The discipline of sociology encompasses a broad terrain of sub-fields and specialties exploring various aspects of the social world. At the center is an interest in developing a systematic and theoretically informed understanding of the patterns, tendencies, and possibilities that characterize contemporary social life. Although we are often unaware of its influences on us, the social world structures our opportunities, shapes our aspirations, and provides the stage for our actions. As individuals, we are both sustained and constrained by the web of social relations in which our lives are embedded. Even our perceptions are affected by the way we are situated in the social world, and by our participation in the construction of social reality.
We don't live in "society" in the abstract, of course, but in a particular society with particular characteristics and a specific history. What kind of society do we live in? What are its distinctive characteristics and problems? Where is it headed? Sociological analyses illuminate the effects of social interactions, structures, institutions, and processes on the character and quality of our lives. As part of a liberal arts education, sociology offers theories and research relevant to our ability both to make sense of our circumstances as individuals in contemporary society, and to act efficaciously and constructively in shaping the modern world.
At New College, courses in sociology draw on a range of theoretical perspectives and research traditions. Key themes and topics include: the causes and consequences of particular distributions of power, wealth, and prestige; the significance of class, ethnic, and gender differences in modern societies; social organization at the level of small groups, complex organizations, and whole societies; the sociology of development; social movements and change; the organization of work; cultural production and consumption in both popular and elite arts; the processes of face-to-face social interaction; socialization and social construction; the social production of the urban environment.
A student majoring in sociology is required to acquire competence in content knowledge, written and oral communication skills and critical thinking skills. These are gained by mastering the fundamental tools of the discipline through five required courses, one empirical ISP, and five elective courses. The required courses include: Introduction to Sociology, Social Theory, Sociological Research Methods, Statistics, and the Senior Thesis Seminar. The five elective courses must include at least one course in each of the three broad subfields: Social Organization/ Institutions, Change, and Persons and Society. The empirical Independent Study Project should be done after completing the methods course. Students seeking a slash or double AOC have slightly different guidelines. For details consult the AOC Requirements webpage.
One might expect to find the following sociology courses on a regular basis: Introductory Sociology, Sociological Research Methods, Social Theory, Race and Ethnicity, Sociology of Culture, Urban Sociology, Social Movements, Sociology of Gender, Work Organization and Its Alternatives, Sociology of Development, Social Psychology, Sociology of Sustainable Communities, Advanced Qualitative Methods, and Queer Studies. To some extent, courses, tutorials, and independent projects will change in accordance with current student and faculty interests.
Independent study projects, group research projects, and off-campus contracts provide important opportunities to gain direct experience of social issues explored in courses and tutorials. Students are encouraged to do field research, particularly in the local community.
Representative senior theses in sociology:
• City, Sweet City: A Study of the Implementation of New Urbanism and the Public Process
Academic Learning Compacts