The various substantive areas of sociology addressed within the Department’s curriculum represent the teaching and research specialties of its faculty. A brief overview of these broad areas follows. Many majors and minors in sociology select courses that cut across these areas, but some students prefer to focus primarily on one area. If you would like to focus your coursework within one of the areas below, you can speak with the Department Chair of the faculty members(s) listed at the end of the area description about your interest.
Childhood and Families
Sociologists study childhood and the family as social institutions, exploring how social forces, social inequalities, and public policy shape the experiences of children and the structure of families. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area is Emily Kane.
Some sociologists focus on social issues within a single society, whether the United States or another society. Comparative sociologists focus on social issues in two or more societies. Their approach is therefore international. The specific structures/processes they study in comparative perspective include legal systems, political systems, health care or family policy, social inequality, economic systems, etc. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area of sociology is Francesco Duina, but you are welcome to talk to other members of the department about comparative research related to their areas of expertise.
The department provides opportunities for students to explore sociological questions in the context of community-based research and community action, as well as to study the history of the discipline’s engagement with communities. The faculty member with interests most closely related to this aspect of sociology is Emily Kane, but you are welcome to talk with any member of the department about community-engaged work related to their areas of expertise.
Criminology and Law
Criminology and the sociology of law are concerned with understanding criminal behavior and the institutions established to prosecute and treat criminal offenders, together with an analysis of legal systems and their connections to social science. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area of sociology is Sawyer Sylvester.
The focus of economic sociology is on how economic activity and economic institutions are embedded in, and affected by, social relations and institutions, political processes and structures, and history. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area of sociology is Francesco Duina.
Health and Illness
Sociologists interested in health and illness, commonly referred to as medical sociologists, focus on how social and structural forces shape health, illness, and the health care system. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area of sociology is Heidi Taylor.
Political sociologists examine the nature and activities of states, state-economy relationships, local and international political organizations, civic and political associations, trade unions and management, social change, power, revolutions and many other political phenomena. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area of sociology is Francesco Duina.
Sociologists interested in social inequality address the social construction of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class, we well as the role of these social structures in shaping a variety of social outcomes. The faculty members whose interests are most closely related to this area are Emily Kane and Heidi Taylor.
A sociological approach to social psychology explores the intersection between social structures and individual experiences, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the social construction of meaning through everyday interaction. The faculty member whose interests are most closely related to this area of sociology is Emily Kane.