View information for the Department of Sociology and Gerontology , including Learning Objectives for the department and its programs.
Sociology is the scientific study of human social interaction and institutions. From its origin in nineteenth-century industrializing Europe, sociology developed as a methodologically rigorous, empirically based analysis of social structure.
The study of Sociology provides students with a rewarding academic experience as well as a variety of career possibilities. Recent graduates of the department have applied their training to enter prestigious graduate schools or to obtain entry-level management and administrative positions with such varied organizations as large and small businesses; criminal justice agencies; child welfare organizations; local welfare and mental health departments, the criminal courts, and social service agencies.
The pivotal sociological concept, social structure, rests on the observation that something exists in society more than simply the sum of individuals. As humans interact, they create social structure — a real “thing,” not directly visible but nevertheless observable in its consequences. The concept of social structure denotes interaction networks, social organization, and power relationships. Social structure is essential to understanding human life inasmuch as it shapes humans’ options, actual choices and resultant biographies.
What often appear to, and are taken for granted by, the non-sociological eye simply as personal troubles are in fact the result of social structural tensions. From the sociological perspective, effecting change necessarily involves understanding social structure.
Sociology majors receive a strong grounding in traditional and contemporary social theory, methods of conducting social research, and techniques of analyzing social data. Students can select elective courses from areas including social institutions such as the family, religion, and medicine, and social processes such as social change, social deviance, personality and society, and drug use.
The Human Services concentration applies sociological theory and methods to human services issues, providing a conceptual framework for students considering careers in human service areas and for those planning to enter graduate social work programs. The concentration also allows students to examine institutions such as the family with reference to issues such as current social welfare programs, alcoholism, and mental health.