Sociologists at Smith study the dynamics of human interaction and the ways in which people are organized into groups of all sizes, characteristics and purposes. By examining such topics as community, social class, race and ethnicity, family, sex roles and popular culture, students come to understand more fully their own experiences and the society in which they live.
Students normally begin with An Introduction to Sociology, a course with a seminar-like format that allows for group discussion and provides a good setting for learning the basic concepts of the field by examining aspects of contemporary society. Two dozen other sociology courses cover a range of topics, including Ethnic Minorities in America, Urban Sociology, Social Movements, Medical Sociology, and World Population.
Students also learn to conduct social research, first in "methods" courses that teach basic quantitative and qualitative research skills and then by undertaking research with faculty assistance. Some students continue research in senior honors projects or in conjunction with faculty research efforts. Recent research projects have examined immigrants and refugees, the relationship between contemporary anti-oppression workshops and the Civil Rights movement, the formation of virtual communities on the Internet, and the collective memories of concentration camp survivors and their liberators.
The department encourages students to spend their junior year studying abroad in established Smith College programs as well as in non-affiliated programs in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.