What Social Science Course at UMA is Right for You? (Spring 2018 Quiz)

Nothing beats a good sit-down with your advisor. But if you like taking online quizzes, you’ll love answering these questions and finding your top choices for Spring of 2018. Go ahead… take the quiz below and see what you find. If you have any questions about a class, please contact me at 207-621-3190 or james.m.cook@maine.edu and I’ll be happy to chat.

What Social Science Course is Right for You?

If you're interested in studying social science at the University of Maine at Augusta, you've got a lot of choices in Spring of 2018.  Take this quiz to find out which social science course is right for you... and share your results on Facebook or Twitter to let everyone know just what sort you are.  What kind of student are you?  Once you've answered all the questions, the top 3 course matches for you in Spring 2018 at UMA will appear at the bottom of the page.

Once you've found your favorite courses, click here to get started on your Spring 2018 registration.  The semester is almost upon us, so don't wait!

Have you taken any social science courses before?
What do you enjoy doing most when taking a course?
Are you interested in the quest for justice and a better world?
Do you enjoy learning about the unusual, the odd, the strange?
Are you fascinated by the thinking about the causes of disorder, mayhem and violence?
Which of these aspects of humanity interests you more?
Where would you like to take the course?

Another Season, Another Public Figure Self-Immolates with Plagiarism

Another season, another new public plagiarism case.

It’s not a partisan thing. A different season, a different public plagiarism case:

David Greenberg: Why Biden’s plagiarism shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Students, listen up: Of course there are moral implications when you steal others’ words and pass them off as your own. Of course the choice to plagiarize keeps you shallow because you haven’t bothered to do the work of thinking for yourself. Even if you don’t care about that, plagiarism is a horrible strategic choice. Your reputation will be destroyed. You’ll find yourself making the defense that you’re not malicious, “just” incompetent and sloppy. Any actual original work you do will be discounted. Your career will be stunted.

The best protection against plagiarism is to use your own brain to think up, then write, something truly original and your own. If you can’t manage that, then why are you writing or speaking in the first place? For written forms that require thorough research of others’ contributions — to which you then should add your own original thoughts — be polite: quote and cite. Although academic integrity policies can take many words to express the standard, avoiding plagiarism really is that simple.

A tip of the hat to journalist Jarrett Hill for uncovering the latest in intellectual theft.

Advising News, April 2016: Closing Windows and Wide-Open Opportunities

Dear Social Science Students,
Writing this advising newsletter to you on the last weekend of Spring Break, I’m watching the birds fly to the feeder at my kitchen window and pick out sunflower seeds.  It’s so exciting to see old “friends” come back who were gone from the feeder.  The chickadees were always there, even when the temperatures dropped below zero, but yellow finches, nuthatches and cardinals tell me Spring is here. As time passes at UMA, keep in mind that new opportunities are opening up while some windows are about to close! Keep the news items below in mind as you think about the future.
As always, I invite you to get in touch with me if you have any questions or need help making decisions about your path to graduation with a Social Science major.  My phone number is 207-621-3190 and I welcome your call.  You can also send me an e-mail message at james.m.cook@maine.edu.  Finally, you’re welcome to drop by unannounced to my office hours, which are Wednesdays from 12-2 PM in Augusta Jewett Hall 122 and Thursdays 8-9 AM and 12-2 PM at University College Rockland.

Look Out! These Social Science Courses are Almost Full
We’re about three weeks in to registration season, and some courses are nearly full.  If you haven’t registered yet and the following courses are on your must-take list, don’t wait until summer.  Jjump on the opportunity now before it’s too late:
SSC 320: Research Methods in Social Sciences — this course has 28 registrants out of 30 slots — only 2 spots left!  This course does fill every year, it’s only offered in the fall, and it’s a requirement for all Social Science majors.  Jump in and register, especially if you think next year will be your last!
SOC 316: Criminology — this course has 23 registrants out of 30 slots — only 7 spots left.  This is a popular course because it pertains to a very practical topic, especially for the United States (did you know the U.S. has the highest rate of people in prison out of 222 countries around the world?  Source: http://www.apcca.org/uploads/10th_Edition_2013.pdf online).
SSC 100: Introduction to Social Science — this course has 16 registrants out of 20 slots — only 4 spots left!  Like SSC 320, this course is a requirement for Social Science majors, and it’s a good one to take relatively early because the course tackles the challenge of showing how the wide variety of social science disciplines all matter put together.

Hidden Social Science Gems
Our social science major has some pretty typical courses — human development, social problems — that you might expect.  We also offer some pretty unusual courses that you might not find elsewhere.  Consider:
SSC 360: Qualitative Methods
It’s fair to say that in the social sciences, quantitative methods based in numerical representation of counts and categories is dominant.  But there is a a strong second tradition of qualitative research in the social sciences.  Assistant Professor Kati Corlew has this to say about the course she’ll be teaching in the fall: “Qualitative methods are a great way to explore a topic in great detail. Someone checking boxes in a survey may be thinking, ‘yes, but…’ or ‘not really, but close enough’ and we would never know it. Qualitative methods often have space for participants to push back and say their piece. Interviews, for example, allow people to tell their stories. But wait, how can gathering stories be ‘science?’ In this course, we’ll learn about the theories and requirements for creating scientifically sound, valid, and elucidating qualitative research. We’ll learn about the varieties, the exceptions, and the possibilities of qualitative research. And we’ll get to have fun — trying out qualitative research interviewing and observation in your own personal research topics. I can’t wait for this fall!
SOC 315: Deviance
Why be normal?  The very concept of “normal” and its counterpart, “deviant,” lie at the heart of this course taught by Associate Professor Lorien Lake-Corral.  If you’d like to take a walk on the wild side and examine why some things we do cross the border between acceptable and unacceptable, this is the course for you.
PSY 489: The Psychology of Evil and Humor
When you think “clowns,” do you see something funny, sad, … or downright creepy?  Have you ever noticed the stories we tell about one another, humor and evil sometimes are placed against one another, and are sometimes allies?  What are humor and evil for?  As Professor Ken Elliott explains, “This course is offered for students having a serious interest in understanding both malevolent behavior and humor as coping skills. Students will study these with an emphasis primarily on individual and secondarily on collective behavior.

Last Reminder: Apply for Graduation!
If you are ready to graduate this Spring or Summer, the deadline to apply for graduation was April 1st.  That was this past Friday!  If you have missed the deadline, it might not be too late; I urge you to call the UMA advising office first thing Monday morning (they open at 8 AM) to check in and see what’s possible.  The UMA advising office’s number is 207-621-3149.
I hope this information is helpful.  As always, please get in touch if you have any questions about registration and the road to graduation.  Enjoy the Spring!

Best Regards,
James Cook
UMA Assistant Professor of Social Science

Feeling Like a Fraud in the First Year of College (and why that’s OK)

When I ask students in their first year of college how they’re doing, I often get a pained look in response. it’s common for students to feel a bit (or maybe a whole lot) like they don’t fit, even like they’re a fraud, not a “real student.” Do you ever feel that way? Well, here’s a confession: I felt that way myself when I got started as an undergraduate student, and it took me some time to shake that feeling. It turns out that this kind of feeling is absolutely normal and even a kind of standard part of getting used to a new role. As Erving Goffman explains in his dramaturgical theory of social interaction (Goffman 1959), we are all in a sense playing roles on a public stage, trying to pull off our scenes, trying to remember our lines. Difficulty in performing a role like that of student doesn’t mean you’re a bad human being — it just means you need to be patient with yourself and give yourself a bit of time to practice your new role before you can feel like you’ve truly nailed it. I share my thoughts on this subject in the video below:

William Shakespeare shared this sentiment in two of his plays:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
– Macbeth

“All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
– As You Like It

Goffman would agree with the second quote, but disagree heartily with the second quote. For Goffman, the lines we deliver and the successful scenes we accomplish in interaction signify a great deal. Indeed, the whole point of our strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage is to learn how to signify to one another. An undergraduate’s role in the first year is hard, because a college or university education involves a whole new way of signifying what matters, how it matters, and how we know what matters.

The bottom line? Feeling like a fraud in the first year of the undergraduate experience is not just normal; it’s actually OK, a sign of growth, a sign that you’re extending yourself into a new role. As the popular slogan goes, you just have to “fake it till you make it,” to keep practicing the new role until you get the part down well. A die-hard dramaturgist might say that there’s really no difference between someone who perfectly impersonates a success and an actual success.

Just keep practicing, keep pretending until the pretense becomes real. You can do it.


Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Random House

Advising News, March 2016: Great Courses, Timing Courses for Graduation, and a Must-Do-Pop-Up

Dear Social Science Students,

Can you feel Spring coming from where you are?  It’s sunny, it’s (almost) warm, and that means it’s time to start thinking about the future. In past semesters, I’ve relied on pro-active students to get in touch with me with question about advising.  Starting this semester, I’ve decided to actively reach out with periodic newsletters.  I’ll share important information about deadlines, extra-curricular opportunities, new courses and graduation strategies.
As always, I invite you to get in touch with me if you have any questions or need help making decisions about your path to graduation with a Social Science major.  My phone number is 207-621-3190 and I welcome your call.  You can also send me an e-mail message at james.m.cook@maine.edu.  Finally, you’re welcome to drop by unannounced to my office hours, which are Wednesdays from 12-2 PM in Augusta Jewett Hall 122 and Thursdays 8-9 AM and 12-2 PM at University College Rockland.

Registration Starts Monday — Check Out These Two Crucial Fall Social Science Courses
Don’t forget to register for classes starting Monday, March 14!  Classes fill up fast, so be sure to put in your requests quickly.  There are a lot of super courses for Social Science that you might enjoy, but one is new and one is really important for majors.
  • SSC 320, Research Methods in Social Science, is absolutely necessary for you to graduate as a Social Science major, and it’s only taught once per year in the fall.  If you plan to graduate soon, please be sure to sign up for SSC 320 as quickly as you can, before the class fills up to capacity.
  • SSC 360 is a new course in Qualitative Research Methods being taught by Social Science faculty member Prof. Kati Corlew.  This course will help you practice systematic interviewing and observation skills, develop questionnaires and protocols for field notes, and apply scientific rigor in method to analysis of results.
  • This fall, I’ll be teaching SSC 320, SOC 316 (Criminology), and SOC 375 (Social Networks) in addition to SOC 101 (Introduction to Sociology), a course that most of you should have completed by the fall.  I’d love to have you in class!  Ask me a few questions if you’d like to know more about these courses.

Important: New Requirement When Registering
Staring this year, you’ll be asked to sign a Financial Responsibility Statement in MaineStreet on your ‘To Do’ list before you complete registration.  This is a legal agreement between the student and the University of Maine System explaining that you are financial obliged to pay back whatever loans you receive.  It may sound like a boring hurdle, but if you don’t agree to the statement before you try to register, you’ll be blocked from registering!  Please make sure you sign in to MaineStreet and agree to that statement.

Time to Apply for Graduation! DUE: April 1
Are you ready to graduate this Spring or Summer?  If so, you need to apply for graduation by April 1st.  To apply, visit http://www.uma.edu/about/offices/registrar/graduation/ on the web. Once you register for graduation you’ll receive cap & gown and ceremony information via email.

Looking for Scholarships? DUE: March 25
Unlike financial aid (loans that must be repaid), UMA scholarships are outright grants that you don’t have to pay back.  For a list of scholarship opportunities (more than $1,000,000 available), and to apply for those scholarships, visit http://www.uma.edu/admission/financial-aid/scholarships/.  The due date for UMA’s easy Universal Scholarship Application is March 25.

I hope this information is helpful.  As always, please get in touch if you have any questions about registration and the road to graduation.

Best Regards,
James Cook
UMA Assistant Professor of Social Science