Undergraduate Sociology Course Descriptions
Sociology Core and Elective Courses
We hope to see you in a sociology course soon!
SOC 201 Introduction to Sociology-SB (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer - and often during the winter term.)
This course is designed to familiarize students with the sociological perspective of society, introducing them to the study of human societies, how societies are organized and changed – and the implications of social organization on everyday life. The course will cover basic concepts and theories used in sociology, discuss how sociologists conduct research, and examine several social institutions (e.g., economics, education, politics, media, etc.) and social issues/topics (e.g., environment, gender, poverty, racial/ethnic conflict, etc.). The overall objectives of the course are to understand sociological perspectives, foster critical thinking, analyze social phenomena using sociological approaches and concepts, and to gain an increased understanding of modern society.
SOC 202 Social Problems-SBD1 (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer.)
This course focuses on the major threats to social cohesion and order in society and how such social problems affect human behavior. Generally, when individuals have problems, they contextualize them in highly personal terms; their perspective is guided primarily by their immediate situation and personal circumstances. However, there are socially structured contexts out of which individuals emerge and in which social problems are created, sustained, and/or changed–and, thus, impact human behavior. The purpose of the course, then, is to expand the student’s understanding of current social problems related to inequality, social institutions, and modernization using the “sociological imagination,” which distinguishes between personal and social problems and assumes the latter to be shaped by social forces/factors beyond an individual’s control.
SOC 210 Race in the U.S.-SBD1 (This course is offered in the fall and spring - and occasionally during the summer.)
This course examines race as a social construction and surveys the sociological meanings and practices of race and the intertwined, and enduring, social, political, and historical forces that shape and maintain elaborate forms of racism(s) in the U.S. As such, the course will include topics, such as theories of racism and white supremacy, forms and implications of cross-racial dialogue; the intersections between race, ethnicity, and feminism; racialization of crime; the entangled relationship among race, citizenship, and immigration practices; forms of resistance historically undertaken in the face of racial oppression, etc. Overall, students will learn to recognize, and begin to engage, the various social processes of race, especially the ways race is made, embedded, and reproduced through interactions among social institutions, individuals, and ideologies.
SOC 301 Social Statistics (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer - and often during the winter term.)
This course introduces students to statistical concepts used in the social sciences (e.g., sampling, descriptive statistics, the analysis of associations, and hypothesis testing) and the role that quantitative analysis plays in developing and testing knowledge, including designing and carrying out research, applying various statistical procedures for analyzing data, evaluating research and argumentation to assess validity of knowledge claims, and presenting data. Students will learn how to use statistics to make sense of the social world, to interpret figures reported in professional and media outlets, and to critique conclusions drawn from statistical data analysis.
SOC 303 Research Methods-WR (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer.)
Social science research contains a systematic approach to analyzing the social world with various approaches and techniques. As important as these approaches and techniques are for developing scholars to understand, it is also pertinent that they can understand the limits and critiques of such approaches and techniques used for research. This course will introduce students to the general approach of social science research, while providing a foundation to understand different approaches to conducting research and introduce students to the research methods that sociologists use to empirically investigate the social world, including the logic of inquiry, the elements of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research design, and ethical issues in research.
SOC 320 Social Theory-WR (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer.)
Social theory is a guide for studying social life and making sense of observations and events in social life. It provides the infrastructure for asking questions and using methods for study and informs the explanations or interpretations that follow In other words, theory organizes our study of social life by developing concepts and languages for identifying and describing tendencies, patterns, and laws of behavior. It contributes to our knowledge of, and to the efforts at, changing or improving social life. Within sociology, there are multiple competing paradigms, or theoretical frameworks, for ordering knowledge. This course will examine these competing paradigms, as articulated by major theorists, discuss the socio-historical significance of the major sociological paradigms, and apply examples of classical and contemporary theory to the modern world.
SOC 323 Diversity & Inequality (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer - and occasionally during the winter term.)
This course uses a sociological perspective to examine diversity and inequality and includes an examination of the important contributions various social groups have made to society, the barriers to their full participation in society, and the efforts they have made to achieve equality. An appreciation of the nature and consequences of diversity and inequality is essential for understanding social forces and social structures, as well as group processes and organizational dynamics and the way these affect individual life chances. The course will discuss how race, ethnicity, gender, social class, sexuality, among other social forces, are social constructions that affect groups’ life experiences, life chances, and access to power; how diversity and discrimination exist in history and in everyday life; how inequalities are systemic and institutionalized; and strategies and policies for social change.
Several 300- and 400- level sociology electives are offered each fall and spring, and at least one 300- and one 400- level sociology elective are offered each summer.
SOC 305 Urban Sociology (to be offered on-campus in Spring, 2024)
This course serves as an introduction to the sociology of ‘urban’ areas and will explore patterns of the form and development of cities through comparisons across time and space, examine how humans organize social life in cities, and study the institutions that structure and facilitate ‘urban’ life. Ultimately, students should be able to analyze how urban development is related to the political, social and economic forces in cities, regions, nations and the world; analyze reliable information and empirical data on the demographic and economic structure of cities, suburbs and metropolitan areas; and use theoretical perspectives on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and other socially organized categories presented throughout the course to explain urban development patterns. (For more information, contact Dr. Lauren Heberle.)
SOC 315 Environmental Sociology (to be offered 24-25)
This course offers a critical analysis of the interactions between society and the environment, using sociological theoretical frames to explore environmental issues and including theories of political economy, policy development, environmental justice, social construction of the environment, cultural processes, social movement, globalization, sociology of knowledge and science, and social change. Ultimately, students will develop a greater understanding of environmental problems and evidence-based solutions for addressing those problems; understand social and institutional interactions/relationships with the environment and impacts thereof; understand how structural systems of inequality and oppression (such as racism) produce disparate environmental impacts in different populations; and further develop the capacity for critical thinking, research, and analysis. (For more information, contact Dr. Lauren Heberle.)
SOC 325 Sociology of Human Sexuality (to be offered on-campus and online in Fall, 2023 and Spring, 2024)
The sociology of human sexuality is examined from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Topics covered in the course include the social and psychological nature of human sexual response, atypical sexual practices including bondage and transvestite fetishism, sexual dysfunction, sexual orientation and sexual identity, and the business of sex including pornography, prostitution, and strip clubs. The course also considers sexual response as part of romantic relationships and examines dating, marriage, divorce, and polyamory and other non-traditional forms of relationships. (For more information, contact Dr. Jim Beggan.)
SOC 327 Sociology of Gender (to be offered online in Summer and Fall, 2023 and Spring, 2024)
This course examines the social construction of gender and the status of women and men in major social institutions such as education, family, the workplace, and the media. Students will be introduced to theoretical perspectives on the development of gender, discuss gender stereotypes, and examine scientific research and perspectives on gender differences and similarities. The course will also explore the structural foundations and theoretical explanations of gender inequality, as well as the intersectionality of gender and other social locations and identities, such as race, social class, sexual orientation, and age. . (For more information, contact Dr. Gul Marshall.)
SOC 329 Sociology of Families (to be offered online in Summer, 2023)
This course examines structural foundations, theoretical explanations, and historical patterns of family formation to understand trends in family form and function in the U.S. The course will briefly cover the history of the American family, but the bulk of the course will examine contemporary U.S. families, considering issues of dating, cohabitation, marriage, divorce, parenting in traditional and non-traditional families, work and family issues, and social policies affecting the family. Throughout the course, how the experience of the family differs according to one’s structural position in society will be explored – particularly regarding gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. While emphasizing how social forces affect contemporary families, the course will also discuss how individuals and groups have agency to change their experience of family life. (For more information, contact Dr. Karen Christopher.)
SOC 334 Sociology of Deviant Behavior (to be offered online in Fall, 2023) This course introduces the student to the definitions, theories, and patterns of deviant behavior and is designed to teach students to think critically about social deviance and to acquire a better understanding of themselves and how they relate to others, social groups, and society at large. (For more information, contact Dr. Mike Littrell.)
SOC 336 Criminology (to be offered online in Spring, 2024)
This course offers a sociological perspective on crime – or societal or social structural explanations for the nature and causes of crime. It will introduce students to fundamental concepts, methods, and theories used by sociologists to study crime; examine crime rates and trends; explore types of criminal behavior and methods used to control it; and discuss causes – and solutions to crime. Topics which may be covered include: the criminalization of drugs and drug enforcement, racial profiling, gun control, death penalty, mass incarceration. (For more information, contact Dr. Mike Littrell.)
SOC 340 Mental Health and Illness (to be offered online in Summer, 2023)
This course provides an overview of sociological approaches to understanding mental health and illness and explores the following questions: How do sociologists understand mental illness? What distinguishes sociological approaches from other approaches (biomedical, psychological, etc.)? We also will explore how mental health and illness are affected by a range of social factors. Among other inquiries, the course explores: Who is most likely to become “ill” and with what illnesses? What social factors (e.g. gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, SES, etc.) affect the experiences that people have with mental health and wellness? Historically, how have people been treated, socially and psychiatrically, when they are diagnosed with mental health problems? Are people with mental illness more likely to be violent than other people? What is the relationship between crime and mental illness? How do the media portray those with mental illness? Globally, outside of the U.S., how is mental health and illness experienced? (For more information, contact Dr. Debbie Potter.)
SOC 342 Medical Sociology (to be offered on-campus and online in Fall, 2023 and online in Spring, 2024)
This course aims to provide an in-depth overview of the major theories and conceptual frameworks of medical sociology. At its core, medical sociology emphasizes the importance of moving beyond biological and medical understandings of health and illness by highlighting key social factors that influences individuals’ health experiences. This course will cover the interplay of biological, medical and sociological perspectives in addressing inequalities in health and illness by sex/gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other demographic characteristics. In doing so, we will cover a wide span of the health and illness experience, from examining how the meaning of illness is defined and redefined over time, to assessing how individuals’ interactions with various actors within healthcare systems impact health outcomes. Sample topics we will discuss this semester include: Why are some health-related behaviors labeled as “deviant” while others are not? In what ways can different types of stressors “get under the skin” and make you sick? How are technological innovations affecting the doctor-patient relationship? By the end of the course, students should be able to a) understand key classic and contemporary frameworks in medical sociology, b) to assess how factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status impact health inequalities across the life course, and c) understand the manner in which an individuals’ health and illness experience is shaped by their interactions with social and healthcare systems.
SOC 343 Sociology of Women's Health (last offered Summer, 2022)
This course introduces students to key conceptual and substantive issues in the sociology of women's health and illness, drawing upon a variety of theories (including feminist and critical theories) and examining the intersections of gender identity, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, social structure, and power in the ways in which women experience health and illness and, how women’s health care is structured. While the course is organized around specific biological conditions or illness, the focus of the course is on key sociological concepts including the doctor-patient relationship, help-seeking behavior, the socialization of health care providers, and the cultural and structural dimensions of the health care system. Drawing upon a broader context, recent policy responses related to U.S. women’s and LGBTQ health also are addressed. (For more information, contact Dr. Debbie Potter.)
SOC 350 Special Topics: Welfare Moms & Needy Poor (last offered Fall, 2021)
This course focuses on social welfare policy in the United States. It traces the development of and social attitudes toward major U.S. social welfare programs for the poor, the elderly, families, and other vulnerable and marginalized groups. We will examine both theoretical and practical issues, including the values and beliefs that have influenced public policy. We will examine a range of social welfare policies in the US that address specific social problems, and examine both the strengths and weaknesses of the programs in light of addressing structural inequalities including those related to race, ethnicity, gender, and SES. (For more information, contact Dr. Debbie Potter.)
SOC 350 Special Topics: Japanese Families (to be offered on-campus in Spring, 2024)
To people in the US, studying families in Japan may be interesting given the coexistence of persistent cultural traditions shared with other East Asian countries and advanced economy on par with that of Western countries. In this course, students are encouraged to contemplate how different or similar Japanese and US families are regarding each topic we cover, and gain a deeper understanding of family dynamics. This course provides an overview of contemporary Japanese families covering topics such as singlehood, marriage, divorce, parenting, and family elderly care. Its approach is multi-disciplinary (e.g., sociology, demography, anthropology, and psychology) and primarily draws on the research literature published within the last ten years. Ultimately, students should be able to describe current trends in Japanese families, understand the diversity of Japanese families, apply concepts and findings from social science research to their own experiences, research a family topic and write a paper, and be able to have have informed discussion on Japanese families. (For more information, contact Dr. Hiromi Taniguchi).
SOC 392 Faces of Global Poverty-WR (to be offered online in Summer and Fall, 2023 and Spring, 2024)
The course is an elective that studies the nature of poverty throughout the world, examining the historical, social, cultural, organizational, and political factors related to poverty in the third world and specific groups in the U.S. and their impact on individuals, communities, and society in general. Social and personal dimensions of life and poverty in urban and rural areas will also be discussed. (For more information, contact Ms. LaLisa Anthony.)
This course introduces students to community-based learning through classroom instruction and a volunteer or internship experience which connects students with local organizations and allows them to develop a greater understanding of social issues by applying their degrees. In addition to class material and course assignments, each student will be required to serve an internship or conduct volunteer work with an organization that is at least partially dependent on voluntary contributions of time and/or funds. These experiences are meant to familiarize students with the daily operations of an organization, as well as providing information to be analyzed sociologically and allow them to apply their skills to an applied setting, as well as serve as an opportunity to explore a potential career and/or contribute to an organization that students see as serving an important function in society. (For more information, contact Dr. Jonetta Weber.)
SOC 415 Sociology of Death & Dying-CUE (last offered Summer, 2022)
This course focuses on the social construction of death and dying in the United States and how social groups, institutions, organizations, and inclusion in various demographic groups (by age, gender, race/ethnicity, social class, religious affiliation, etc.) shape the way death, dying, and bereavement are constructed, viewed, and experienced in our society. in addition to learning concepts associated with thanatology (the study of death and dying), we will discuss topics such as: who is considered “dying” and what the dying process entails; generational differences in familiarity with death; death in popular culture; influences (gender, occupation, religion, social class, family, education, media, etc.) on attitudes toward death; dying and death in the American health-care system; biomedical and legal issues related to end-of-life decisions (advance directives, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, right to die, etc.); religious and cultural views of death and dying; risk-taking, near-death experiences and perspectives on “life after death”; suicide and other types of death (accident, violence, disaster, war, terrorism); the funeral process and “business of dying”; body/organ donation; different expressions of bereavement and grief; mourning customs; and the death of and grieving for a pet. (For more information, contact Dr. Jonetta Weber.)
SOC 425 Sociology of Leisure-CUE (to be offered 24-25)
The importance of leisure is underscored by estimates that we devote nearly as much time to leisure as work activities over our lifespan. Since at least as far back as Classical Greece, social thinkers have debated the role of leisure in society, whether it be a means to recharge the enervated body and mind for more productive work; strengthen an individual’s character, skills, sense of balance, and self-concept; or to pass time via simple amusement. A persistent theme hinges on whether leisure should “add value” to the individual and “lift up” society. Indeed, the study of leisure suggests that what is considered “proper” leisure has varied widely from place to place and changed dramatically over time, i.e., judgments of leisure are culturally constructed. Leisure is generally regarded as a key social institution that helps to socialize individuals and shape society, but scholars recognize that leisure offers a conundrum, particularly for those in the United States; while leisure appears to play increasingly central roles in the lives of many, it is often devalued by society in favor of the merits of work. The first half of the course will examine contemporary and past leisure patterns, theories on leisure, benefits derived from leisure for self and society, relationships with work, socialization into particular leisure pursuits, as well as constraints to participation. The latter half will cover socialization through leisure, commodification of leisure and the leisure “industries,” college students’ leisure, and the sociology of tourism. (For more information, contact Dr. Bob Carini.)
SOC 442/WGST 442 Sociology of Disabilities (to be offered online in Spring, 2024)
This course examines the ways in which disability is socially defined, experienced, and addressed by policy. Incorporating theories from sociology, disability studies, and women's studies, this course adopts an intersectional perspective and explores disability through the lens of gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and more. Topics will include: concepts of disability (including stereotypes); the history of disability in contemporary US culture; the medical vs. social model of disability; chronic illness and disability; media and disability; disability politics; the disability rights movement(s); and socio-legal institutional and policy responses to disability. (For more information, contact Dr. Debbie Potter.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: U.S. Holidays-CUE (last offered Fall, 2022)
While our major (and some minor) holidays may immediately encourage thoughts of days off from work, long weekends, and/or perhaps opportunities to enjoy some leisure time, gather with family and friends, and/or even time to "catch up" on work or other obligations, holidays are sociological phenomena that intersect with race and ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status; a variety of social institutions (e.g., economics, education, family, media, politics, religion, sport and leisure, etc.); social values (e.g., hard work and discipline, competition, materialism, etc.); social issues (e.g., poverty, commodification, etc.); as well as social identity, a sense of community, etc. Further, holidays can be controversial and/or difficult, and this course will explore the role of holidays in U.S. society, their significance in our annual calendars, and how they are socially constructed. (For more information, contact Dr. Jonetta Weber.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: Immigrants and Identity-CUE (to be offered on-campus in Spring, 2024)
America is a nation of immigrants; colonists, indentured servants, slaves, undocumented workers, those fleeing their home countries, and other arrivals have entered the U.S. for centuries. U.S. history involving intersecting forms of oppression has affected public notions of immigrant identities and citizenship. This course explores the complex links between racial, ethnic, and citizenship statuses and identity formation and negotiation. We will begin with broader questions of membership, belonging, and citizenship and then discuss sociological work on the creation and negotiation of racial, ethnic, and citizenship boundaries, as well as the influence of U.S. policies, institutional practices, and public discourse in these processes. Students will engage with social and historical factors affecting immigrant identities today and the diverse responses of immigrants and organizations through their own claims-making and identity negotiations. (For more information, contact Dr. Melanie Gast.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: Sociology of Food-CUE (to be offered online in Summer, 2023)
Food plays a critical role in our lives, affecting us not just physiologically, but also socially, and what we eat and the way we eat it offers insight into who we are (e.g., our social identities as members of social classes, ethnic groups, gender groups, religions, etc.). The sociology of food examines food as part of our social life and how food consumption and interests in particular foods shape – and are shaped by – social institutions and organizations, e.g., our families, the media, religion, education, etc. Food can also play a controversial and even confusing roles in our lives, and we will explore this and other topics related to the social significance of food and how food is socially constructed. (For more information, contact Dr. Jonetta Weber.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: Environmental Justice-CUE (to be offered on-campus in Fall, 2023)
This course is intended to provide student scholars with a broad overview of Environmental Justice research and scholarship and engage as scholar/activists through research activities throughout the course. This class will examine the ways in which structural racism, colonization, and economic systems intersect to produce disparate exposures to and impacts from environmental hazards. We will explore the ways in which scholars and activists have documented the systemic and unequal and distribution of environmental harms and unequal access to environmental benefits. This will be coupled with exploring ways in which scholars and activists have laid bare and challenged the practices that produce these outcomes in the name of environmental justice. The material in this course will be centered in the social sciences but will draw on multiple disciplines and other material and media created outside of academia to provide students with a sense of the value that different bodies of expertise and knowledge bring to this area of study. The course assignments will include opportunities to collect and analyze information relevant to local environmental issues in order to contribute to the work environmental justice advocates, activists, and decision makers engage in to create a more just and environmentally healthy community. (For more information, contact Dr. Lauren Heberle.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: Animals & Society-CUE (last offered in Spring, 2022)
The relationship between humans and animals dates back many millennia, as animals have long served as sources of food, clothing, transportation, service, and even fascination. However, this relationship has been inconsistent across time and cultures, and, in recent years, greater attention has focused on how animals factor into the lives of humans in light of ecological and agricultural concerns; changing patterns of family and community; increasing use of animals in not only service but also sport and entertainment; and debate regarding the hierarchical and ethical nature of these relationships. Today, social scientists are examining the complex and changing social, ethical, and ecological consequences of human-animal interaction, and this course examines the increasingly prevalent and controversial roles animals play in society and the effect of those roles on both humans and animals. (For more information, contact Dr. Jonetta Weber.)
SOC 454 Social Inequality and Stratification(to be offered online in Fall, 2023)
This course examines social inequality and various forms of stratification in the U.S., specifically analyzing the systems of the distribution of power, property, privilege, and prestige in human communities and societies. Social stratification along class, race, and gender lines underlies most topics of sociological inquiry and has to do with inequality within and between social groups. Scholars and policy makers have long been interested in the causes, consequences, and solutions to inequality. Yet, the social complexities which underlie the persistence of inequality are challenging to understand and address, particularly in the context of economic, political, and social changes. This course, then, will address several fundamental questions: What are social inequality and stratification and how do they arise? Why do they persist over time? What are their effects on individual life chances? How have groups or organizations organized to ameliorate inequality? How can societies work to eliminate inequalities, and if so, who is responsible for creating change? How can change occur?
This course explores paid and unpaid work and gender from a sociological perspective. It begins with theoretical frameworks: gender as a social structure that operates on the individual, interactional and institutional levels; and an intersectionality perspective, which explores the intersections of gender with race/ethnicity, social class, sexuality, and nationality. It then focuses on U.S. women and men but will briefly explore social policies in different nations. Throughout the course, the class will approach the study of work from sociological and feminist perspectives – noting how social structures shape individuals’ experiences of paid and unpaid work – but also stress human agency, the dynamic nature of work, and social change. (For more information, contact Dr. Karen Christopher.)
SOC 464 Race and Ethnicity-WR; CUE
This course will focus on the role race and ethnicity plays in the production of social ideals, the making of citizens, and everyday lived experiences. It will start with an examination of race today, through the exchanges of difference and power, and continue toward a deeper sociological appreciation of the contemporary functions through which race and ethnicity continue to be made and remade within society. Ultimately, the course will seek to address how race and ethnicity matter in today’s society; how ideas about difference are strengthened or challenged through social experiences, institutions, and ideologies; and the social, political, and ethical consequences of mis-understanding the continued salience today.