Dean College professor working with students in the social science lab.

Building skills and gaining real-world experience is a signature part of every academic program at Dean, whether that’s through coursework, internships or co-curricular activities. Now, students majoring in social science programs like Psychology and Sociology have a new way to get that hands-on experience right on campus – with a social science lab.

The new social science lab is an active learning environment where students in the social sciences will be able to apply concepts they’ve learned in class, learn how to use discipline-related equipment and build the skills and knowledge necessary for pursuing graduate school or a career after graduating from Dean.

“The goal of the lab is to allow students to engage with some of the tools of the social science disciplines," explained Dr. Kristin Holster, professor of sociology and program coordinator of the social sciences. “The lab uses a number of devices to better understand cognitive processes and social behaviors, as well as providing interactive and experiential learning in social science.”

Some of these tools and technologies include portable equipment that can be taken into the classroom, such as brain models and virtual reality (VR) headsets. Using equipment like VR headsets and apps will allow students to put themselves in others’ shoes, as well as experience real-world applications of the concepts that they learn in class. Other devices available include noise cancelling headphones, eye tracking systems, blood oxygen monitors and EEG headsets for neuroscience applications, which students will be brought into the lab in order to use. There’s also an observation room with a two-way mirror to observe and analyze focus groups, which are used for research in a wide array of careers.

Overall, the technology and opportunities provided through the lab will allow students to bring their education to life in real-world scenarios.

“Students will be able to use the equipment as part of projects in Research Methods and Senior Capstone projects,” said Holster. “Courses throughout the social science curriculum will also be enhanced by utilizing equipment to explain concepts in varied fields such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, sociology and marketing.”

It will also provide valuable career preparation for students. They’ll have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in areas such as social science research methods, principles and real-world applications. They’ll also build skills such as following policy and proper procedure, critical thinking, creative problem solving and teamwork. The knowledge and skills that students receive are something they can directly implement in life after Dean, whether that’s in a graduate degree program or in a variety of work environments.

With this exciting addition to the School of Liberal Arts, students will be able to take concepts and theories out of the textbook and into the real world. As faculty, staff and students begin to integrate the lab into their coursework and studies, the technology and skills they learn will open the door to new opportunities and discoveries.

Learn more about the School of Liberal Arts at Dean College.