who have expressed an interest in the humanities and/or social sciences and whose family background makes them underrepresented in the academic world. More specifically, our invitation list, which we get from the Admission Office, includes any first-generation college student and/or anyone who self-identifies as African-American, Latina/o, or Native American. Every year Williams becomes more diverse in all kinds of exciting ways. We hope that SHSS will be one way to ensure that its participants thrive academically and socially.

This is my last summer at home before college. Why would I do this program?
SHSS requires a great deal of commitment from all its participants. We work very hard, it’s very intense, and we expect a lot of everyone involved. However, SHSS alumni report acquiring more confidence, a set of friendships with peers, and a foundation of relationships with faculty that stand them in good stead for the rest of their college careers and beyond. SHSS students often go on to assume leadership positions on campus. All students will have one of their SHSS professors as their first-year advisor and often these advising relationships last throughout a student’s time at Williams. SHSS continues into the first year in other ways, too, with follow-up activities and reunions.

Apply to be a Resident Mentor

Please submit your application by February 20.

Finalists will be interviewed and Resident Mentors are chosen before spring break.