It is the mission of the sociology program to cultivate the sociological imagination, which involves the ability to understand how individual and group behavior is shaped by society's historical development, how personal problems are connected to public issues of social structure, and how to work with others to improve social conditions. This imagination promotes critical thinking skills, which are essential for effective participation in professional, personal and public affairs.
There are two dimensions to the sociology program goals. The first dimension involves teaching the skills of the sociology profession. The second dimension involves the application of those skills to public affairs through public sociology.
The first goal of the sociology program is to develop the professional skills that support the sociological imagination. These include:
- Knowledge of how to use theory to conceptualize a problem and to select and organize relevant social facts.
- The ability to use social scientific research methods to address sociological questions.
- Recognition of the practical and ethical issues involved with the study of human behavior and how values shape the research process.
- The ability to express and communicate sociological knowledge to others.
The second goal of the sociology program is to practice public sociology, which applies the sociological imagination to public affairs in the form of community engagement that develops citizenship skills. The sociology faculty is committed to community engagement through the following forms:
- Students can work with community agencies through service learning and/or internships.
- Students can study a particular community issue or problem as a class project or practicum.
- Faculty can collaborate with community members and agencies and apply sociological expertise to specific problems and tasks.
- Community members can come to the University and speak to specific classes and/or participate in University sponsored panels.
The third goal of the sociology program is to develop cultural competency through examining how social categories and social systems—such as race, gender, sexuality, class, age, and citizenship status—interact to structure social action and create human diversity. The Sociology faculty demonstrates a commitment to enhancing cultural competency in the following ways:
- Introducing students to a diverse range of local community leaders will expose them to differing perspectives and familiarize them with cultural variations in defining and addressing local social problems.
- Students’ cultural competence is enhanced as they interact with agency officials and clients across social class, ethnic group and gender lines. They thus learn to appreciate cultural differences and varying perspectives on community issues.
- Directly experiencing cross-cultural or sub-cultural differences through service-learning and study away will lead students to respect multiple perspectives and life styles and thereby heighten their cultural competence.
The fourth goal of the sociology program is to promote ethical leadership by demonstrating how responsible citizenship is informed by issues of social justice. The sociology faculty is committed to ethical leadership through the following forms:
- Requiring students to reflect upon the assumptions that they make about "problem" people and to examine and articulate their value system.
- By working responsibly with service-learning partners and through exposure to civic leaders and positive role models, students develop principles and skills for ethical leadership.
- While volunteering, students are expected to act ethically and make significant contributions to the community partner's programs.
- Studying away opportunities lead students to show personal accountability and to develop ethics of responsibility that, in turn, build ethical leadership.