Thematic Areas

Through a two-year, college-wide process involving the review of more than 50 cross-disciplinary proposals identifying areas of existing research excellence, the College of Social Science selected five focal or thematic areas to amplify and advance research aimed at addressing some of the most pressing or emerging social problems facing the region, nation and world.  Each thematic area cluster brings together new and existing faculty from multiple social science disciplines to engage in interdisciplinary projects that will offer data-driven solutions to these problems.  

Coastlines and People (2018)


Area leader: Ethan Theuerkauf (Geography)

Given that Michigan has the longest freshline coastline in the United States, this thematic area led by the Department of Geography, Environment, & Spatial Sciences, Economics, and Sociology seeks to better understand future challenges facing coastal environments, especially those brought about by human activity and climate change, and how to address said challenges. Research from this team will take a scientific approach to inform policy and management of Michigan's coastal communities and create a model for coastal communities globally.

Minority Politics (2018)

Criminal JusticePsychologyPolitical Science

Area leaders: Eric Gonzalez Juenke (Political Science), Nazita Lajevardi (Political Science), Ani Sarkissian (Political Science) and Joseph Cesario (Psychology)

In the fields of political science and psychology, understanding minority politics is instrumental in understanding any other aspect of the disciplines. Given this, the Minority Politics thematic area will leverage MSU's strengths in political science, psychology, gender and LGBTQ studies, criminal justice, Chicano/Latino studies, African-American and African studies, and Muslim studies to establish MSU and the College of Social Science as a national research leader in this field.

Reducing Health and Social Disparities among Marginalized Youth: Using Research to Promote Social Justice (2018)

Social WorkCriminal JusticeHuman Development and Family Studies

Area leader: Emilie Smith (Department of Human Development and Family Studies)

Elevated struggles in late adolescence and early adulthood, such as poor mental health and violence victimization, can be exaggerated by social disparities and disproportionately impact individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. This thematic area, relying on intervention science and community-engaged research, aims to improve social conditions and reduce disparities in health and well-being among marginalized youth. The Department of Human Development and Family Studies will lead this collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort that includes faculty from the School of Criminal Justice and School of Social Work.

Sexual and Gender Minority Physical and Mental Health Across the Lifespan (2019)

PsychologySociologySocial Work

Area leaders: Deirdre Shires (School of Social Work), Anne Hughes (School of Social Work)

This thematic area unites faculty from the departments of Social Work, Sociology, and Psychology to study the experiences of sexual and gender minority (SGM) communities within the healthcare system. The thematic area establishes the collaborative, multidisciplinary MSU Consortium for Sexual and Gender Minority Health, which serves as a research hub both on MSU's campus and across the Midwest. Dr. Hughes, Dr. Shires and their associates in the consortium seek to provide mentorship to faculty and students, inform policy surrounding SGM heath and wellness, and help SGM communities gain access to the best healthcare possible.

The Future of Work and the Human-Technology Interface (2019)

PsychologySociologyEconomicsHuman Resources and Labor Relations

Area leader: Peter Berg, (School of Human Resources and Labor Relations)

With the advancement of technology, the landscape for jobs is changing drastically. This thematic area seeks to better understand the impact of new forms of technology on the structure of work and jobs. The research under this theme is varied and includes the disruptive effects of technology on jobs, as well as how humans can take advantage of new technologies to improve industry performance and achieve a higher quality of life. This thematic area has established a research consortium, which brings together faculty from the College of Social Science and the University.