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Dr. Wilson's Social Studies class using VR.

The Social Studies Department has a two-fold mission and commitment to students: (1) to help them understand and process the forces of history that have shaped our times and the world in which we live; and (2) to develop within students the skills and facility to understand and conduct historical research.

The first task is designed to provide students with knowledge and information so that they are familiar with the events of history, the concepts and ideas that have influenced and resulted from the course of events and the actions of people, and the patterns that have emerged among diverse peoples over time. From the subfreshman through junior year, courses survey the sweep of history from the emergence of humans to modern times. The places are varied – from the riverine civilizations in Africa and Asia to the plains of Europe to the shores of New England.

Having focused on developing this proficiency over several years, students then have several options as juniors and seniors. A course on race, class and gender in American popular culture examines the construction of these concepts in the context of early and later 20th century American history. A course on the world since 1945 examines the political and economic foundations of relationships between nations and peoples in the contemporary world. A course on interdisciplinary thinking aims to introduce students to a number of social science disciplines beyond history, and helps them learn how to combine the insights of multiple fields to try to understand complex social problems in the world today. A course on psychology is designed to give students a better sense of how psychologists study human behavior and thinking. For juniors and seniors who are interested, Social Studies Laboratory introduces students to various research methods in both the humanities and social sciences as they complete an original piece of student scholarship.


Social Studies Faculty

Kimberly Hursh (khursh8@illinois.edu)
teaches Intro to Social Studies.

Ben Leff (leff) teaches Junior US History, Interdisciplinary Thinking and Race Class and Gender in 20th Century American Popular Culture. He is an alum of class of 2001. He holds a bachelor's degree in history and master's degree in American history from Brown University.

Melissa Schoeplein (mschoepl) is the Executive Teacher for the Department of Social Studies. She teaches Introduction to Social Studies and coordinates the Uni High Oral History Project. Ms. Schoeplein holds B.A in History from the University of California at Berkeley, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, and a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to teaching at Uni, she taught high school in the Washington, DC area and worked for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois. She is currently co-sponsors the subfreshman class and sponsors the WILL interns. When not at Uni, she is chasing her son around various area parks.

Andy Wilson (anwils84) teaches Freshman World History, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, and Introduction to Psychology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Chadron State College as well as a master’s degree and doctorate In U.S. history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.