Sociology is the scientific study of human societies and social behavior. Broad in scope, three key questions define sociological thinking and research. First, how are individual’s lives shaped by their social environment? Second, how and why do societies change? And third, why do some groups in society enjoy greater power, opportunity, and wealth than do others? To address these kinds of questions, sociologists, guided by a set of big ideas or theories, conduct research that involves observations collected from individuals and societies.
What factors explain intergenerational poverty? How does participation in a religious congregation impact mental and physical health? How do immigrants cooperate with one another to launch small businesses? These are the kinds of questions addressed by sociologists and the kinds of questions that students in the program explore.
Objectives & Goals
The department mission statement captures the faculty’s goals for our students. “The Department of Sociology at Samford University equips students with the skills and knowledge to explore the social world and inspires them to lives that build flourishing human communities.”
The training we offer is designed to equip students in two key ways. First, we train students to think like sociologists. Students develop the ability to see the link between individual behavior and the social relationships and structures in which individuals are embedded, a capacity often referred as the “sociological imagination.” Second, we equip students with the methodological skills to seek answers to questions about the social world using various kinds of data.
Inspiring students is also part of our mission in the Department of Sociology. Studying sociology often changes the way our students approach the world. Analyzing social structures that systematically penalize some groups and reward others helps to nurture in students a sense of responsibility. We hope to inspire graduates to work toward communities where every person has the chance to live a fulfilling life.
Is This Program for Me?
Sociology majors often are people with broad interests who are curious about people and societies.
What Makes Us Different?
The sociology major allows student to pursue their own interests to a degree that would not be possible in some other programs. In the theory and methods courses, students conceive and conduct a research project on a topic of special interest. The internship experience is also customizable, so that students are able to create a placement that best fits their goals.
The sociology program is designed to provide students with broad knowledge about the social world and the skills to interpret and carry out social research. These skills are applicable in a wide variety of settings. Using one of our own graduates as an example, Jessica Harden Fort (2012) is Urban Development Project Coordinator for the Chick-fil-A corporation in Atlanta Georgia. As part of her responsibilities, Jessica collects and analyzes data to shape strategies for reaching consumers and executing successful initiatives in urban markets.
Sociology like other liberal arts disciplines offers students the kinds of abilities needed for long-term success in the 21st Century labor market. A recent survey, conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), suggests that most employers value the kind of graduates that liberal education is designed to produce (see Hart Research Associates 2013 and Hart Research Associates 2015). About 93% of those employers surveyed indicated that the ability to, "think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidates's] undergraduate major."
Here are a few relevant quotes from employers (see “The Economic Value of Liberal Education” – AAC&U):
My company lives and dies on our ability to innovate and to create the new products and processes that give us an edge in this very competitive global economy. ESCO needs people who have both a command of certain specific skills and robust problem-solving and communication skills. Steven Pratt, CEO, ESCO Corp. and Chair of the Oregon Business Council
If the American economy is to recover from the Great Recession—and I believe that it can—it will be because of a ready supply of workers with the critical thinking, creative problem solving, technological, and communication skills needed to fuel productivity and growth. Norm Augustine, former Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin
“The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant and Secure Nation,” distributed by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences makes a case for the fundamental value and relevance of the humanities and social sciences. The Ferguson quote below comes from that report:
Business leaders today are looking for a diversity of skills, and not just technical knowledge. Pivotal right now in financial services—a relationship business—is trust built around empathy, understanding, listening skills, critical thinking. It's not enough in financial services to simply be able to work with a spreadsheet. You need to convince your individual or institutional clients to take the right set of actions. The skills that come out of the humanities, the softer relationship skills—listening, empathy, an appreciation for context—are incredibly important. Of the individuals in my organization who receive the most consistently positive feedback— who are most valued by our clients—only a sliver ever went to business school. Most of them learned their financial activities at our firm, but came into the firm with a much broader range of skills. Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, TIAA-CREF