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.
As a 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. 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 department is dedicated to providing quality instruction in several specialized areas of study in Sociology. Some areas of study within the Sociology Department include, but are not limited to, Family and the Life Course, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Population Studies, and Social Organization/Social Inequality.
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.
Beyond the Classroom
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 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 internships placements for credit towards 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 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.”
-Jasmine Strode-Elfant, Student
“I am interested in public policy and making things better at a zoomed out broader level. Sociologists just like to do that!”
-Batu Dashnyam, Student
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.
Careers and Graduate Studies
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
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)
Awarded the 2015 Paul J. Olscamp award for Outstanding Scholarship.
Jay Teachman has been a professor in the Department of Sociology since 1998. He graduated from Western in 1974 and received his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1978. Teachman has a longstanding interest in families and how families change over time. He has published a number of articles concerning topics such as military service, divorce, remarriage, child support and cohabitation. Teachman is co-principal investigator on several grants: “Determinants and Consequences of Military Service: 1940-1988;” “Military Service and Patterns of Marriage, Cohabitation and Union Dissolution;” “Impact of Military Service on Health,” all funded by the National Science Foundation; and “Stimulating Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Research in Population and Health,” funded by the National Institute on Aging.
- Law Enforcement
- Corrections Officer
- Social Worker
- Business Manager
- Consumer Researcher
- Human Resources Manager
- Probation Officer
- Aging Specialist
- Advertising Manager
- Alcohol and Drug Case Worker
- Demographic Analyst