Our centennial celebration will begin with honoring three pioneering women: Dr. Lois DeFleur, Dr. Sandra Ball-Rokeach, and Dr. Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman, each of whom joined the sociology department in the 1970’s and who paved the way for other female academics joining Washington State University. These sociologists have chronicled their life-long journey into sociology, graduate school, and onto Washington State University in a forthcoming book: We Few, We Academic Sisters: How We Persevered and Excelled in Higher Education, edited by Betty Winfield with contributions from Lois D., Sandra B., and Marilyn I.; to be published by Washington State University Press in 2023.
Faculty members Dr. Lois DeFleur, Dr. Sandra Ball-Rokeach, and Dr. Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman, each of whom joined the sociology department in the 1970’s, were among the first women faculty members in the department.
Dr. Lois DeFleur arrived at Washington State University in 1968 and later became Dean of Liberal Arts at WSU, and then President of the State University of New York at Binghamton. Dr. Sandra Ball-Rokeach came to WSU in the early 1970s and later became a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg where she directed its Communications Technology and Community Program. Dr. Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman came to Washington State University as an assistant professor in 1976 and served two terms as sociology department chair from 1990-1996.
As a community, we care deeply about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and about using our knowledge to help solve the social problems we face in society today—including systemic and individual-level racism, health inequities, gender discrimination, unequal educational outcomes, and dilapidated prison systems.
On behalf of our faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and our staff, we hope you are able join us in our celebratory activities throughout this year and next.
–– Julie Kmec, Professor and Chair of Sociology
Over the century, our award-winning faculty conduct research in many areas of sociology, among them:
The department has maintained an emphasis in the study of deviance and criminology throughout its history. Best known for his pioneering work on gang behavior is James F. Short, Jr., University of Chicago-trained sociologist and editor of the American Sociological Review from 1972 to 1975, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and president of the American Sociological Association in 1984 and who came to campus in 1951.
In the early 1970’s sociology department, faculty that included Dr. Bill Catton, Dr. Riley Dunlap, Dr. Gene Rosa, and Dr. Bill Freudenberg developed research and instruction that made it one of and may have been the first environmental sociology program in the United States. The department continues to conduct research and provide educational opportunities in this important area of emphasis, and many of our PhDs have made major accomplishments in this area of teaching and research.
Early investigations and instruction on understanding rural Washington were key contributions made by early WSU sociologists including Dr. Fred Yoder. The impact of the Grand Coulee dams and development of irrigation facilities prompted investigations about the development of agricultural and other rural communities in locations where few people had previously lived. Three faculty members have each served as elected Presidents of the Rural Sociological Society (of America) and contributed to the development of new understandings about the transitions of rural people and communities throughout Washington and elsewhere at different times in history.
Sociology department faculty were instrumental in development of the Social Research Center’s Public Opinion Laboratory in 1970, and eventually the Social and Economic and Sciences Research Center where sociology faculty and graduate students have for more than 50 years been responsible for developing innovative research for conducting mail, telephone, and internet surveys. Methods developed here have continue to be adopted for use throughout the world.