Sociology’s Centennial Celebration: 100 Years at Washington State University

Welcome to the official homepage for all information, events, and activities related to the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Sociology Department at Washington State University. We are excited to mark this momentous anniversary with events and activities throughout Fall 2023 and Spring 2024. We will update this page regularly with information about our history and as events and activities are scheduled throughout Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.

Centennial Celebration Calendar of Events

Join us for a Fireside Chat with Academic Sisterhood authors Ball-Rokeach, DeFleur, and Tallman for our kick-off event on September 27th, from 4-6pm in the CUB Junior Ballroom. Doors open at 3:45pm, and the talk will begin at 4pm. A reception with hors d’oeuvres will begin at 5pm.

Join us to celebrate Dr. Don Dillman’s extensive contributions to the department and listen as he talks about the history of our department and what is yet to come. October 25th, 1:10-2:30 in CUE 518. A reception will follow at the WSU Fine Arts Museum at 5pm.

You can view Don’s presentation here.

Join us for an Alumni Colloquium with Richard York on February 23rd in CUE 518 at 1:10-2:30pm. Talk title and description TBA.

Join us for an Alumni Colloquium with Lori Hughes on April 19th in CUE 518 at 1:10-2:30pm.

Sunday breakfast at Rico’s Public House with WSU emeritus sociologist James F. Short on May 6, 2018 (Photo J. Michael Short)

A Brief History

In 1920, Fred Yoder was appointed as the first sociologist at Washington State University and became the chair of a Sociology Department in 1928. Many people associate the Sociology Department with Wilson-Short Hall, named in part after James Short, Jr., who started his prolific career in the department in 1951. For just about a century now, the department has been a national and international leader in sociological research and undergraduate and graduate education. Many students who passed through the halls of Wilson -Short have gone on to successful careers as academic sociologists, government workers, and workers in the private sector.

Since 1948 when the first sociology PhD graduated from Washington State University, a total of over 400 WSU sociology PhD’s have been awarded by the department. Over twenty-five of those PhDs have been awarded to Black scholars, the first to Dr. Charles U. Smith in 1950. This was during a time when very few Black scholars in the U.S. earned doctoral degrees in any field. Dr. William Julius Wilson,  (PhD ’66, Sociology) is among the most influential sociologists of the time whose work on race, inequality, and poverty formed the foundation of countless empirical and theoretical academic works. He is also someone whose body of scholarship we recognize with an award in his name. The department was honored in 2004 with the American Sociology Association’s DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award for its “…cumulative impact that [Washington State University] has had on shaping African American scholarship…an absolutely monumental and a living tribute to the pioneering scholarship and social activism of W.E.B DuBois, Charles S. Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier.”

Dr. Charles U. Smith

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.