“The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise.”
— C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (1959)
Sociology is the systematic study of human society and the patterns and consequences of social interaction. The student of sociology seeks to cultivate a critical perspective that relies on observations and empirical evidence to demonstrate the affect society has on the ways we think, feel, and act. The nature of society is such that it appears to be both apart from, as well as a part of, everyday human activity. While it exerts significant influence over our everyday lives, it is in the very details of human activity that society is constructed, maintained, and changed.
The Department of Sociology & Criminology provides students with an understanding of social life that recognizes the complex relationship and dynamic interplay between society and its members. Our courses focus on the degree to which people’s lives are influenced and affected by socio-cultural, political-economic, and historical forces. One primary goal of the program is to help students cultivate the sociological perspective as a type of critical thinking and informed analysis. Students are required to take courses in classical and contemporary social theory in order to learn the discipline’s origin and development, as well as its ideas and arguments about the nature of social order and explanations for social change.
Students are also taught the various research methods that sociologists utilize to systematically study the multifaceted social world. Students are expected to develop a command of the methods used to conduct sociological analysis. As part of the program, students demonstrate a proficiency in formulating a research question and constructing an appropriate research design by developing a research proposal that is theoretically informed and methodologically appropriate.
A FOCUS ON INEQUALITY
The Department has as a central focus the topic of social inequality. Each of our majors and minors takes a required course that examines in detail the topic of social class in America. Special emphasis is placed on the topic of social inequality in all courses offered by the Department. A goal of the program is to make students aware of the nature and affects of social inequality on the life chances of all members of society.
The Department provides students with service learning opportunities to work in various community, human services, criminal justice, and health-related agencies where students are expected to apply sociological reasoning to their supervised field work experiences. This aspect of the program allows students to experience possible career interests, to learn from those already working in the field, to consider the need for further education, and to establish contacts that may be helpful in acquiring full-time employment. The study of Sociology and Criminology fully realizes its potential as an intellectual tool and guide for enlightened social action only when students are given the chance to link their knowledge and expertise with hands-on experience.
With a degree in Sociology or Criminology, students will be prepared for a number of areas of work. Students not only are equipped with knowledge and competence in sociology or in criminology, but also possess the abilities and proficiencies associated with a liberal arts education. The Department provides students with the necessary preparation and background to pursue a graduate degree in sociology or in a related professional field such as law, criminal justice, social work, public health, public administration, human services, human resources, journalism, or business.
The success of the Sociology and Criminology program is measured by the students who graduate, and who remain challenged by the complexity of their world and become rededicated as new thinkers with fresh ideas as they approach the ongoing study of the human condition. With this knowledge, each student is expected to become a more informed, engaged, and contributing member of civil society. By these measures of success, students who complete our program will fully grasp the truth of the observation that Peter Berger made in his book Invitation to Sociology; namely, that “the fascination of sociology lies in the fact that its perspective makes us see in a new light the very world in which we have lived all our lives.” And this new vision will make for a more enlightened person and humane society.