Undergraduate Sociology Course Descriptions
Sociology Core and Elective Courses
We hope to see you in a sociology course soon!
*Sociology is offering SOC 201, 202, and 301 during the winter term.*
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 (e.g., poverty, racial/ethnic conflict, environment, 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 U.S. society.
SOC 202 Social Problems-SBD1 (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer - and often during the winter term.)
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 is to expand the student’s understanding of current social problems in the U.S., an examination guided by the “sociological imagination,” which assumes individuals are products of their social environments, and requires the adoption of a critical stance toward all social forms.
SOC 210 Race in the U.S.-SBD1 (This course is offered in the fall and spring.)
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. In that process, the course will include topics, such as theories of racism and white supremacy, forms and implications of cross-racial dialogue; and 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 foundations of race and racial thinking, and especially the way 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., descriptive statistics, probability, sampling, hypothesis testing, estimation, regression and correlation, categorical data analysis, and statistical control) and focuses on the role that quantitative analysis plays in developing and testing knowledge, including designing and carrying out research, how to apply various statistical procedures for analyzing data, how to evaluate research and argumentation to assess validity of knowledge claims, and ways to present data. Students will learn to use basic statistics to understand relationships and how individuals fit into their social environment(s) by using quantitative data to answer social science questions, such as understanding tables or figures often found in academic journals or the statistics commonly reported in professional and popular media sources, the logic of statistical inference, and the limitations of conclusions drawn from the statistical analysis of data.
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.
SOC 320 Social Theory-WR (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer.)
Sociological theory is a guide to how to go about studying social life and making sense of observations and events in social life. Sociological theory, therefore, is the infrastructure that holds together ways of asking questions, methods for study, and explanations or interpretations that follow. Sociological theory is what organizes our study of social life; without it, sociology would be a collection of observations and facts, not a science. Sociological theory develops concepts and languages for identifying and describing tendencies, patterns, and laws in social life, which contributes to knowledge but also to efforts at changing or improving social life. The science of sociology, however, contains multiple competing paradigms, or theoretical frameworks, for ordering knowledge. Therefore, in our discipline we can readily see how “facts” and knowledge are intertwined with theoretical concepts, preferred practices and styles of research, and moral and normative views. In this class, we will examine these competing paradigms, as articulated by major classical theorists, and consider the possibilities these paradigms offer for the kinds of sociology we can do, and the kinds of sociologists we can be.
SOC 323 Diversity & Inequality (This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer.)
This course uses a sociological perspective to examine diversity and inequality, specifically exploring social class, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexuality in American society. The study of diversity and inequality 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 and sexuality 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 315 Environmental Sociology (expected to be offered in 22-23)
This course will take students through 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. (For more information, contact Dr. Lauren Heberle.)
SOC 325 Human Sexuality (offered Fall, 2021: TR 9:30-10:45 and online)
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. In light of COVID, the class is designed to be taught as a hybrid with in-class attendance available, however, it is also possible to complete the entire course online. (For more information, contact Dr. Jim Beggan.)
SOC 329 Sociology of Families (offered Fall, 2021: online)
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. We will explore families from a sociological perspective. We will briefly cover the history of the American family, and then the bulk of the course will examine contemporary U.S. families, considering issues of: dating and “hooking up,” cohabitation, marriage, divorce, parenting in traditional and non-traditional families, work and family issues, and social policies affecting the family. Throughout the course, we will emphasize how the experience of the family differs according to one’s structural position in society – particularly their gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. While emphasizing how social forces affect contemporary families, we will also explore how individuals and groups have agency to change their experience of family life.
SOC 334 Sociology of Deviant Behavior (offered Fall, 2021: online) 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.)
340 Mental Health and Illness (offered Spring, 2022: MW 4-5:15 and online)
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 (expected to be offered in 2022)
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. (For more information, contact Dr. Latrica Best.)
SOC 350 Special Topics: Welfare Moms & Needy Poor (offered Fall, 2021: online)
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 (offered Spring, 2022: TR 2:30-3:45)
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 Taniguichi).
The voluntarism course introduces students to issues and topics related to voluntary and nonprofit activity. In addition to class material and course assignments, each student is required to serve an internship with an organization that is at least partially dependent on voluntary contributions of time and/or funds. Internship experiences should 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. It is an opportunity to explore a potential career and/or contribute to an organization that students see as serving an important function in society. Students are to serve an internship at an organization of their choosing, with the approval of the organization and the instructor. In the past, students have been involved in this service learning opportunity at a wide array of organizations. The voluntarism course meets as a regular class each week but also has, as one its requirements, 80 hours of volunteer work at a local organization. (For more information, contact Dr. Hiromi Taniguichi.)
NOTE: SOC 405 offers an excellent means by which students can apply their formal education in sociology and gain "real world" experience in the areas of social service, social change, and/or social research by working with scholars and specialists in the field before they graduate. Sociology majors earning a BS are required to take SOC 405 during their senior year, while sociology majors earning the BA have the option of taking SOC 405 as an elective within the major during their senior year. Students wishing to register for the voluntarism course do so as they would any other course, keeping in mind the prerequisites of SOC 201, 320, and 323.
SOC 442/WGST 442 Sociology of Disabilities (offered Fall, 2021: online)
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: Immigrants and Identity-CUE (offered Fall, 2021: online)
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 (offered Fall, 2021: online)
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 con play 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: Racialized Medicine-CUE (offered Spring, 2022: T 4-6:45)
This course is designed to introduce students to sociological and other interdisciplinary approaches to how race and ethnicity are utilized in health-related research. Initially, we will explore how race and ethnicity has been defined, and redefined, within social and biomedical arenas. Next, we will explore key theoretical perspectives related to race- and ethnic-based health inequalities, with a focus on intersecting identities (race, gender, sexuality, age). We will spend most of the semester investigating how shifts, and subsequent ambiguity, in the meaning of race and ethnicity in biomedical research not only impact health outcomes but also perpetuate health inequities at every stage of life. Sample topics that will be discussed in this course include: What role does personalized medicine play in perpetuating health disparities? How do individuals’ relationships with formal institutional structures (e.g. healthcare systems, prisons) impact the health care they receive? How has the increasing focus on understanding genetic contributions of various health conditions reinforce enduring narratives of race and the disease process? By the end of the course, students should be able to a) understand how race and ethnicity are defined and utilized in health-related research, b) be able to apply major sociological and interdisciplinary theories to explain race/ethnic inequalities in health, and c) articulate ways in which race and racism becomes embodied in the health experience. (For more information, contact Dr. Latrica Best.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: Environmental Justice-CUE (offered Spring, 2022: 2:30-3:45)
(For more information, contact Dr. Lauren Heberle.)
SOC 450 Special Topics: Animals & Society-CUE (offered Spring, 2022: online)
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. Although animals continue to be used for food, clothing, and transportation, they also are: employed in service; substituted as humans in scientific experiments and medical testing; domesticated as pets and incorporated into family life; included in leisure and recreation; hunted for sport; displayed as art/decor; worn as status symbols; viewed as pests; worshiped, sacrificed, and vilified in religion; figured/characterized in language, art, literature, and music; used as symbols in advertising; exhibited in zoos and museums; employed as athletes and entertainers; and factored into economic, legal, and political discussions on animal rights and welfare, conservation, climate change – all topics discussed in this class.
Students should note that this course is not about animals per se (e.g., animal biology or behavior) but regards the increasingly prevalent and controversial roles animals play in society and the effect of those roles on both humans and animals. By design, this course will neither seek to condemn nor condone certain forms of human-animal interaction – e.g., pet ownership, eating or wearing animal products or by-products, hunting and fishing, using animals in scientific experiments, and employing animals in sport and entertainment. Rather, this course will explore these anthrozoological connections and consider what constitutes ethical treatment of animals in these roles, views which are not uniformly accepted. (For more information, contact Dr. Jonetta Weber.)
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.)
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.