Secondary Fields

Social Studies is a primary concentration only. There is no secondary field in Social Studies.

Approximately half of Social Studies concentrators declare secondary fields. If your secondary is in a field completely unrelated to your Social Studies coursework and requirements—for example, in the humanities or sciences—then there’s nothing in particular that you need to discuss with our administrative staff about your requirements. However, if your secondary program of study overlaps with your focus field or other Social Studies concentration requirements (such as Economics), then you need to plan carefully and should talk with your advisor, Anya Bassett, or Nicole Newendorp as soon as possible. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  1. Harvard College requires that your concentration and your secondary field be academically distinct. This means that only one course can be used to fulfill the requirements for both.
  2. Because all classes that you take in our associated departments (Anthropology, Economics, Government, History, and Sociology) automatically count for Social Studies concentration credit, any courses that you want to declare for a secondary from those departments have to be “un-conc’d.” This is the case even if they do not count towards your focus field or other Social Studies concentration requirements.
  3. Here’s the tricky part: “un-concing” courses is a conservative process! That is, you cannot unconc any courses that are related to your primary concentration work in Social Studies. So, if your focus field is “Development and Modernization in Latin America,” and you’re writing a thesis about microlending and women’s social empowerment in Brazil, it’s going to be hard to unconc classes for an Economics secondary. On the other hand, if your focus field is “Memory and Cultural Politics in East Asia,” and you’re writing a thesis about Korean women’s narratives of trauma during World War II, then unconcing classes for an Economics secondary probably won’t be an issue.
  4. Sometimes it is easier to do a joint concentration than a secondary field. This is particularly the case for departments that include both humanities and social science courses, like Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, East Asian Studies, and African and African American Studies, as it is straightforward to write a joint senior thesis that will be acceptable in both programs. Students can double count as many course requirements as they want to for joint concentrations and do not need to petition to unconc Social Studies courses.
  5. Some popular secondaries like Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights and Global Health and Health Policy do not offer a joint concentration but may have substantial course overlap with Social Studies concentration requirements. In these cases, students can try to fulfill as many secondary requirements through courses that will not automatically be “conc’d” in Social Studies. This includes courses in the humanities and sciences as well as social science courses with designations such as WGS, AAAS, EAS, EMR, History of Science, and GHHP.

    It also includes social science or history courses offered through the new Program in General Education (starting in the fall of 2019). While Social Studies will count any social science courses taught in these programs if the student includes them in their focus field, we will not automatically count them if they are not part of the focus field.
  6. Courses that students take through study abroad as Social Studies concentrators can also be approved to fulfill secondary field requirements, but students will need to consult with the administrative staff of their intended secondary field of study for that course approval.

Make sure that you file your petition to unconc any courses for your secondary no later than fall of your senior year!

If you are worried about potential overlap between your Social Studies coursework and your secondary field, contact your academic advisor, Anya, or Nicole to ask questions sooner rather than later (Nicole is a particular expert on combining Social Studies with a secondary field in GHHP or EMR).