Why take courses in this discipline?

The Department of Sociology at Grinnell College seeks to develop in students the sociological knowledge and skills that will enable them to think critically, empirically, and imaginatively about society and social issues. Courses are theoretically driven and develop methodological skills. The department encourages a commitment to social justice based on an appreciation of social and intellectual diversity and an examination of social inequality.

If you are interested in social justice, understanding how and why societies work the way they do, and willing and eager to challenge yourself and your existing conceptions of the world today, welcome home. The field of sociology offers you the flexibility to explore aspects of human behavior and society that intrigue you. Sociology is applicable to many career fields including, but not limited to, law, medicine, education, technology, data science, marketing, social work, nonprofit organizations, and global leadership.

How does this discipline contribute to the liberal arts?

Courses offered in sociology frequently involve communication/writing, quantitative reasoning, and human behavior and society. As a department, we emphasize intensive writing, oral presentation skills, methodological reasoning, and data analysis.

What kinds of questions are asked in this discipline?

Sociology, the scientific study of human behavior in social groups, seeks to understand how people interact, how they organize themselves in social groups, and how this organization changes. Courses in sociology focus on forms of social organization and social processes, in our own and other cultures, and on the theoretical and methodological approaches sociologists use to understand those forms. Courses contribute to a critical, intelligent understanding of how the social world operates, essential insight for any liberally educated person in a complex and rapidly changing world.

Some key questions sociology asks are:

  • How do social institutions influence individual choices and human behavior?
  • How is social inequality created and maintained over time and across cultures?
  • How are the self and society co-constructed?
  • What is the intersection of race, social class, gender, and sexuality in the study of society and social change?
  • How does sociological theory guide, examine, frame, and diagnose our social reality?
  • What are the right research methods and types of data for specific research questions?

How does a student get started?

Students interested in sociology should take SOC 111 (Introduction to Sociology), which introduces students to the concepts, theories, and methods of the discipline and is a prerequisite to all courses at the 200 level.

Students considering a major in sociology should take statistics preferably in the first three semesters, but no later than the fifth semester, by taking either MAT/SST 115, STA 209, or MAT 336. The required courses in sociological theory and research methodology (SOC 285 and 291) should be taken no later than the sixth semester, after at least one 200-level sociology course, in preparation for seminars at the 300 level in the junior and senior years.

Courses in Sociology

All courses in sociology

Regular 200-Level Courses

  • Social Movements
  • Deviance and Social Control
  • Human Sexuality in the United States
  • Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Race and Ethnicity in America
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Mass Media and Society
  • Sociology of Asian America
  • Animals and Society
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Immigration and Transnationalism
  • Sociology of Robots and Artificial Intelligence
  • Gender and Society

Recent Seminars

  • The Family
  • Work in the “New” Economy
  • Regimes and Resistance
  • Intersectionality and Identity: Race, Gender, and Social Class Revisited
  • Global Feminism
  • Men and Masculinities
  • Christian Nationalism

Recent Special Topics

  • Paganisms 
  • Global Ethnography
  • Global Health
  • Sociology of Emotions
  • Decolonizing Sociology: Indigenous and Anti-Colonial Approaches to Sociology
  • Beyond Hashtags: Social Movements
  • Sociology of Law
  • Sociology of Higher Education
  • Sex, Gender, Race and Environment
  • Environmental Health
  • Social Network Analysis 
  • Indigenous Environmental Movements
  • Armed Conflict and the Environment
Sample Four-Year Plan for a Sociology Major
Year Fall Spring

SOC 111 (either semester)
MAT 115 (either semester)

SOC 111 (either semester)
MAT 115 (either semester)

Second SOC 2XX
SOC 285 (Theory) or SOC 291 (Methods)
SOC 285 (Theory) or SOC 291 (Methods)
Third SOC 291 – Methods
Fourth SOC 3XX SOC 3XX

Off-Campus Study

Because students can study society and human behavior all across the globe, the Department of Sociology does not recommend specific OCS programs. We also do not pre-approve courses for sociology credit before the OCS semester. Courses taken abroad can count toward the major if the student petitions for cognate credit within the department after they return and submits a course syllabus, assignments, and a rationale for why a particular course should count as sociology. Cognate credit is only accepted as a 200-level elective and not at the 300-level. Sociology 285 (theory) and Sociology 291 (research methods) also have to be taken on campus.

Contributions to Other Majors/Concentrations

Courses in Sociology contribute to concentrations/majors in:

Department Events and Opportunities

Sociology Book Award
Judith McKim Scholarship in Sociology

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