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Report: Social Sciences Produce Leaders

A survey released June 1 by the British Council has confirmed something we’ve known here at the college for years. Those in key leadership positions around the world, the people who make the big policy decisions and effect social change, more often have backgrounds in the social sciences and humanities.

The leaders surveyed were from both the public and private sectors and defined as “those who are in a position of influence within their organizations.” Combining the numbers with humanities degrees leads to the conclusion that most of those in leadership positions have strong backgrounds in the liberal arts, rather than STEM or business degrees.

“The substantial representation of social science graduates among leaders in organizations all over the world comes at a time of considerable questioning of the relevance of those disciplines,” wrote Scott Jaschik in an article published in Inside Higher Education. “Florida Governor Rick Scott has questioned whether his state needs any more anthropology graduates. And in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Republican-backed bill would make large cuts in authorization levels for federal spending on the social sciences.”

Rebecca Hughes, director of education at the British Council, said the results of the survey show the potential flaws of assuming everyone should study professionally oriented subjects.

“The world needs leaders who can handle complexity and give diverse perspectives on the challenges we all face,” she said. “Globally, we need to go beyond a simple 'two cultures' binary outlook these days and as this research suggests, it is those with backgrounds that enable them to draw from multiple cultural reference points, and the academic training that encourages them to explore the human dimensions behind empirical data, who have tended to succeed and reach positions of leadership.”

The survey also found a significant percentage of leaders who have had experience working and/or studying outside their own country, an opportunity the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy encourages our students to take advantage of.

“We’ve known for years that our disciplines provide the best training for future leaders, especially the opportunities we offer through our Get More Than a Degree initiative, such as international study and research activities,” noted Dean David Rasmussen. “We think another important factor is that the social sciences attract the kind of people with innate leadership qualities and a passion for tackling the major social and public policy issues.”

Read the full article at this link. Access the full survey report here.