The Department of Sociology is guided by a combination of student needs, the current state of the discipline itself, professional demands in terms both of teaching and research, and the department’s efforts to support the goals and ideals of Furman University as an excellent liberal arts institution.

The sociology department addresses the educational needs of students in three main categories: (1) sociology majors who intend to pursue graduate work in sociology or related social sciences, (2) sociology majors who have plans to pursue professional or vocational goals unrelated to the advanced study in the discipline, and (3) students who select courses in sociology either to meet education requirements or as electives.

The multiplicity of goals represented among the students is addressed by a careful balance of theoretical and research-oriented courses. These are enhanced by a menu of substantive courses taken both by majors and others as well. The integrated nature of the departmental course offerings is seen most clearly in the interrelationship found among the four core requirements beyond the introductory sociology level: Analysis of Social Data, Methods of Social Research, Sociological Theory, and the Sociology Seminar.

Classroom teaching is strengthened by active faculty research, and research projects involving both students and faculty are encouraged. Research is designed to yield student publications and participation at national and regional professional meetings, as well as participation in an annual multidisciplinary social science undergraduate symposium on the Furman campus. These activities give students opportunities to become acquainted with the professional community of sociologists while still undergraduates. The department also actively encourages experiential learning through field projects in many of its courses.

The sociology department places its greatest emphasis on high-quality teaching. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches to learning and support efforts to broaden the curriculum to reflect multicultural and cross-cultural concerns. We encourage team teaching of courses with members of other disciplines and offer courses that are part of multidisciplinary concentrations. Finally, we believe that active faculty research strengthens our teaching.

The department places a concern for social values at the heart of our curriculum. We want to inspire and prepare our students to go out and make the world a better place.

Learning Goals for the Sociology Major*

The sociology major should study, review, and demonstrate understanding of the following:

  1. The discipline of sociology and its role in contributing to our understanding of social reality, such that the student will be able to:
    • describe how sociology differs from and is similar to other social sciences and to give examples of these differences;
    • describe how sociology contributes to a liberal arts understanding of social reality;
    • apply the sociological imagination, principles, and concepts to her/his own life.
  2. The role of theory in sociology, such that the student will be able to:
    • define theory and describe its role in building sociological knowledge;
    • compare and contrast basic theoretical orientations, particularly the founders of the disciple (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, etc.);
    • show how theories reflect the historical context of the times and cultures in which they were developed;
    • use theory to think abstractly about empirical data and recognize patterns across and between social phenomena and situations.
  3. Qualitative and quantitative methods in sociology, such that the student will be able to:
    • identify basic methodological approaches and describe the general role of methods in building sociological knowledge;
    • compare and contrast the basic methodological approaches for gathering data;
    • design a research study in an area of choice and explain why various decisions were made;
    • critically assess published reports and identify strengths and weaknesses of the methodological approaches used and the interpretations of data presented;
    • do social scientific technical writing that accurately conveys data findings and to show an understanding and application of principles of ethical practice as a sociologist.
  4. Basic concepts in sociology and their fundamental theoretical interrelations, such that the student will be able to:
    • define, give examples of, and demonstrate the relevance of: the history of sociology as a social science, its classical theorists and dominant paradigms; basic steps in the research process; culture; socialization; social structure and groups; deviance; stratification; and differentiations by race/ethnicity, gender, and class.
    • demonstrate how culture and social structure vary across time and place and the effect of such variations;
    • understand the macro/micro distinction, such that the student will be able to compare and contrast theories at one level with those at another;
  5. Reciprocal relationships between individuals and society, such that the student will be able to:
    • explain how the self develops sociologically;
    • demonstrate how cultural and structural factors influence individual behavior and the self’s development;
    • demonstrate how social interaction and the self influence society and social structure;
    • distinguish sociological approaches to analyzing the self from psychological, economic, and other approaches.
  6. Knowledge of at least two content areas within sociology, such that the student will be able to:
    • summarize basic questions, issues, and current debate in the areas;
    • compare and contrast basic theoretical orientations and theories in the areas;
    • show how sociology helps understand the area;
    • understand specific policy implications of research and theories in the areas.
  7. The internal diversity of American society and its place in the international context, such that the student will be able to describe:
    • the significance of variations by race/ethnicity, class, gender, and age;
    • will know how to appropriately generalize or resist generalizations across groups.
  8. To think critically, such that the student will be able to:
    • move easily from recall analysis and application to synthesis and evaluation;
    • identify underlying assumptions in particular theoretical orientations or arguments;
    • show how patterns of thought and knowledge are directly influenced by social structures;
    • present opposing viewpoints and alternative hypotheses on various issues;
    • engage in teamwork where many or different viewpoints are presented.
  9. To develop values, such that the student will see:
    • the utility of the sociological perspective as one of several perspectives on social reality;
    • the importance of reducing the negative effects of social inequality.

*These goals are adapted from the ASA “Liberal Learning and the Sociology Major Update” p. 51-52.

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