The senior exercise is designed to provide majors with the opportunity to explore central themes in sociology and articulate their general understanding of the discipline.
No later than September 30 senior majors will propose a short list of possible topics for sociology faculty forums. These forums will address broad issues regarding the character of the discipline that are of interest to majors. Faculty will review these topics and select two for panel discussion in the fall semester. Seniors must attend both faculty forums to successfully complete the senior exercise, but they will be open to all department majors.
The forums constitute a portion of the exercise as a comprehensive examination—not a class session—and as such must be completed to pass.
Understanding that serious life issues may arise that prevent a student from attending the forums, should a student be absent, we will ask for an official notice from the Dean of Students, the Dean of Academic Advising, or a college physician. Because one must complete the portion of the exercise, the student will be asked to write a five-page paper on the topic of the forum missed for faculty evaluation. The student will still be eligible for distinction at the final evaluation of her or his performance on the exercise.
Unexcused absences must also be made up, but we consider this to be a different case. You will be asked to write a 15-page paper on the topic of the forum you missed for faculty evaluation, due one week after the date of the forum. You will be ineligible for distinction at the final evaluation of your performance on the exercise. Missing both forums constitutes grounds for a fail for the senior exercise. Please note that athletic competition does not constitute an excused absence for the senior exercise.
No later than January 31, senior majors will submit to the faculty four questions for an oral examination constituting the senior exercise. The format of these questions can vary, but they must conform to the following general guidelines:
• Questions must be sociological in character, i.e., they must excite a sociological imagination.
• Taken together, the questions must address all four areas of the sociology curriculum: (1) institutions and change, (2) culture and identity, (3) theory, and (4) methods. Any particular question may address one or more of these areas.
• Questions must be sufficiently broad to be answered by all majors, regardless of the specific courses they have taken in the department.
• Questions must enable each student to demonstrate his or her distinctive command of the discipline.
The faculty will review the questions submitted and at their discretion accept particular questions as presented, make modifications, or provide alternative questions. This finalized list of questions will be presented to senior majors no later than February 14.
About April 15, seniors will complete an oral examination before the sociology faculty. At the examination, each student will be asked one of the four questions chosen by the faculty. The student will provide a ten-minute response to the question posed. Following the response, faculty will ask follow-up questions based upon your presentation for an additional ten minutes.
The work in the senior exercise will be evaluated on two primary criteria: (1) a demonstrated command of sociology as conveyed through the response to the question posed, and (2) the clarity and effectiveness of the oral presentation. The result of the evaluation will be provided in writing following completion of the examination for all students, indicating whether or not the senior exercise was passed and if distinction was earned. To receive distinction, the student must show excellence with respect to both evaluation criteria. Students who fail the oral examination will be required to submit five-page written responses to two additional questions selected by the faculty no later than April 30.