Sociology engages students in the systematic examination of social life, from everyday face-to-face encounters to the movements of civilizations throughout history. Unlike disciplines that focus on a single aspect of society, sociology stresses the complex relationships governing all dimensions of social life, including the economy, state, family, religion, science, social inequality, culture and consciousness. Sociology also examines social structures such as groups, organizations, communities, and social categories (class, sex, age or race) and analyzes their effect on people's attitudes, actions and opportunities in life. Sociological inquiry is guided by several theoretical traditions and grounded in the empirical observation of social reality.
The discipline emerged in the 19th century as a critical analysis of modern, Western society, yet it is informed by philosophers and theorists from earlier centuries. Today, sociologists study ways in which the modern world continues to change, often by making comparisons with societies at other times and in other places. Sociology majors go on to take active roles in corporate boardrooms, law offices, government, social service agencies, classrooms and policy think tanks. In a broader sense, everyone can benefit from sociology's unique understanding of our common humanity and the diversity of social life.
Students begin their study of sociology by enrolling in any 100-level course in the department. Each course combines lecture and discussion. All of these courses apply the theory and methods of sociology to achieve an understanding of the character of life in modern societies, especially our own. Each course is distinguished by a particular thematic focus and accompanying course materials. Students may enroll in only one 100-level course in sociology. After that, students should enroll in a mid-level course.
Additional information about beginning studies in sociology is available on the department website.
The sociology curriculum places emphasis on four substantive areas of sociological investigation:
Students majoring in sociology must complete a minimum of five (5) units of work in the discipline which meet the following requirements.
One 100-level course (.5 unit) is required. Students may not take additional foundation courses for credit.
Four-and-one-half (4.5 units) are required. At least a half (.50) unit must be taken in each of the four areas of the sociology curriculum (institutions and change, culture and identity, social theory, research methods), and at one (1) unit must be taken in three of these areas. At least a half (.50) unit must be a 400-level seminar.
Sociology majors are required to take SOCY 262 and 271 as early as possible. Majors also are required to take two 300-level theory or methods courses of their choice. These core courses also count toward completion of area requirements. Students planning to attend graduate school in sociology or related fields are strongly encouraged to take more than four core courses.
At least one course taken toward completion of the area requirements must be a 400-level seminar. We strongly recommend that students take two.
With departmental approval, students who do not receive sociology credit from off-campus study may count up to one (1) unit of work in other disciplines toward the major requirements. Students who wish to pursue this option must first consult with their faculty advisor, then submit a written petition to the department chair, no later than their second semester junior year.
The senior exercise asks you to explore central themes in sociology and articulate an in-depth understanding of the discipline. Accordingly, one of its main components speaks to those tasks: the oral examination. The second component links these two together: you and your colleagues must collaborate to provide the questions for the exam.
No later than Monday, September 25 by 5 p.m., seniors will submit to the faculty four (4) questions for their oral examinations. The faculty will proactively 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 soon after September 25.
The format of these questions can vary, but they must conform to the following general guidelines:
On Sunday, November 5, you will complete an oral examination before the sociology faculty. At the examination, you will select and answer one question from a choice of two. You will provide a ten-minute response to your selected question. To assist you, you may bring one note card of notes per question to the oral exam session. Following the response, faculty will ask follow-up questions based upon your presentation for an additional ten minutes. SOCY 2014-2017 comprehensive exam questions can be found here: docs.google.com/document/d/1s2pSnsn4Z_2ZqgzzHrPMHyr6hCR4kJ3YQ5LGT8VKyEA
Your work in the senior exercise will be evaluated on two primary criteria: (1) your demonstrated command of sociology as conveyed through your response to the question posed, and (2) the clarity and effectiveness of your oral presentation. The result of the evaluation will be provided to you in writing following completion of the examination for all students, indicating whether you have passed and whether you have earned distinction. To receive distinction, you 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 November 28.
Should you fail your oral examination and be required to submit written essays in fulfillment of the senior exercise, please be aware that submission of your own work written in a previous semester without the Department’s knowledge will be considered a violation of academic integrity (“self-plagiarism”). If you have any questions about this, please consult the College’s Academic Integrity Policy.
The Honors Program is designed to facilitate significant independent research by our department's finest students. Typically, the student will propose a topic for research in consultation with a member of the faculty who agrees to serve as the project advisor. The department will then approve (or decline to approve) the honors research on the basis of the merit of the proposal itself as well as the student's past classroom performance, motivation to pursue excellence, and demonstration of the organizational skills required for successful completion. In consultation with the project advisor, the student will go on to build an honors committee consisting of two members of the sociology faculty (including the advisor), one member from another department on campus, and one member from another institution of higher education (chosen by the advisor). The student will spend the senior year conducting the research and writing an honors thesis. The thesis is finally defended orally before the honors committee, the members of which determine whether to award no honors, Honors, High Honors or Highest Honors.
Students interested in reading for honors should meet with a faculty member no later than March of the junior year to discuss procedures and develop a proposal. Proposals are due by the end of the first week in April of the junior year. Students approved for participation in the Honors Program will enroll in two semesters of Senior Honors (SOCY 497, 498) in their senior year.
Additional information about the sociology honors program is available on the department website.
The Sociology Department typically accepts transfer credits from other colleges and universities for courses that are commensurate with the unit offerings at Kenyon. We especially encourage students to take courses that are not regularly offered in our curriculum.
We do not permit students to transfer credits earned through online evaluation or two-week special courses offered during winter breaks.
We do permit our majors to transfer the equivalent of one (1) unit of credit earned while abroad for a semester and two (2) units earned while away for a complete academic year. Students must make arrangements for these provisions with their advisor and the department chair to ensure that diversification requirements within the sociology curriculum are properly met.