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 of identities.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

Students often enter Sociology by taking either SOCI-110, Social Analysis, or a 200-level Sociology elective. First-year students interested in the Sociology program are encouraged to consult with a member of the department at an early date.

For course descriptions or requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Sociology.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Social Sciences (Division II):
Any course offered by the department

U.S. Diversity:
SOCI 110, Social Analysis

SOCI 225, Race and Ethnicity

SOCI 233, Asian American Communities

SOCI 234, Middle Eastern American Communities

SOCI 236, Inequalities in the U.S.

SOCI-270, Social Movements, Protest, and Conflict

Global Diversity:
SOCI 224, Cross-Cultural Gender and Family

SOCI 237, Global Inquality

SOCI 272, Islam and the West

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 they followed a few guidelines.

The guidelines are written for the entering student who knows they want 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.

First Year
SOCI 110
A 200-level elective
Foreign language—depending on where you may want to study abroad

Sophomore Year
SOCI 240: Qualitative Research Methods
Inequality, either SOCI 236: Inequalities in the U.S. or SOCI 237: Global Inequality
One elective and either SOCI 244: Quantitative Data Analysis or Theory SOCI 300 or 331

Begin thinking about your thematic in consultation with your advisor

Junior Year
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)

Senior Year
SOCI 400: Senior Seminar (Fall only)
SOCI 405: Senior Thesis (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 abroad for a year and complete the major.

Thematic Statement
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.


Honors may be granted in Sociology for a well-researched, analytically sophisticated, and finely crafted thesis within the range of 50 to 100 pages. Students should begin discussing the possibility of an honors thesis in the early fall of their senior year at the latest and register for SOCI 405 for the spring. A proposal with preliminary bibliography is due by the week after Thanksgiving to the faculty teaching SOCI 405, the advanced research seminar. Students will work closely with the faculty teaching 405 but may seek guidance from other members of the faculty both within and outside the department. Only the best projects will be granted Honors, but any student who completes the project will receive credit for SOCI 405.  Detailed guidelines are available on the department's web page.

Co-curricular activities/programs

Many sociology students also take advantage of the interdisciplinary and often globally integrated Mosaic programs that are offered. For more information about current and upcoming Mosaics, see the Community Studies website.

Additional Remarks

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-profit organizations. 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.