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Tina Wildhagen meeting with a student in her office


Sociologists at Smith study the dynamics of human interaction and the ways in which people are organized into groups of all sizes, characteristics and purposes. By examining such topics as community, social class, race and ethnicity, family, sex roles and popular culture, students come to understand more fully their own experiences and the society in which they live. Students also learn to conduct social research, first in methods courses that teach basic quantitative and qualitative research skills, and then by undertaking research with faculty assistance. Students are also encouraged to spend their junior year studying abroad.

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Sociology

As a department, the main learning goals that we have for students are that they develop both critical sociological analysis and research skills. By “critical thinking skills” we mean that: a) students should be introduced to the sociological perspective and develop what C. Wright Mills called the “sociological imagination,” a critical faculty permitting one to connect personal experience with larger social and historical forces, and by “making the familiar strange,” or rendering problematic those habits and social rituals that seem “natural”; b) we want students to read, understand and learn to employ sociological theories; and c) we expect students to develop in-depth understanding of specific social phenomena in course electives that cover specific areas of sociological thinking, practice and analysis.

The research skills we want students to learn include: a) introducing them to different sociological methods and their application to theoretical and empirical questions; b) understanding introductory statistics and use of statistical software; c) becoming proficient in both quantitative research methods (by designing and implementing a survey questionnaire, and by carrying out basic statistical analysis of survey data) and qualitative research methods (by learning to conduct participant observation, focus groups, in-depth interviewing, discourse analysis and visual analysis); and d) developing the skills to evaluate and critique social research.

Sociology Major


Eleven semester courses 

  1. Basis: SOC 101
  2. SOC 203, SOC 204 and SOC 250, normally taken in the sophomore or junior year
  3. Four courses at the 200 or 300 level
  4. Two electives in sociology or in related fields with approval of the major adviser
  5. One 300-level SOC seminar taken at Smith during the senior year
  • Normally, majors may not take SOC 203, SOC 204SOC 250 or their senior seminar S/U.
  • The department will permit SOC 101 and up to four upper-level transfer courses from outside the Five Colleges to be used toward major requirements.


Please consult the director of honors or the departmental website for specific requirements and application procedures.

  1. Eleven major requirements
  2. Thesis: SOC 430D written during two semesters
  3. Oral examination on the thesis

Sociology Minor


Six semester courses

  1. SOC 101 
  2. SOC 250
  3. SOC 203 or SOC 204
  4. Three additional courses at the 200 or 300 level

Two of the six courses required for the minor may be taken outside of Smith College.


SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology (4 Credits)

Perspectives on society, culture and social interaction. Topics may include the self, emotions, culture, community, class, race and ethnicity, family, gender and economy. Priority given to first years and sophomores. Open to juniors and seniors with permission of the course director. Enrollment limited to 30. {S}

Fall, Spring

SOC 203 Qualitative Methods (4 Credits)

Qualitative research methods offer a means of gaining insight and understanding into complex perspectives held by people about social practices and social phenomena. Whereas good quantitative research captures scale, good qualitative research reaches the depth of perceptions, views, experiences, behaviors and beliefs. Qualitative research deals with meanings; it seeks to understand not just what people do, but why they choose to do what they do. This course provides students with a theoretical as well as practical grounding in qualitative research including research ethics, research design, practicalities in research, research techniques, data analysis, and theorizing and dissemination of research findings. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}


SOC 204 Statistics and Quantitative Research Methods for Sociology (5 Credits)

This project-based course covers the study of statistics for the analysis of sociological data and the study of methods for quantitative sociological research more generally. Topics in statistics include descriptive statistics, probability theory, correlation, deduction and induction, error and bias, confidence intervals and simple linear regression. Topics in research methods will include positivism, research design, measurement, sampling methods and survey design. All students will participate in a lab which emphasizes the use of computer software to analyze real data. Students will design and complete a survey research project over the course of the semester. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 40. {M}{S}


SOC 212 Class and Society (4 Credits)

An introduction to classical and contemporary approaches to class relations, status and social inequality. Topics include contemporary Marxian and Weberian approaches to class; the practice of social mobility in ideology and in social reality, class-consciousness, the social reproduction of class structures and the ways that racial and gender divisions intersect with class relations. Particular attention to the class experience in cultural, social psychological and economic terms within contemporary U.S. society. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 213 Race and National Identity in the United States (4 Credits)

The sociology and history of a multiracial and ethnically stratified society. Comparative examinations of several U.S. racialized and ethnic groups. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 214 Sociology of Hispanic Caribbean Communities in the United States (5 Credits)

This community-based learning course surveys social science research, literary texts and film media on Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican communities in the United States. Historic and contemporary causes and contexts of (im)migration, settlement patterns, labor market experiences, demographic profiles, identity formations and cultural expressions are considered. Special attention is paid to both inter- and intra-group diversity, particularly along the lines of race, gender, sexuality and class. Students are required to dedicate four hours per week to a local community-based organization. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 20.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 216 Social Movements (4 Credits)

This course provides an in-depth examination of major sociological theories of collective action and social movements. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of social movement dynamics including recruitment and mobilization, strategies and tactic, and movement outcomes. The empirical emphasis is on modern American social movements including student protest, feminist, civil rights and sexual identity movements. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 218 Urban Sociology (4 Credits)

A study of the sociological dimensions of urban life. Main areas of inquiry: the processes of urban change; the city as a locus of various social relationships and cultural forms; urban poverty and social conflict; homelessness; and strategies for urban revitalization. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 220 The Sociology of Culture (4 Credits)

Drawing upon a variety of sociological perspectives and analytical methods, this course considers the place of culture in social life and examines its socially constituted character. Culture, will be viewed along three dimensions: 1) as the customary practices of particular social groups; 2) the expression of symbolic representation in society, and 3) through the practice of artistic and creative expression. Cultural practices will be considered in a range of social, historical and institutional settings and in several forms, including high and popular culture, mass culture, counter culture, and cultures of opposition. The course will consider such matters as the relationship between culture and social inequality, culture and social change, the commoditization of cultural goods, the workings of global cultural markets, and the complex processes by which cultural forms may be used, appropriated and transformed by social groups. Prerequisite: SOC 101.Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 224 Family and Society (4 Credits)

This course examines social structures and meanings that shape contemporary family life. Students look at the ways that race, class and gender shape the ways that family is organized and experienced. Topics include the social construction of family, family care networks, parenthood, family policy, globalization and work. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SOC 226 Sociological Perspectives on Power and Privilege in American Education (4 Credits)

This course examines the institution of education from a sociological perspective, exploring issues of power and privilege, relationships between education and other social institutions, and the varying purposes of education in society. A recurring theme throughout the course is meritocracy. We consider how merit is defined in education, factors that affect who succeeds in the educational system and whether meritocratic education is a viable goal. Course readings include current empirical research in the sociology of education and both classical and contemporary sociological theories of education. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 229 Sex and Gender in American Society (4 Credits)

An examination of the ways in which the social system creates, maintains and reproduces gender dichotomies with specific attention to the significance of gender in interaction, culture and a number of institutional contexts, including work, politics, families and sexuality. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 230 Sociology of Food (4 Credits)

Using theoretical frameworks from environmental sociology, political and economic sociology, and sociology of culture, this course examines how social structures shape the way food is produced, prepared and consumed. This course investigates political and environmental dynamics that structure food systems and practices and considers inequalities related to food at the local and global levels. Finally, students explore food movements and investigate ideas for creating more equitable and sustainable practices. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 232 World Population (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to environmental, economic, feminist and nationalist perspectives on population growth and decline. The course examines current population trends and processes (fertility, mortality and migration) and considers the social, political, economic and environmental implications of those trends. The course also provides an overview of various sources of demographic data as well as basic demographic methods. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 233 Sociology of Climate Change (4 Credits)

The effects of climate change put great strain on societies, testing the very structures that organize people’s lives and livelihoods. Using sociological frameworks and theories of globalization, inequality, intersectionality, science and technology, policy, migration, sustainability, environmental justice, social movements, and human rights, this course will examine the social, political, and economic impacts of climate change, as well as the ways that local and global groups prepare, mitigate, deny, adapt to, and organize in the face of climate change and its impacts. Prerequisite: SOC 101.Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 236 Beyond Borders: The New Global Political Economy (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and theories in global political economy. It covers the history of economic restructuring, global division of labor, development, North-South state relations, and modes of resistance from a transnational and feminist perspective. Issues central to migration, borders and security, health, and the environment are central to the course. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 237 Gender and Globalization (4 Credits)

This course engages with the various dimensions of globalization through the lens of gender, race and class relations. We study how gender and race intersect in global manufacturing and supply chains as well as in the transnational politics of representation and access in global media, culture, consumption, fashion, food, water, war and dissenting voices. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 25. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 241 Race, Empire and Discipline (4 Credits)

This course explores the role of the state in the creation of both race and discipline as it exists in the contemporary U.S. Students begin to understand how these apparatuses allow for the creation and expansion of the U.S. empire. In particular, the course looks at the racialization of Muslims to see how race, discipline and empire are all collective processes and have clear examples of how these processes play out. Students look at how discipline itself is racialized and creates the scaffolding for expanding U.S. empire and then they imagine an alternative world, one without racialized discipline and U.S. empire. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. (E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SOC 243 Race, Gender and Mass Incarceration (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to the historical roots of mass incarceration and how it shapes multiple aspects of life and society. Students focus on the particular experiences of currently and formerly incarcerated women, with an emphasis on the overrepresentation of Black women; the major social, political and economic factors that have contributed to the rise of mass incarceration in the United States; the primary ways mass incarceration alters the lives of people and communities; and why eliminating racial oppression cannot be disentangled from eliminating mass incarceration. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 246 Colloquium: The Sociological Imagination (4 Credits)

According to C.W. Mills, the "sociological imagination" allows us "to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society." This course helps students develop their sociological imaginations by reading memoirs written by both U.S. and international authors who’ve published in English, and asking sociological questions of the stories being told. The course moves beyond appreciation for the "troubles [that] occur within the character of the individual and within the range of [their] immediate relations with others" to a recognition and analysis of social facts, geo-political issues and social problems illuminated through these individual stories. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 20. WI {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 250 Theories of Society (4 Credits)

This course introduces majors to widely used theoretical perspectives that inform the sociological imagination. It focuses on how these perspectives analyze core facets of social life, such as structure and stratification, power and inequality, culture, agency, self and identity. Each topic is surveyed from several major perspectives, providing a comparative view so that students can make assessments of the insights each theory offers. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 40. Priority given to Sociology majors and minors. {S}


SOC 253 Sociology of Sexuality: Institutions, Identities and Cultures (4 Credits)

This course examines sexuality from a sociological perspective, focusing on how sexuality is constructed by and structures major social institutions. We examine the social construction of individual and collective identities, norms and behaviors, discourses, institutional regulation, and the place of sexuality in the state, education, science and other institutions, and social movements. Consideration of gender, race, class, time and place are integrated throughout. Topics include the social construction of sexual desire and practice, sexuality and labor, reproduction, science, technology, sexuality and the state, sexuality education, globalization, commodification, and social movements for sexual purity, sexual freedom and against sexual violence. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 255 Colloquium: The Bollywood Matinee (4 Credits)

This course engages the world of popular Indian cinema, Bollywood and beyond. We integrate scholarly articles on the subject, lectures, in-depth discussions, and of course, film screenings to explore the history and political economy of India and South Asia. Students analyze how this vital cultural form deals with the politics of gender, class, caste, religion and Indian nationalism. Our discussions simultaneously focus on the role of globalization, migration and the cultural significance of Indian characters on international media; for example, Raj in the popular American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Students are expected to engage with the readings, bring their reflections and actively participate in class discussions. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 20.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 270 Media, Technology and Sociology (4 Credits)

The mass media are an important social institution that reflects and shapes norms and values. But the processes governing media production and reception are often taken for granted, immersed as society is in a highly mediated social world where preconceived notions about "the media" and its effects hold sway. This class will challenge conventional wisdom about how media and communication technologies work by critically exploring the history of media institutions, assessing the media's powers of persuasion, focusing on media as an occupation and examining the struggles over media representation by marginalized groups across traditional media and new digital platform. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 307 Seminar: The Racialization of Muslims (4 Credits)

This course takes a deep dive into the process and consequences of the racialization of Muslims. Although the course primarily uses racial formation as a framework for understanding the racialized nature of the experiences of Muslims, particularly after 9/11, the course explores other theoretical frameworks for making sense of the category of racialized Muslims. Discussions include: what racialization entails; the relationship between race and religion; race and Islam; Orientalist framings of Islam and Arabs; the War on Terror; and empire, gendered racialization and the comparative racialized experiences of Black Muslims. This course uses Muslims as a case study to explore larger questions about race, racialization and racial projects. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required.(E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 312 Seminar: Women, Criminality and Punishment (4 Credits)

While research on what happens once formerly incarcerated women return to society has attracted more attention among scholars, activists and experts in corrections in recent years, women’s carceral experiences remain understudied. Therefore, this course centers the experiences of women and how gender shapes their experiences with crime and punishment. This course examines why women commit crimes, why feminist theoretical frameworks better inform our understanding of women’s experiences with crime, incarceration and reentry, the major challenges women face after incarceration and the lasting effects incarceration has on the lives of women. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required.

Fall, Spring, Variable

SOC 317 Seminar: Inequality in Higher Education (4 Credits)

This course applies a sociological lens to understanding inequality in American higher education. We examine how the conflicting purposes of higher education have led to a highly stratified system of colleges and universities. We also address the question of how students’ social class, race, ethnicity and gender affect their chances of successfully navigating this stratified system of higher education. Finally, we examine selected public policies aimed at minimizing inequality in students’ access to and success in college. Prerequisites: SOC 101 and permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 12. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 320 Seminar: Sociology of the Arts (4 Credits)

Sociological perspectives on the arts in society, with particular attention to the fine arts (primarily painting), to literature and to theatre, among other forms of cultural expression. Theories of the place of art in society, the social context of artistic production and the social production of the artist, as well as sociological perspectives on the changing nature of arts institutions and audiences, and the social position and aesthetic disposition of the artist. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {A}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 323ct Seminar: Topics in Gender and Social Change-Gender, Sexuality and Social Movements in Conservative Times (4 Credits)

This class focuses on challenges to and changes in gender and sexuality during conservative time periods. Focusing on the U.S., we will primarily examine the 1980's and the contemporary period as case studies. We will look how political and other institutions affect gender and sexuality and at social movements addressing gender and sexuality from both the right and the left. We will look at movements including queer, feminist, anti-racist, anti-interventionist movements on the left, and racial supremacist, pro-military intervention, anti-LGBT and conservative evangelical movements on the right.  Theoretical frameworks are drawn from social movements, intersectional feminist and queer theories. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Variable

SOC 325 Seminar: Sociology of Emotions (4 Credits)

Although emotions are often thought of as something universal, authentic and internal, careful study reveals that the conventions concerning emotional expression can change radically over time and vary tremendously from place to place. Emotions can thus be thought of as cultural constructs, determined as much by social norms as human nature. This course explores the roots of emotions like love, fear, anger, shame and empathy, and examines the social construction of mental health and illness. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 327 Seminar: Global Migration in the 21st Century (4 Credits)

This course provides an in-depth engagement with global migration. It covers such areas as theories of migration, the significance of global political economy and state policies across the world in shaping migration patterns and immigrant identities. Questions about imperialism, post-colonial conditions, nation-building/national borders, citizenship and the gendered racialization of immigration intersect as critical contexts for our discussions. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 333 Seminar: Social Justice, the Environment and the Corporation (4 Credits)

Over the last century, the reach of corporations has gradually extended into all facets of life, yet most people rarely stop to think about the corporation as a social entity. This course focuses on the social, economic and legal foundations that both shape its power and provide a dominant logic for its actions. We examine the implications of corporate power and processes for communities, workers and the environment. We also focus on the ways that governments and various social groups have sought to change corporate assumptions and behaviors concerning their social and environmental responsibilities. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 340 Seminar: Sociological Writing for the Public (4 Credits)

How can you explain social inequality to the general public? Sociology gives us a unique lens on race, class, gender, sexuality, and other forms of inequality. Pull together what you have learned in your sociology classes and learn to communicate it to the general public. Students in this Calderwood Seminar will write a variety of pieces that bring sociological expertise to the public, such as summaries of research and data, book reviews, opinion pieces, blog posts, and magazine articles. Students will also hone their skills by reading and editing each other’s writing. This course is designed as a capstone course for sociology majors; sociology minors, students in related majors (other social sciences, SWG, AFR, etc.), or students with substantial sociology coursework are also welcome. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. WI {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SOC 350 Seminar: Caribbean Feminisms (4 Credits)

This course will introduce students to the history and sociology of feminisms in the Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the broader Caribbean. Course materials will include primary documents, secondary sources and historical fiction in English. However, students who are able to read Spanish will have the option of engaging with texts in that language. Prerequisite: SOC 101, LAS 150 or SWG 150. Enrollment limited to 14. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. (E) {H}{S}


SOC 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

By permission of the department, for junior and senior majors.

Fall, Spring

SOC 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

This is a full year course.8 credits for the full-year course; 4 per semester.

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 431 Honors Project (8 Credits)

Fall, Spring, Annually

SOC 432D Honors Project (6-12 Credits)

Requirements: 10 semester courses beyond the introductory course (SOC 101); 1. 250, 201, either 202 or 203, four courses at the 200 or 300 level, and a senior seminar most appropriate to the thesis research; 2. A thesis (430, 432) written during two semesters; or a thesis (431) written during one semester; 3. An oral examination on the thesis.

Fall, Spring, Annually

Additional Programmatic Information

Director for 2020-21: Leslie King

The honors program allows students with a strong academic background to devote a substantial portion of their senior year's course work to an independent and original research project that will result in a thesis. Eligible students should apply in the spring of their junior year. (January graduates are on a different schedule.) Honors is a yearlong course (430D for 8 credits) taken over both semesters of the senior year.

Information and Honors Application

  • At least a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) through the junior year in all courses in the major
  • At least a 3.3 grade point average (GPA) through the junior year in all courses outside the major
  • At least one course related to the area of the thesis
  • Completion of 250 and either 204 or 203 by the end of the junior year
  • Completion of 6 SOC courses by the end of the junior year
  • Approval of the sociology department

A student applying to a departmental honors program must certify in a letter, as part of the honors application, that she has not been sanctioned by the Honor Board at a serious level (1/3 step grade reduction or more). As with Latin Honors, sanctions imposed in the first year are excluded; a student is only debarred from honors for serious violations in the sophomore, junior and senior year. Students already enrolled in an honors project who incur a sanction during the senior year must convert their honors project to a special studies. The certification letter should be submitted directly to the senior class dean, either in hard copy to College Hall 101 or by email to The template for the certification letter can be found on the Class Deans website.

Options and Credits for Honors Project Courses

Honors theses in sociology are yearlong, 8-credit courses (4 credits per semester). Students doing honors may not count courses from related fields toward the major; they must complete at least 9 SOC courses (including 101) in addition to the honors thesis. Occasionally, a student undertaking a yearlong special studies may, with her adviser's support, apply to retroactively convert the special studies to an honors thesis.

Course/Credit Load

Candidates for departmental honors must carry a minimum course load (12 credits) in each semester of the senior year (Ada Comstock Scholars should see the dean for Ada Comstock Scholars regarding credit load). Any variation in the credit distribution described above must be approved by the Subcommittee on Honors and Inependent Programs.

Application Procedure

A prospective applicant meeting the qualifications for the honors program should consult no later than the second semester of her junior year with a faculty member in the sociology department who is willing to serve as her thesis adviser. The job of the thesis adviser is to supervise the planning, research, writing, and evaluation of the thesis. The thesis adviser must be a member of the Smith faculty in sociology; faculty in other departments or at other Five College institutions may serve only as second readers. Because the adviser and candidate will work closely together throughout the duration of the program, a student must make sure that her adviser will not be on leave or on sabbatical during the relevant semesters. The thesis topic should be related to the area of expertise of the thesis adviser. Normally, any sociology faculty member may only direct one honors thesis per year. The student should also choose a second reader, who may be either a member of the sociology faculty, a faculty member at one of the other Five College institutions, or a faculty member in another department at Smith. The applicant must also meet with the director of honors for the sociology department, to review procedures for applying to the honors program.

The thesis proposal and IRB proposal, where relevant, should be submitted to the Department of Sociology by May 1 of the student's junior year. Most sociology honors theses require data collection, which in many cases must occur during the junior year or the summer before the senior year. Therefore, final approval of admission to the sociology honors program is contingent on successful achievement of any summer plans related to the thesis. Final college decisions about admission to the departmental honors program are made after grades from spring semester are recorded. The application process consists of several steps on the student's part:

  1. Request via email to a "Calculation of GPA Requirements Form." Please include your ID number with the request.
  2. Calculate, with the thesis adviser, the separate grade point averages (GPAs) inside and outside the major for all courses on the form. Instructions on how to calculate will be sent together with the calculation form.
  3. Submit to the director of honors in the sociology department (and subsequently to the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs) a thesis proposal consisting of approximately four to five pages containing:
    — A description of the scholarly issue to be investigated and a brief review of the relevant scholarly literature
    — The specific research questions
    — An explanation of the proposed theoretical framework and methodology and evidence of experience with this methodology
    — Documentation of relevant background, preparation, special facility or skills necessary to undertake the proposed thesis (e.g., previous course work related to the thesis topic, quantitative skills, foreign language ability, etc.)
    — A working bibliography of all significant sources
    — Application for approval from the Smith IRB, if applicable
  4. Obtain the signature of the thesis adviser on the application.
  5. Submit the completed application plus any request for funding from the Nancy Kershaw Tomlinson Memorial Fund to the director of honors in the major department or program prior to the last meeting of the department or program for the semester in which you are applying. Normally, the sociology deadline is May 1 of your senior year.
  6. Submit your certification letter directly to the senior class dean by mail to College Hall 101 or by email to Submit the completed application and Calculation of GPA Requirements Form, plus any request for funding from the Nancy Kershaw Tomlinson Fund.

Nancy Kershaw Tomlinson Memorial Fund

The Tomlinson Fund assists in providing essential expenses of students in carrying out their honors projects. Guidelines, Reimbursement form, Travel Budget form and Supplies & Equipment Budget forms are available on the Class Dean's website.

Required Project Research Appointment

Each student accepted into the departmental honors program must arrange for a research appointment with a reference librarian or archivist at one of the Smith libraries. The purpose of this session is to prepare the student for locating, obtaining, evaluating and correctly documenting all relevant sources needed for a successful project. These skills are necessary even if some research has already been conducted. The content of each meeting is tailored to the student’s topic and presents an opportunity for the student to ask specific questions about the proposed research process as well as a chance to develop expertise in using the most relevant databases, websites, or other vital research tools.

This hourlong meeting must be scheduled by mid-October at the latest, but it should be made as early as possible so that the student can take full advantage of the print and electronic resources to be demonstrated. Since the librarian or archivist will need some time to research each project topic, expect that the scheduling process will take a few days. To schedule a research appointment, make an online request

The final decision regarding admission to the departmental honors program rests with the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs.

Requirements of Students Admitted to the Honors Program

Students will work closely with their adviser in collecting data and writing the thesis. Normally, a draft of the full thesis should be submitted to the adviser and second reader no later than March 1.

Following submission of the final thesis, students will present their work in a public presentation attended by members of the sociology faculty and students. This presentation should cover the theoretical arguments and empirical findings of the thesis. Following the presentation, the student will address questions from the audience. Members of the sociology faculty may also ask questions of the student in an extended period after the presentation.

The following courses require either field work or field research:

  • SOC 203 Qualitative Methods
  • SOC 315 Practicum in Community-Based Research

SOC 214 and SOC 315 include community-based learning and research. Some sections of SOC 101 Introductory Sociology encourages field work or field research. There are also opportunities for group field work in SOC 216 Social Movements.

Students wishing to pursue individualized study in their junior or senior years on campus may enroll in a Special Studies tutorial (SOC 404 or 408). A student must secure the agreement of a faculty member to supervise a particular project prior to enrolling for a Special Studies. Normally, students should propose a special studies no later than the pre-registration period for the semester in which the special studies will occur. Examples of the kinds of work done in Special Studies tutorials include:

  • In-depth reading in an area not covered in another course
  • The execution of a research proposal developed in another course (either library research or empirical research)
  • Other options, to be negotiated between the student and a particular faculty member


Rick Fantasia


Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology

Rick Fantasia

Leslie King


Professor of Sociology; Director of Honors, Sociology

Leslie King

Tina Wildhagen


Associate Professor of Sociology & Department Chair of Sociology


Patricia Miller
Associate Professor Emerita of Sociology

Peter I. Rose
Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology

In Memoriam

Marc Steinberg
Sydenham C. Parsons Professor of Sociology

Myron Peretz Glazer
Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor Emeritus in the Social Sciences (Sociology)


Departmental Activities

The department sponsors several activities each year for faculty members and majors. These include talks by outside speakers, or presentations by students or faculty in the department. Majors are encouraged to participate in the planning of programs for these events.

Student Liaisons

All majors are invited to serve as student liaisons. The liaisons make suggestions to the department about the curriculum, student activities and needs, building community among majors, and improving intellectual life for majors.

All students are invited to discuss specific curricular, personnel or other academic matters with appropriate faculty members at any time. General concerns and policy suggestions are best raised through liaisons.

Conference Travel Awards

Sociology majors who are presenting work at professional conferences may apply for travel awards from the sociology department to help defray travel costs. The amount of the award depends on the availability of funds and the cost of travel, but awards do not normally exceed $200. Applicants must submit the application to the chair of the sociology department no later than eight weeks prior to the conference presentation. Priority will be given to students who have not previously received the award. Please note that financial support is contingent on the availability of department funds. If awarded funding, students will need to submit receipts to the department upon return. Please type into the application.

Award Recipients 2017–18


The sociology department awards the Wahrsager Scholarship every year to senior sociology majors who demonstrate high level of scholarship, intellectual promise, character and leadership. The scholarship fund makes a significant contribution toward the tuition fees of the recipients during their senior year at Smith. The recipients may also apply to the department for an additional year of support toward expenses for the first year of graduate work in sociology provided that the award recipient enrolls as a full-time student within two academic years following graduation from Smith. Interested students may obtain additional information from their major advisers.
Most recent recipients: Ryenne Carpenter '19, Katharina Geppert '19


Each spring, the sociology department awards the Bowles Prize to a major for the most distinguished paper written by a senior during the academic year.
Most recent recipient: Katharina Geppert '19


The sociology department awards the Arthur Shattuck Parsons Memorial Prize each year to student(s) with outstanding paper(s) in sociological theory or its application.
Most recent recipients: Emme Bokhour '19, Sam Krauss '21, Shailee Shah '20

The American Sociological Association reports that “B.A.s in sociology apply the sociological perspective to a wide variety of jobs in such sectors as business, the health professions, the criminal justice system, social services and government ... Employers look for people with the skills that an undergraduate education in sociology provides ... Sociology offers valuable preparation for careers in journalism, politics, public relations, business or public administration—fields that involve investigative skills and working with diverse groups.”

Smith sociology majors have pursued careers and graduate study in a wide variety of fields. Recent graduates have attended graduate programs in the following:

  • law
  • sociology
  • anthropology
  • medicine
  • social work
  • hospital administration
  • business
  • city planning
  • public health
  • public policy
  • special education
  • criminal justice

A number of our recent graduates are working in nonprofit organizations and pursuing careers in social and political activism. Majors who went directly to work after undergraduate school have found a range of jobs, including:

  • paralegal
  • union organizer
  • research assistant
  • bank management
  • brokerage staff assistant
  •  teaching
  • school admissions
  • social services
  • course assistant
  • Peace Corps
  • public relations

The department maintains a bulletin board and a collection of relevant materials for the use of students interested in graduate study in sociology. These are located on the first floor at Pierce Hall (near Room 104). A current copy of "A Guide to Graduate Departments," published annually by the American Sociological Association, may be found in Wright Hall 224.

The Lazarus Center for Career Development also has extensive resources for internships, post-graduate jobs and graduate school options.

Study Abroad

Smith Programs in France, Geneva, Florence and Germany

Sociology majors have studied in all four areas. Since these programs are not designed for sociology majors, students must consult with an adviser for study abroad to best understand the options.

Programs Affiliated with Smith

Students must go through the Smith approval process and pay the associated fees for study abroad. 

Programs Without Smith Affiliation

Students must consult both the Office of International Study and their adviser to ensure that proposed credits will transfer and meet all college and departmental requirements. Over the past several years some majors have applied directly to institutions abroad, particularly in England. 

Office for International Study

Contact Department of Sociology

Wright Hall 225
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3503 Email:

Administrative Assistant:
Karikari Ohene Acheampong

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.