Sociology major, minor approved
For over 25 years, no Washington University student has had the choice to major or minor in sociology. Starting this year, that’s about to change.
The department, which returned to the Danforth Campus last year after being disbanded in 1991, has recently concluded the process of approving its major and minor and can begin enrolling students into the programs.
Director of Undergraduate Studies for the sociology department and professor David Cunningham announced the news in an email Friday to students who are currently enrolled in or have taken sociology courses in the past.
“It’s a rare opportunity to actually begin something new like this rather than work from requirements that may have been established 20, 30, 40 years ago and then try to change those kinds of things,” he said.
The major in sociology includes a six credit introductory requirement, a three credit theory requirement, a six credit methods requirement, 15 credits of upper-level electives and a three credit capstone.
The capstone is fulfilled in two parts—first, through an attendance of a minimum of five department-sponsored events. The second is a choice between an internship or practicum, a one-unit research paper tied to an upper-level seminar course or an honors thesis.
The minor includes a three credit introductory requirement, a three credit theory requirement, a three credit methods requirement and six credits of upper-level electives.
“One major thing we kind of came to through our deliberations about the major was to really be something that provided a broad lens on sociology but also a problem-centered lens where we’re interested in—rather than say have a standard ‘Sociology 101’ introductory course,” Cunningham said.
The department worked in consultation with the University’s curriculum committee, which ultimately formally approved the proposal at its first meeting of the year in early September before it moved on to the Arts & Sciences faculty meeting, where it was voted on as well.
Cunningham added that there was some talk about getting the major approved before the end of spring semester last year, but that there wouldn’t have been much of a difference in terms of students’ opportunities.
“Taking a year makes a lot of sense especially in the sense that things kind of renew on an annual basis on campuses anyway,” he said. “We got to meet and work with a lot of students last year—we got input from that—and they were aware that they’d be able to declare a major by now.”
The department hired three new professors this year and are looking to add two more to the mix as it continues to grow after returning to the University. In its first semester in fall 2015, the department offered three classes; it is looking to continue its momentum and offer more than 10 classes next semester.
The sociology professors’ close relationship with students who have taken their classes is a theme multiple students interested in majoring in sociology have pointed out.
“I think I’ve really gotten to know the professors and what their plans are for the sociology department, and it’s been nice being able to work so closely with some of them,” junior Luke Foreman, who will be pursuing a sociology major, said.
Last year, students were also invited to attend job talks for candidates that the department was interested in hiring.
Sophomore Jeanette Freiberg, who will also be pursuing a sociology major, said it was both scary and exciting to be among the first declaring a sociology major in so many years. She added that studying the discipline from St. Louis just added extra excitement.
“It’s sort of a way for me to break out of the Wash. U. bubble within class almost,” she said.