Sociology is a dynamic field that is concerned with historical and contemporary issues of local, national, and global significance. It is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of Sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious cults; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports. Few fields have such broad scope and relevance for research, theory, and application of knowledge. Sociology provides many distinct perspectives on the world, generating new ideas, and critiquing the old. The field also offers a range of research techniques that can be applied to virtually any aspect of social life: street crime and delinquency, corporate downsizing, how people express emotions, welfare or education reform, how families differ and flourish, or problems of peace and war. Because Sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is a rapidly expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft and create public policy and programs. Sociologists understand social inequality, patterns of behavior, forces for social change and resistance, and how social systems work.
At its best, Sociology engages students in the world around them, encouraging them to examine the relationships between self and society. In what ways do socio-economic, historical, and cultural conditions influence one’s thoughts, values, and behavior? How do one’s thoughts, values, and actions help shape the world in which one lives? Sociology offers answers to these questions by studying social organization from the macro to the micro levels. We are interested in the interactions among cultural, political, social, and economic systems and individuals. The fundamental questions that we raise as a discipline concern the nature of human beings, the nature of society, and the relations between the individual and society. To the extent that the discipline of Sociology equips students with the tools to critique the world in which they live, it makes them both better scholars and more informed and valuable citizens.
The Sociology major is designed to help students critically examine the reciprocal link between daily experiences and larger social structures. We specialize in social patterns and processes in the United States, and connect these issues to larger transnational phenomena. Our courses focus on topics germane to our current global society: the effects of globalization on social relations, institutions, and communities; the increase in the unequal distribution of resources within and across nations; the causes and consequences of protest movements; the feminization and racialization of poverty; the interactive and reciprocal influences of culture, policy, social institutions and the economy; and the changes in meanings and performances and of identities
Introductory courses appropriate for prospective majors
Students enter Sociology by taking a 100- or 200-level course. First-Year students interested in the Sociology program are advised to consult with members of the department at an early date.
Introductory courses that fulfill distribution requirements
Any course offered by the department
SOCI 110, Social Analysis
SOCI 226, Race, Class, and Gender
SOCI 236, Stratification
SOCI 224, Cross-Cultural Gender and Family
For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Sociology.
Suggested curricular flow through the major
The Sociology major was designed with the hope and expectation that all of our students would spend a semester or year abroad. As a result, we developed the curriculum so that a student who did spend a year abroad could complete all the requirements for the major, as long as she or he followed a few guidelines.
The guidelines are written for the entering student who knows he or she wants to major in Sociology. Rather than specify the courses that you "must" have in a given semester, the following are general guidelines regarding courses that we suggest you take during each year. You should think of these guidelines as giving you a fast track into the major - this provides maximum flexibility in your junior and senior year.
A 200-level elective
foreign language depending on where you may want to study abroad
SOCI 240, Qualitative Research Methods
Two electives and either SOCI 244, Quantitative Data Analysis or Theory
Begin thinking about your thematic in consultation with your advisor
Theory, either SOCI 330, Classical Theory (Fall) or SOCI 331, Contemporary Theory (Spring)
SOCI general electives: refer to Academic Bulletin: Sociology
General electives (whether abroad or on campus)
SOCI 400, Senior Seminar (Fall only)
SOCI 405, A Senior Thesis is recommended but not required (Spring only and requires a proposal by the Friday after Thanksgiving to enroll in this class). See the Sociology Advising Guidelines.
All electives for the major finished
Thematic Statement submitted by spring break of your senior year
For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact a Sociology faculty member. Students not following these guidelines may still be able to study for a year abroad and still complete the major.
Each student is required to develop a thematic or focus within the field of sociology. By spring break of the final semester, the student should submit a thematic statement to their advisor that articulates how their (minimum of) three courses relate to one another in ways that fulfill the thematic.
- Thematic Statement (1-2 pages): The first paragraph should describe your thematic focus; subsequent paragraphs should identify and describe how those courses contribute to your thematic focus.
- You will want to consult with your academic advisor along the way as you begin to plan out your thematic. Possible thematic foci could be: social movements, social policy, social justice, race and ethnic studies, class, community studies, gender, inequality, health, environmental sociology, education, family, religion, globalization, sustainability.
The department supports independent study as a way of encouraging independent inquiry. Most independent studies are done at the senior level as senior theses which are researched and written in the context of the Advanced Research Colloquium, SOCI 405. Recent theses include: “The New Racial Wealth Chasm: Asian, Hispanic and African American Wealth Inequality in the Twenty-First Century;” “"Chronic Shame: Navigating the Stigmas of HIV/AIDS and Race in South Central Pennsylvania;” “The Facebook Profile as a Construction of Identity: A Qualitative Analysis of Social Media;” “Race and Class: Their Relationship and Effects On Depression and Suicide Amongst White and Black Americans.” “Bridging the Gap?: A Qualitative Examination of the Cultural Capital of Biracial Students;” “Only Fags and Dykes Wear Leather: A Qualitative Study of Gender Performance Within Queer Identity;” “Reconstructing Men, Saving Society: An Examination of the Diagnostic and Prognostic Frames of the American Boy Scouts and the Promise Keepers;” “Muslim Women in the Netherlands and the United States: Sexuality and Identity Formation;” “Interactions in Disaster Research: The Case of Montserrat, West Indies.”
Opportunities for off-campus study
Although study abroad is not a requirement, the department encourages study off-campus as a way to strengthen one’s awareness of both other cultures and one’s own sub-culture and society; to strengthen cross-cultural analysis and gain greater insight into American society; and to develop greater independence and global citizenship. Our majors have done academic work in Appalachia, Australia, Argentina, Cameroon, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Spain, Venezuela, and Washington, D.C., among other places.
Careers: The Department’s emphasis on critical thinking and developing analytical, quantitative and qualitative research skills, as well as its interdisciplinary focus, prepares Sociology majors for a wide range of occupations. This is evidenced by the jobs in which recent graduates are employed: teaching human relations skills to corporate executives, urban administration, counseling, film production and distribution, teaching, public relations, editor-in-chief of a newspaper, restaurant management, librarianship, advertising, free-lance non-fiction writing, and research for non-profits. Majors have gone on to earn advanced degrees in Sociology and in law, social work, economics, journalism, public health, medicine, and religion. A number are teaching at the university level. Sociology prepares students well for the helping professions, research on social problems, law, and policymaking. It appeals especially to students with interests in the practical handling of human affairs, psychotherapy, philosophy, public relations, public administration, cross-cultural studies, and social thought.