Sociology involves the systematic examination of human social activity, 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 (such as 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 nineteenth 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.
Beginning Studies in Sociology
Students begin their study of sociology by enrolling in any 100-level course in the department. Each course combines lecture and discussion and has an enrollment limit of approximately twenty-five students. 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.
The Sociology Curriculum
The sociology curriculum places emphasis on four substantive areas of sociological investigation:
Institutions and inequalities studies the forms and dynamics of institutional life, with emphasis on structural, historical, and comparative perspectives.
Culture and identity explores the construction and transformation of cultural and symbolic forms and the development of self within the social process.
Social theory examines the historical development of the discipline, the works of major contributors, and particular schools of sociological thought.
Research methods investigates the assumptions and tools of sociological research as well as the connection between research and theory in sociological study.
The Sociology Major
Students majoring in sociology must complete a minimum of 5 units of work in the discipline which meet the following requirements:
Introductory course (SOCY 101 through SOCY 108). Students may take only one intro-level course. Students are expected to take an introductory course in order to enroll in area and core courses in sociology.
Area courses. Nine courses (4.5 units) are required. At least one course (.5 unit) must be taken in each of the four areas of the sociology curriculum (institutions and inequalities, culture and identity, social theory, research methods), and at least two courses (1 unit) must be taken in three of these areas. At least one course must be a 400-level seminar.
Core courses. Sociology majors are required to take SOCY 262 and SOCY 271 as early as possible. Majors are also 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.
With departmental approval, students who do not receive sociology credit from off-campus study may count up to 1 unit of work in other disciplines toward the major requirements.
The Senior Exercise
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 presentation 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.
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:
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 the 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 questions 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.
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 independent study (SOCY 497, 498) in their senior year.
Transfer Credit Policy
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 1.0 unit of credit earned while abroad for a semester and 2.0 units earned while away for a complete academic year. Students must make arrangements for these provisions with their advisors and the department chair to ensure that diversification requirements within the sociology curriculum are properly met.