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 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 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 also encourages students to spend their junior year studying abroad.
News & Events
Kristen Nelson, '07, PhD student at the University of California-Berkeley
"Interracial Contact Is Not Enough:
How Place and Social Characteristics Help to Explain the Social Construction of Implicit Racial Bias"
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Dewey Common Room
Presentation of the Major
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Dewey Common Room
As a department, the main learning goals that we have for our students are that they develop both critical sociological analysis and research skills. By “critical thinking skills” we mean that a) our students should be introduced to the sociological perspective and develop what C. Wright Mills called the “sociological imagination,” a critical faculty permitting one to connect personal experience with larger social and historical forces, and by “making the familiar strange,” or rendering problematic those habits and social rituals that seem “natural”; b) we want our students to read, understand and learn to employ sociological theories; c) we expect our students to develop in-depth understanding of specific social phenomena in course electives that cover specific areas of sociological thinking, practice and analysis.The research skills we want our students to learn include: a) introducing them to different sociological methods, and to ways of analyzing social data statistically; b) we expect students to become proficient in either quantitative research methods (by designing and implementing a survey questionnaire, and by carrying out basic statistical analysis of survey data; or qualitative research methods (by learning to conduct participant observation, focus groups, in-depth interviewing, discourse analysis and visual analysis); and c) to develop the skills to evaluate and critique social research.
- SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology
- SOC 203 Qualitative Methods
- SOC 204 Statistics and Quantitative Research Methods for Sociology
- SOC 250 Theories of Society
- Four additional sociology courses at the 200 or 300 level
- Two additional 200- or 300-level courses either in sociology or, with the approval of the major adviser, in related fields.
- One l300-evel seminar at Smith during the senior year
Majors are strongly urged to take 203, 204 and 250 in their sophomore or junior year. Normally, majors may not take 203, 204, 250 or their senior seminar on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.
The department will permit Introduction to Sociology and up to four upper-level transfer courses from outside the Five Colleges to be used for the completion of major requirements.
Normally transfer students will be required to take a minimum of five upper-level courses within the department toward the completion of the major.
- SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology
- SOC 204 Statistics and Quantitative Research Methods for Sociology or SOC 203 Qualitative Research Methods
- SOC 250 Theories of Societies
- Three additional courses at the 200 or 300 level
- Only two of the six courses required for the minor can be taken outside of Smith College
Director for 2018–19: Tina Wildhagen
The honors program allows students with a strong academic background to devote a substantial portion of their senior year's course work to an independent and original research project that will result in a thesis. Eligible students should apply in the spring of their junior year. (January graduates are on a different schedule.) Honors is a yearlong course (430D for 8 credits) taken over both semesters of the senior year.
- At least a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) through the junior year in all courses in the major
- At least a 3.3 grade point average (GPA) through the junior year in all courses outside the major
- At least one course related to the area of the thesis
- Completion of 250 and either 204 or 203 by the end of the junior year
- Completion of 6 SOC courses by the end of the junior year
- Approval of the sociology department
A student applying to a departmental honors program must certify in a letter, as part of the honors application, that she has not been sanctioned by the Honor Board at a serious level (1/3 step grade reduction or more). As with Latin Honors, sanctions imposed in the first year are excluded; a student is only debarred from honors for serious violations in the sophomore, junior and senior year. Students already enrolled in an honors project who incur a sanction during the senior year must convert their honors project to a special studies. The certification letter should be submitted directly to the senior class dean, either in hard copy to College Hall 101 or by email to email@example.com. The template for the certification letter can be found on the Class Deans website.
Options and Credits for Honors Project Courses
Honors theses in sociology are yearlong, 8-credit courses (4 credits per semester). Students doing honors may not count courses from related fields toward the major; they must complete at least 9 SOC courses (including 101) in addition to the honors thesis. Occasionally, a student undertaking a yearlong special studies may, with her adviser's support, apply to retroactively convert the special studies to an honors thesis.
Candidates for departmental honors must carry a minimum course load (12 credits) in each semester of the senior year (Ada Comstock Scholars should see the dean for Ada Comstock Scholars regarding credit load). Any variation in the credit distribution described above must be approved by the Subcommittee on Honors and Inependent Programs.
A prospective applicant meeting the qualifications for the honors program should consult no later than the second semester of her junior year with a faculty member in the sociology department who is willing to serve as her thesis adviser. The job of the thesis adviser is to supervise the planning, research, writing, and evaluation of the thesis. The thesis adviser must be a member of the Smith faculty in sociology; faculty in other departments or at other Five College institutions may serve only as second readers. Because the adviser and candidate will work closely together throughout the duration of the program, a student must make sure that her adviser will not be on leave or on sabbatical during the relevant semesters. The thesis topic should be related to the area of expertise of the thesis adviser. Normally, any sociology faculty member may only direct one honors thesis per year. The student should also choose a second reader, who may be either a member of the sociology faculty, a faculty member at one of the other Five College institutions, or a faculty member in another department at Smith. The applicant must also meet with the director of honors for the sociology department, to review procedures for applying to the honors program.
The thesis proposal and IRB proposal, where relevant, should be submitted to the Department of Sociology by May 1 of the student's junior year. Most sociology honors theses require data collection, which in many cases must occur during the junior year or the summer before the senior year. Therefore, final approval of admission to the sociology honors program is contingent on successful achievement of any summer plans related to the thesis. Final college decisions about admission to the departmental honors program are made after grades from spring semester are recorded. The application process consists of several steps on the student's part:
- Request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org a "Calculation of GPA Requirements Form." Please include your ID number with the request.
- Calculate, with the thesis adviser, the separate grade point averages (GPAs) inside and outside the major for all courses on the form. Instructions on how to calculate will be sent together with the calculation form.
- Submit to the director of honors in the sociology department (and subsequently to the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs) a thesis proposal consisting of approximately four to five pages containing:
— A description of the scholarly issue to be investigated and a brief review of the relevant scholarly literature
— The specific research questions
— An explanation of the proposed theoretical framework and methodology and evidence of experience with this methodology
— Documentation of relevant background, preparation, special facility or skills necessary to undertake the proposed thesis (e.g., previous course work related to the thesis topic, quantitative skills, foreign language ability, etc.)
— A working bibliography of all significant sources
— Application for approval from the Smith IRB, if applicable
- Obtain the signature of the thesis adviser on the application.
- Submit the completed application plus any request for funding from the Nancy Kershaw Tomlinson Memorial Fund to the director of honors in the major department or program prior to the last meeting of the department or program for the semester in which you are applying. Normally, the sociology deadline is May 1 of your senior year.
- Submit your certification letter directly to the senior class dean by mail to College Hall 101 or by email to email@example.com. Submit the completed application and Calculation of GPA Requirements Form, plus any request for funding from the Nancy Kershaw Tomlinson Fund.
Nancy Kershaw Tomlinson Memorial Fund
The Tomlinson Fund assists in providing essential expenses of students in carrying out their honors projects. Guidelines, Reimbursement form, Travel Budget form and Supplies & Equipment Budget forms are available on the Class Dean's website.
Required Project Research Appointment
Each student accepted into the departmental honors program must arrange for a research appointment with a reference librarian or archivist at one of the Smith libraries. The purpose of this session is to prepare the student for locating, obtaining, evaluating and correctly documenting all relevant sources needed for a successful project. These skills are necessary even if some research has already been conducted. The content of each meeting is tailored to the student’s topic and presents an opportunity for the student to ask specific questions about the proposed research process as well as a chance to develop expertise in using the most relevant databases, websites, or other vital research tools.
This hourlong meeting must be scheduled by mid-October at the latest, but it should be made as early as possible so that the student can take full advantage of the print and electronic resources to be demonstrated. Since the librarian or archivist will need some time to research each project topic, expect that the scheduling process will take a few days. To schedule a research appointment, make an online request.
The final decision regarding admission to the departmental honors program rests with the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs.
Requirements of Students Admitted to the Honors Program
Students will work closely with their adviser in collecting data and writing the thesis. Normally, a draft of the full thesis should be submitted to the adviser and second reader no later than March 1.
Following submission of the final thesis, students will present their work in a public presentation attended by members of the sociology faculty and students. This presentation should cover the theoretical arguments and empirical findings of the thesis. Following the presentation, the student will address questions from the audience. Members of the sociology faculty may also ask questions of the student in an extended period after the presentation.
Smith College Catalog
Smith’s online course catalog includes course listings (description, instructor and offered terms), department data, information on majors and minors, honors programs and cross-listed and interdepartmental courses. A search function allows you to find courses by course number, department, keywords in the title, term offered, number of credits, fields of knowledge and professor.
Five College Course Schedule
The Five College consortium increases your choices. Four liberal arts colleges—Smith, Amherst, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke—along with the University of Massachusetts, offer joint courses of study as well as certificate programs in interdisciplinary fields. Courses are available at no extra cost to Smith students.
The following courses require either field work or field research:
- SOC 203 Qualitative Methods
- SOC 315 Practicum in Community-Based Research
SOC 214 and SOC 315 include community-based learning and research. Some sections of SOC 101 Introductory Sociology encourages field work or field research. There are also opportunities for group field work in SOC 216 Social Movements.
Students wishing to pursue individualized study in their junior or senior years on campus may enroll in a Special Studies tutorial (SOC 404 or 408). A student must secure the agreement of a faculty member to supervise a particular project prior to enrolling for a Special Studies. Normally, students should propose a special studies no later than the pre-registration period for the semester in which the special studies will occur. Examples of the kinds of work done in Special Studies tutorials include:
- In-depth reading in an area not covered in another course
- The execution of a research proposal developed in another course (either library research or empirical research)
- Other options, to be negotiated between the student and a particular faculty member
The department sponsors several activities each year for faculty members and majors. These include talks by outside speakers, or presentations by students or faculty in the department. Majors are encouraged to participate in the planning of programs for these events.
All majors are invited to serve as student liaisons. The liaisons make suggestions to the department about the curriculum, student activities and needs, building community among majors, and improving intellectual life for majors.
All students are invited to discuss specific curricular, personnel or other academic matters with appropriate faculty members at any time. General concerns and policy suggestions are best raised through liaisons.
Conference Travel Awards
Sociology majors who are presenting work at professional conferences may apply for travel awards from the sociology department to help defray travel costs. The amount of the award depends on the availability of funds and the cost of travel, but awards do not normally exceed $200. Applicants must submit the application to the chair of the sociology department no later than eight weeks prior to the conference presentation. Priority will be given to students who have not previously received the award. Please note that financial support is contingent on the availability of department funds. If awarded funding, students will need to submit receipts to the department upon return. Please type into the application.
Award Recipients 2017–18
The sociology department awards the Wahrsager Scholarship every year to senior sociology majors who demonstrate high level of scholarship, intellectual promise, character and leadership. The scholarship fund makes a significant contribution toward the tuition fees of the recipients during their senior year at Smith. The recipients may also apply to the department for an additional year of support toward expenses for the first year of graduate work in sociology provided that the award recipient enrolls as a full-time student within two academic years following graduation from Smith. Interested students may obtain additional information from their major advisers.
Most recent recipients: Ryenne Carpenter '19, Katharina Geppert '19
The Samuel Bowles Prize
Each spring, the sociology department awards the Bowles Prize to a major for the most distinguished paper written by a senior during the academic year.
Most recent recipient: Katharina Geppert '19
The Arthur Shattuck Parsons Memorial Prize
The sociology department awards the Arthur Shattuck Parsons Memorial Prize each year to student(s) with outstanding paper(s) in sociological theory or its application.
Most recent recipients: Emme Bokhour '19, Sam Krauss '21, Shailee Shah '20
The American Sociological Association reports that “B.A.s in sociology apply the sociological perspective to a wide variety of jobs in such sectors as business, the health professions, the criminal justice system, social services and government ... Employers look for people with the skills that an undergraduate education in sociology provides ... Sociology offers valuable preparation for careers in journalism, politics, public relations, business or public administration—fields that involve investigative skills and working with diverse groups.”
Smith sociology majors have pursued careers and graduate study in a wide variety of fields. Recent graduates have attended graduate programs in the following:
- social work
- hospital administration
- city planning
- public health
- public policy
- special education
- criminal justice
A number of our recent graduates are working in nonprofit organizations and pursuing careers in social and political activism. Majors who went directly to work after undergraduate school have found a range of jobs, including:
- union organizer
- research assistant
- bank management
- brokerage staff assistant
- school admissions
- social services
- course assistant
- Peace Corps
- public relations
The department maintains a bulletin board and a collection of relevant materials for the use of students interested in graduate study in sociology. These are located on the first floor at Pierce Hall (near Room 104). A current copy of "A Guide to Graduate Departments," published annually by the American Sociological Association, may be found in Wright Hall 224.
The Lazarus Center for Career Development also has extensive resources for internships, post-graduate jobs and graduate school options.
Smith College Resources
Smith Programs in France, Geneva, Florence and Germany
Sociology majors have studied in all four areas. Since these programs are not designed for sociology majors, students must consult with an adviser for study abroad to best understand the options.
Programs Affiliated with Smith
Students must go through the Smith approval process and pay the associated fees for study abroad.
Programs Without Smith Affiliation
Students must consult both the Office of International Study and their adviser to ensure that proposed credits will transfer and meet all college and departmental requirements. Over the past several years some majors have applied directly to institutions abroad, particularly in England.
Wright Hall 224
Northampton, MA 01063