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Brandeis departments of Economics and Sociology ranked in the Top 10 majors on College Factual

By Emily Belowich

Section: News

January 19, 2015

In December, College Factual announced Brandeis as a top 10 school for students to get degrees in both economics and sociology. The website, which uses outcomes-based data to guide prospective students and families through the college process, believes that their rankings are stronger because the data is more objective than typical ranking sites. The methodology behind these rankings is based on a number of factors, including highest paid graduates, most popular programs, best value and most focused.

Economics Department Chair George Hall says that there is an added value of having the combination of a liberal arts education with a research university.

“Our students have the opportunity to take classes from a broad range of topics, but they can also participate in research opportunities on the side,” Hall said.

Hall also mentions that the International Business School puts students at a significant advantage because of the advanced coursework they can complete at the undergraduate level. He says that by having the graduate school offer advanced courses such as “International Corporate Finance,” it actually strengthens the undergraduate department because they can provide course offerings in liberal arts topics such as “The Economics of the Middle East” and “Labor Economics.”

Students who graduate with an economics major go on to work at a variety of different places, such as small private start-ups, large financial firms and public service organizations, while many continue their education at the graduate level. He emphasizes that it is the strong analytical training and the ability to work with data that are the essential components to each and every economics course.

Hall acknowledges that many of the larger consulting firms do not have on-campus recruiting at Brandeis because of the size of the school. However, he believes that the student body is at a greater advantage for being a smaller school because of the strong alumni network and connections.

“There’s a commitment from the alumni network here that doesn’t exist at other places,” he said. “One of the virtues of being at a place like Brandeis is that our alumni really look out for each other.”

Undergraduate Department Representative Peter Walton ’15 believes the economics major at Brandeis has been invaluable by providing “rational thinking models applicable to real-world situations.” He also notes that the skills he has acquired from the major will be particularly useful when searching for jobs after graduation.

“Excel has been the most important skill I have used in my internships,” he said. “It’s such a deep software package with so many quirks that it can take a lot of time to learn, but it really pays off in the working world when you know it. In my internships, employers have emphasized how necessary these skills are, and learning it through applied cases in economics has given me an even greater understanding of the tool.”

Students and faculty from the sociology department also shared their insights on the major being named in the top 10. Sydney Schweber ’15, a double major in sociology and computer science, believes the sociology major has helped her think about data analysis in a “less technical way and in a more behavioral way.” She participated in the JBS summer program, and she is now working on a database research project that incorporates the data she collected from her fieldwork this past summer.

“The JBS program was something that opened my eyes to the different ways data can be used to make an impact on people’s lives, and advance research in various industries,” she said. “We traveled to Jackson, Mississippi and interviewed people who were active members of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and people who were students during desegregation … I’m trying to find a way to track down people who went to high school in Mississippi during desegregation through Facebook, and compare those profile pictures to the yearbook pictures in order to confirm their identity. Those confirmations will be how we can contact people now in order to interview them for the ongoing research about the Civil Rights era.”

Sociology Department Chair David Cunningham mentioned that the department has long benefited from students’ great enthusiasm toward their truly engaging work.

“From collaborative research and field-based internships to on-the-road JBS programs and guided study of topics like empowerment and philanthropy, sociology provides opportunities for students to ensure that their efforts have real-world impact,” Cunningham said. “We also have always valued giving students room to innovate and pursue independent ideas. Looking around our own campus, these may not seem like entirely distinctive features, but they certainly set us apart from many other distinguished sociology departments around the country.”

Similar to the economics major, Cunningham also mentions that sociology graduates go on to work in a wide range of fields.

“Our alumni have distinguished themselves in a huge range of fields—including law, education, public health and non-profit management,” he said. “While they often benefit directly from experience with observational, interview, historical and statistical research techniques, equally important is their ability to apply the broader lenses and frameworks at the core of many of our courses to whatever challenges they face in their later careers.”

The reports were published in USA Today for the economics major on Dec. 5 and the sociology major on Dec. 27.

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