I’m often asked to define “applied social sciences.” Academically, I explain the term to mean studying people and human behavior. However, a description that broad can sometimes lead to more puzzled reactions than add clarity to what we do.
Let me narrow applied social sciences to two acts of influence within normal life: management and policy. Today, 95% of our efforts to educate, conduct research, extend knowledge and engage with stakeholders fit within these two acts of influence, and both relate to human behavior.
We view management as conducting an activity or supervising an entity or people. Four of our program areas focus on studying management and teaching the skills managers need: hospitality management, agribusiness management, science and agricultural communications and agricultural education and leadership. In terms of research and outreach, our Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership, McQuinn Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Food Equation Institute all emphasize how to manage better. Our leadership of the Litton Leadership Scholars Program mentors emerging leaders on how to transition from being a student leader to being a professional leader.
We view policy as a process followed to choose a course of action that will inform decision-making. Several of our Division’s centers focus on policy and building the knowledge to make effective policy choices: Exceed – Regional Economic and Entrepreneurial Development Extension, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, the Economics and Management of Agrobiotechnology Center, Agricultural Markets and Policy Extension and the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security.
Our work in policy and management is applied — as seen through our extension and engagement programs that deliver timely information to stakeholders, opinion leaders and decision makers. All divisional faculty have the expectation of applying their research through extension or engagement.