Sociology is the scientific study of human society and social behavior. The sociological perspective invites students to look at their familiar surroundings as though for the first time. It allows students to get a fresh view of a world they have always taken for granted, to examine their world with the same curiosity and fascination that they might bring to an exotic, alien culture.
Sociology also gives students a window on the wider world that lies beyond their immediate experience, leading them into areas of society that they might otherwise have ignored or misunderstood, into the worlds of the rich and powerful, the poor and weak, the worlds of cult members, the elderly, and juvenile delinquents. Because these people have different social experiences, they have quite different definitions of social reality. Sociology enables students to appreciate viewpoints other than their own, to understand how these viewpoints came into being and, in the process, to better understand their own lives.
Understanding the structure and process of society is necessary before ineffective, unjust, or harmful social arrangements can be changed. Good social policy and the eradication of social problems are not possible without an understanding of what caused the problem, the barriers that stand in the way of a solution, and the problems a particular solution might in turn create.
The sociology department encourages its majors to both understand society and to act upon that knowledge to improve themselves and their society. Students are taught how to ask significant questions about the world around them, how to design and implement sociological research, and how to examine the ethical implications of their research.
Opportunities for Nonmajors
Most upper-level courses require completion of SOC 1110 - Introduction to Sociological Thinking. Many courses appeal to nonmajors either because of general interest or because of the way they intersect with other disciplines. For example, many students find our courses on gender, political sociology, medical sociology, race, and sexualities are a great fit for their majors in Political Science, Public Health, Social Justice, and Women’s Studies.
Hamline has a chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta, the international sociology honor society. The Betty Green Award is given annually to an outstanding sociology major, and sociology majors are eligible to apply for the Amy Russell Award and Carol Young Anderson Scholarship for deserving social science majors.
All students complete an internship in Senior Seminar choosing from a large variety of community organizations and social agencies operating in the Twin Cities. They work 10-12 hours per week at their internship site and study the latest issues in the field. This experience allows students to test their understanding of sociology by applying it to the world around them.
While the internship program is not designed to find employment for students after graduation, many do find job opportunities with their internship agency or similar agencies. For many students, the internship provides a testing ground to determine their suitability for a particular profession. Recent students have worked as juvenile probation officers, advocates for battered women, telephone crisis-line counselors, volunteer coordinators for in-home services for the elderly, and staff in an emergency food aid agency.
As with most undergraduate degrees, a major in sociology does not provide automatic access to any specific career. Most sociologists do some combination of three basic activities: teaching, research, and managing people or programs. What students can do with a BA in sociology depends upon a combination of factors including the ever-changing job market and the student’s specific qualifications–courses, skills, work experience, and professional contacts. A major in sociology provides good preparation for students going into many areas, including law, social work, and social policy planning.
Máel Embser-Herbert, professor. BA 1978, The George Washington University; MA 1990, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; PhD 1995, University of Arizona; JD 2004, Hamline University. Social inequalities, LGBTQ studies, justice, wrongful convictions. Author of Camouflage Isn’t Only for Combat: Gender, Sexuality, and Women in the Military, and The U.S. Military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy: A Reference Handbook.
Susi Keefe, associate professor. BA 1998, Mount Holyoke College; AM, 2001, PhD 2010, Brown University. Teaching areas: public health sciences.
Ryan LeCount, associate professor, chair. BA 2003, Indiana University; MS 2006, Purdue University; PhD 2014 Purdue University. Racial and ethnic relations, racial attitudes, whiteness studies, stratification, political sociology, social movements, sociology of religion.
Sharon E. Preves, professor. BA 1991, Hamline University; PhD 1999, University of Minnesota. Sociology of gender, the body, sexuality, medicine, social psychology. Author of Intersex and Identity: The Contested Self and Classic and Contemporary Perspectives in Social Psychology.