About the Department
We believe that the goals of sociology, (originally known as the “science of society”), are strongly consistent with the objectives of the liberal-arts tradition. The sociological lens provides a powerful analytical tool for explaining, predicting, and understanding human behavior. Sociological insights can be applied to virtually every type of group setting, ranging from families, marriages, and small groups to institutions, organizations, and nations. Sociology is especially relevant for the analysis of the causes and consequences of social change in a global landscape.
We are therefore convinced that students of sociology are in a special position to shape public conversations, strengthen the educational experience here at VCU and enrich the quality of human life. To that end, we have defined a distinctive vision for our teaching, research and service as follows:
- Questioning the structures of power & inequalities
- Building awareness & understanding the questions of power, structure & inequality
- Engaging & pursuing those questions via research and application.
- Applying teaching, research, service and activism to make an impact
- Connecting students to each other, their community & the world through active learning, public engagement & critical scholarship.
- Promote a sense of responsibility and the humility, respect and courage to change the world.
Thus, the mission of the Sociology Program at the Virginia Commonwealth University is to provide our students with the skills necessary to become effective in this endeavor.
The mission of the sociology at VCU is to provide an engaged, learner-centered experience for our undergraduate and graduate students through active involvement in faculty research and community development. The substantive focus of both curricula is one of social justice related to social inequality and sustainability inside a global framework with specific attention paid to issues related to gender violence, reproduction, health disparities and a developing focus on environmental movements. Through cutting-edge research, excellent undergraduate and graduate teaching focused on critical thinking, exciting applied opportunities, vital service and community outreach both nationally and internationally, and preparation of students for a wide range of jobs, sociology plays a vital role in VCU’s Quest for Distinction.
Our overarching mission is to build a well-regarded sociology program offering a vibrant and engaging undergraduate and graduate experience unique to an urban environment. The students, at both levels, should leave with strong analytical and methodological skills in preparation for future academic and/or professional work. To that end, we have set the following goals:
- Research: To promote outstanding research in core areas most relevant to the unique VCU experience. Our research examines a variety of substantive topics (see above) and attempts to explain and interpret them within the context of sociological theories. We value and support collaborative efforts involving interdisciplinary faculty as well both graduate and undergraduate students (Theme 2).
- Teaching: To promote outstanding undergraduate and graduate education in a positive learning environment which prepares them for future academic and/or professional success. We are committed to offering students at all levels rigorous courses analyzing social problems & issues by:
- Understanding scientific principles of social life
- Gaining skills in critical thinking, research & data interpretation
- Gaining practical experience through internships
- Applying scientific principles to social problems
Using both theory and methods, we aspire for our students – both graduate and undergraduate – to develop a sociological imagination central to the critical analysis of modern social problems. (Theme 1)
- Practical Experience and Applied Opportunities: To provide both undergraduate and graduate students with unique learning opportunities in the “field”. Opportunities to participate in research projects, internships, and other training programs are important features of the department. Students learn to think about, refine, and apply what they learn in the classroom. (Theme 3)
- Technological Expertise: To promote the development of new resources and technologies for teaching and research, including on-line learning and interactive instruction.
- Globalization: To promote the development of research projects, teaching resources, learning experiences and outreach initiatives that lead to a deeper understanding of our interconnected world. (Theme 1,2 & 3)
- Service and Community Outreach: To promote service and outreach activities to the larger community through service learning, providing on-line resources, certificate programs, internships, and offering consulting expertise to a variety of organizations. (Theme 3)
- Understand sociological theory: Students will demonstrate an ability to apply different theoretical perspectives to social issues as well as compare and contrast basic theoretical orientations.
- Understand sociological concepts: Students will demonstrate knowledge of basic concepts in sociology, such that students will be able to define, give examples, and demonstrate the relevance of culture, social structure, institutions, socialization, stratification,social change, and differentiations by race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and class.
- Understand sociological research and analysis: Students will demonstrate knowledge of basic methodological approaches (both quantitative and qualitative) in sociology and the general role of methodology in building sociological knowledge. Students will know how to retrieve data sets from the internet, read and produce descriptive statistics, and work with data analysis software, such as SPSS.
Areas of Expertise
We are a comprehensive department with particular expertise in the following areas:
- Social Inequality – studies of gender, race, class, and sexuality
- Reproduction and Family – studies of family and reproductive issues related to sexuality, poverty and fertility.
- Health/Medical Sociology-studies of health disparities, sexual/reproductive health and global health concerns.
- Social Movements – studies of social and collective movements especially as related to environmental and social justice issues.
- Environmental & Labor –studies of environmental and labor policies especially as related to the (re)production of inequalities.
- Methodology – studies incorporating qualitative, quantitative and network methods, as well as the latest technology for teaching and research
All of our activities are conducted in accord with our values:
- Integrity – at all times
- Diversity – inclusion of everyone regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability
- Community – of scholars, teachers, and people
- Compassion – towards all people and the environment;
- Excellence – commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and service;
- Creativity – utilizing creative and innovative solutions to all challenges;
- Collaboration – with colleagues and students inside and outside the department and University.