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Shimer Great Books School

Shimer Great Books School, Social Sciences

Look at society and the relationships between individuals through the social sciences major and gain a deeper understanding of how humankind has developed over time and where we’re headed.

You will explore the work of the world’s first theorists of society, along with that of modern social scientists, as they create and refine the various branches of social thought and practice, including anthropology, economics, psychology, politics, linguistics and moral development. Through collaborative inquiry you will approach questions regarding the social, psychological, economic and political behaviors and structures that shape differing cultures, how decisions we make today influence future generations, and more.

About Shimer Great Books School

The Shimer Great Books School at North Central College provides and preserves education centered on discussion of enduring questions and issues. Here, you will immerse yourself in reading, writing and discussion alongside other voracious readers who use what they read to engage with the world and understand their roles in it.

Learning is a constant dialogue where every opinion and every position is questioned and analyzed. You’ll discuss your ideas in a class with people who will push you to think more deeply about fundamental questions than you ever have before. Simply put, the Shimer Great Books School challenges you to delve deeply into the diverse and endlessly fascinating areas of thought and creativity in the company of similarly inclined students and teachers.


“I’m learning how to engage with the world and I’m learning things about myself. Regardless of what situation I’m put in, these experiences I'm garnering can’t be taken away.”

- Mark, Shimer student

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Social Sciences, B.A.

The Shimer School Social Sciences Major introduces students to various modes of critical reflection on human societies. Classic and major contemporary works of anthropology, sociology, economics and psychology form the core of the Social Sciences curriculum. Students come to know and understand these texts partly through individual reflection, but also through collaborative practice of methods and small-class discussions with their peers and in intensive writing, peer-editing and revision of essays. While each course includes two or three distinct approaches to social scientific thought and inquiry, the sequence progresses through a series of organizing themes that orient the student's interdisciplinary work toward broad but nuanced accounts of social phenomena.

Breadth and depth of knowledge and skills characterize graduates of the Shimer School. Through the core curriculum of the Shimer School they immerse themselves in major classic and contemporary works of human expression, social thought and scientific knowledge and practice. Their broad familiarity with fundamental ideas and methods across the Liberal Arts provides the foundation on which they build increasingly refined understanding and skills in more specialized courses in chosen disciplines taught across North Central College. Shimer School graduates thus find meaningful employment in an unusually broad array of fields, including teaching, social work, law, small business and entrepreneurial enterprise and non-profit administration among the most common.

For additional programs and courses in this school, see Shimer Great Books School.

Shimer School Social Science Core Courses

Three of the following:

100-Level Electives

Two courses from the following:

200-Level Elective

One course from the following:

Additional Electives

Eight additional elective credit hours are required with a minimum of four credit hours needing to be at the 300-level or above (any Shimer prefix) and a minimum of four credit hours needing to be from the SGBS prefix.

Comprehensive Examination

  • Pass the Shimer Great Books Basic Studies Comprehensive Exam (following successful completion of at least four of the required courses at the 100-level).

Students must demonstrate elementary competence in a foreign language. For more information, see the B.A. Degree Requirements within the Academic Regulations section of this catalog.

The Shimer Great Books School at North Central College provides the tools, contexts, and habits of mind that make lifelong learning possible.  At the same time you will have immediate avenues to complement your studies with experiences that will prepare you for a host of professional opportunities designed to match your long-term interests, among them undergraduate research, co-curricular initiatives and internships.


North Central’s internship program helps you apply what you’ve learned in the classroom in a workplace setting. Our location provides you with access to both a world-class city and a booming local high-tech corridor. From Fortune 500 companies to dynamic start-ups on the cutting edge, there’s bound to be a workplace well suited to your graduate school interests and career goals.

A Shimer School of Great Books education teaches students the critical thinking necessary to handle extraordinary intellectual challenges. Shimer graduates have had successful careers in a wide range of professions, including:

  • Educators
  • Attorneys
  • Physicians
  • Wall Street analysts
  • Financial advisors
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Designers
  • Engineers
  • Artists
  • Writers
  • Marketers
  • And more.

Shimer also ranks among the top colleges and universities in the percentage of graduates who earn PhDs.

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