Entrance to Wilson Short Hall.
The scientific study of social life
Sociology provides fundamental insight on social matters. Because our lives are affected by our place in the social world, the discipline seeks to understand the connection between people and society. Sociologists study and work across a broad range of issues—from inequality to health, from deviance to family, from work to gender and race. Few fields offer students opportunities of such breadth.

Featured Undergraduate Courses

Growing Up and Growing Older (SOC 356)

How do societies define adulthood and old age? What does it mean for a society to have a very young or old population? This course provides a framework for understanding the interplay between the way we age and changing social structures of societies. The course explores how major institutions (e.g., employment, family, health care) shape the aging process; social inequalities and changes in life experiences that come with age; and how historical change creates differences between generations as well as how different generations propel societal change. We will examine social policies and practices that benefit population health in an aging society and personal well-being across the life course.    

Sustainability and Society (SOC 332)

Sociology is typically known as the study of human interaction, however one thing that all humans must share and interact with is the environment. The focus of this course is on the inter-relationships between people and the natural environment including: the land, air, water, and other creatures that inhabit the planet. In particular, we will focus on the problems these inter-relationships pose. One cannot deny that environmental problems are problems of society. How we organize ourselves socially and the beliefs we carry with us have an impact on the natural environment. Additionally, environmental problems are problems for society that force us to rethink our current social arrangements and belief systems in the wake of changing environmental conditions. We focus in depth on social inequality in this course and how environmental problems are distributed unequally across the human community as well as how inequality is a source of environmental problems.

Featured Graduate Course

Rural Sociology (SOC 590)

Significant changes, ranging from employment to political preferences, are transforming rural America, with implications for all Americans. Three sociology faculty members, each with extensive backgrounds in the study of rural people and places, will combine their skills to teach Rural Sociology. Each will teach five weeks of Soc 590, Fall Semester 2023 in a coordinated effort to explore and explain the historical contexts, cultural norms, challenges, and social institutions that are unique to rural America.

Don Dillman will establish the historical settlement context that helps explains how the settlement and development of rural regions of the U.S. differed as the country transitioned through three eras of social organizations: community control, mass society and the information age. The long- term differences that settlement and geography made in rural movements and institutions, will also be discussed, drawing upon empirical research on rural communities and people from quite different sections of the U.S. (August 24- September 21)

Jenn Sherman will provide a contemporary treatment of rural economic changes and challenges, with an emphasis on rural poverty and inequalities of race, gender, and education. This work will draw in part on in-depth studies she has conducted in rural California and Washington. (September 28- October 26)

Dylan Bugden will provide a contemporary perspective on the growing rural-urban political divide. He will also discuss the dynamic relationship between rural communities and their rich natural resources by exploring extractive and energy industries, amenity migration, and agriculture in rural places. (November 2 – December 7)

This course is for graduate students with interest in understanding how people living and working in rural areas of the United States differ from their urban counterparts, and the consequences these differences have for influencing social problems and solutions, including laws and regulations of states and counties as well as the country as a whole. We hope this course will help students from graduate programs in various departments with particular interest in studying rural places, regardless of the disciplinal focus of their graduate study.

Experiential Learning

Take your education out of the classroom and into the world! Experiential learning opportunities and the capstone course help you apply your academic learning to effect change in communities and workplaces or get involved in hands-on research.