September 30, 2021: A memorial for the First Nations children who died at residential schools in Canada on the steps of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C. Photo by Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash.
What is Sociology?
Sociologists examine subjects encompassing a vast array of human behavior: crime and punishment, the formation and dissolution of families, bureaucracy in organizations, conflicts between classes, and global inequalities. Sociology focuses on the way individuals’ lives are embedded within multiple social contexts that facilitate and constrain the range of possible actions. These contexts include generation, occupation, gender, religion, sexual orientation, family, health, nation, race, and ethnicity among many others. Students study and examine these phenomena with a variety of scientific tools, including collecting and analyzing statistical data and conducting surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews.
Sociology at Western
Sociology majors at Western are introduced to the discipline of sociology, which analyzes how humans behave and interact in groups. Sociologists study how the cultures and the social contexts in which we live our lives shape human behavior. Sociologists contribute knowledge about how people’s positions in the larger societies in which they live shape their life chances and experiences. Faculty in the department study interracial dating, domestic violence, homeschooling, the experiences of first- generation students on college campuses, the relationships between humans and animals, gender and global health inequalities, policing, protest movements, and many other topics.
Sociology students develop an aptitude for critical thinking, learn quantitative and qualitative research skills, explore how to write for a social science audience, and gain competence with statistical computing that will enhance their future career options. Some areas of expertise among faculty in the Sociology Department include Family and the Life Course, Health, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Data Science and Population Studies, Education, and Social Inequalities, with a particular emphasis on inequalities of race, gender, health, social class, and sexualities.
Students pursuing the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Sociology are required to complete a math-intensive course of study. They develop an aptitude for critical thinking and improve their writing abilities. Students will obtain substantial experience with statistical computing, including programming and data analysis.
Completion of the BA Sociology/Social Studies major leads to an endorsement in social studies. To receive a recommendation for state of Washington certification for secondary education, students must complete the “teacher certification” program. See Secondary Education for program admission, completion, and teacher certification requirements.
As an Elementary Sociology major at Western, students learn how humans behave and interact in groups—whether small groups like families or large groups like religious organizations, and how one’s position in the larger society shapes life chances and experiences. Elementary Sociology students develop an aptitude for critical thinking, improve their writing ability, and gain competence with statistical computing that will enhance their future career options. The Sociology—Elementary Education major satisfies the academic major requirement for teacher certification with an endorsement in Elementary Education and must be accompanied by the professional preparation program in Elementary Education provided by Woodring College of Education.
“I love how much Sociology is in everyday life—every aspect of how society is constructed and how people interact is part of Sociology, and I love learning how and why people act the way they do.”
SOC 251 - Sociology of Deviant Behavior
SOC 430 - Field Research Methods
SOC 435 - Population Health Advocacy
SOC 460 - Advanced Topics in Family
SOC 469 - Advanced Topics in Race and Ethnicity
Hands-on-Experience and Internships
Sociology students have the opportunity to participate in faculty-led study abroad programs, gain applied skills through service learning internships, and coauthor research papers with our faculty.
The Sociology Department grants up to four scholarship awards each academic year. These scholarships — The Ingeborg Paulus Scholarship, The Demography Scholarship, The Blalock Scholarship for Outstanding Community Service and The Teresa LaFreniere Scholarship — are awarded in the spring each academic year. Sociology majors have won the Presidential Scholars Award five times in the last 11 years, more than any other department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
The sociology department actively encourages students to pursue learning opportunities abroad, particularly through faculty-led programs. The department believes a global perspective is critical to understanding core sociological concepts, but to also better understand their own culture. Faculty-led study abroad programming often counts for upper-level major requirements, and travel courses may serve as a student’s capstone project on programs led by Sociology faculty — to places like Kenya, China, and India.
Sociology students are also encouraged to pursue internship placements for credit toward the major. Data show that sociology students who take part in internships have enriched learning experiences and find it much easier to find employment later.
Sociology students have completed internships with:
- Allied Arts
- Bellingham Planning Commission
- Bellingham Police Department
- Bellingham School District
- Boys and Girls Club
- Brigid Collins
- Catholic Community Services
- Division of Children and Family Services
- Law Offices in Bellingham
- Northwest Youth Services
- Planned Parenthood
- Whatcom County Drug Court
- Whatcom County Juvenile Corrections
- Whatcom County Juvenile Court
- Whatcom County Juvenile Probation
- Whatcom County Public Defender's Office
- Whatcom County Sheriff
- Whatcom Crisis Services Sexual Assault Program
- Women Care Shelter
“I am interested in public policy and making things better at a zoomed out broader level. Sociologists just like to do that!”
What can you do with Sociology?
Many Sociology graduates enter professions such as law, education, social services and criminal justice work while others pursue graduate training in Sociology.
Employers of Recent Western Graduates:
- AmeriCorps VISTA
- Bellingham School District
- College Forward
- MSR Communications
- Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe
- SDL, Inc.
- SeaMar Visions Youth Treatment Center
- State of Washington Juvenile Rehabilitation Center
- Washington 2nd Congressional District
- Bellingham School District
- Five Acre School
Western graduates who pursue graduate studies are doing so at such schools as:
- Pennsylvania State University: Sociology (PhD)
- University of Hawaii: Education (MA)
- University of Nevada-Reno: Criminal Justice (MA)
- Western Washington University: Rehabilitation Counseling (MA)
- Elementary Teacher
- Teacher: Secondary Education
- Business Manager
- Consumer Researcher
- Human Resources Manager
- Advertising Manager
- Data Analyst
- Research Analyst
- Law Enforcement
- Corrections Officer
- Social Worker
- Probation Officer
- Aging Specialist
- Alcohol and Drug Case Worker
- Demographic Analyst