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 introductory 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 change 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 107).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. Eight courses (4 units) are required. At least one course (.5 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 least two courses (1 unit) must be taken in three of these areas.
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. (This major requirement applies to all students who declare the sociology major beginning in the 2010-11 academic year). 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.
Senior Seminar. SOCY 489 (.5 unit) is required and taken in the fall of the senior year.
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 an opportunity to (1) undertake original scholarship on topics of their own choosing, (2) present the results of this scholarship to students and faculty members in a professional setting, and (3) produce high-quality papers through a process of discussion and rewriting.
Each student submits a paper proposal in September. The student then prepares the paper in consultation with faculty members. All Senior Exercise participants will present their research and answer questions from peers and faculty. Following these sessions, each student revises the paper in light of faculty and student comments. The final paper is submitted in January.
Faculty members evaluate student work with regard to the quality of the final paper, the clarity and effectiveness of the oral presentation, and the extent and quality of student participation in discussion. Written notification of the results of the evaluation is provided by the end of March; included is notice of whether or not the student has passed and/or earned distinction. Students who fail the Senior Exercise may be asked to rewrite their paper or to take a written or oral comprehensive examination covering material presented in the major program. This decision will be made by the Sociology Department.
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.
The Sociology Minor
As of Fall 2011, the minor has been discontinued.
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.