Academics Blog

Archive for the Category Sociology



Name: Molly Dillon

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Highland Park, IL

Major: Sociology

Minor: Environmental Studies


“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” -C. Wright Mills

When I first got to Hopkins, there was no doubt in my mind that I going to be a Political Science major. I’m very much into politics did congressional debate in high school (and loved it) and I  very closely follow local and national elections. However, during my freshman orientation week, I decided to tag along with my roommate to the Sociology department’s open house because she was considering taking some sociology classes. I hadn’t really heard of sociology before, but I decided to go anyways. As it turns out, I am so glad I decided to go to this open house because this is the first time I discovered my major. It turns out it was exactly what I wanted to study and I didn’t even know it. While I was very into politics, I was more interested in the topics that affect people more than the institutions themselves. I did take some great political science classes during my freshman year and they only helped strengthen the foundation for my sociology degree (political science and sociology, as it turns out, are incredibly intertwined.) Many people as me “what is sociology exactly?” The dictionary defines it as “the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, etc.” Our trusty friend Wikipedia adds that in sociology, “focuses have included social relations, social stratification, social interaction, culture and deviance.” In that fateful open house, I would more or less stumble upon my future. And on top of all that, the department itself is so great. The professors are knowledgeable and approachable… a great combo.


This is the official description of sociology and the department from the department’s website (http://www.soc.jhu.edu/undergrad-prog.html):
The Department of Sociology focuses its research and teaching in several areas encompassing the major divisions of the discipline. These areas include social stratification, economic sociology, political sociology, international development, world-systems studies, cross-national research, race and ethnic relations, medical sociology, sociology of immigration, sociology of education, human development over the life cycle, the family, the sociology of intelligence, and social structure and personality. As a small department, Sociology at The Johns Hopkins University does not strive towards full coverage of the discipline, but toward excellence in those areas it emphasizes.

A major in Sociology is a good choice for students interested in a variety of post-graduation routes. For those planning to go to medical school, the major can be combined with the required pre-medical course sequence. Recent graduates from the department have found positions in financial institutions, teaching, non-governmental organizations focusing on international development, research departments of major corporations, local government social service agencies, and to graduate school in sociology, public health, medicine, law, urban planning, and education.

Founded by James Coleman, the Department has had a distinguished and productive record Historyofdept during its more than four decades of existence. Despite its small size, it ranks as one of the major Sociology departments in the nation according to the latest surveys. The department is strong in the sociology of education, social structure and personality, family, social policy, cross-national research, sociology of development, race and gender, sociology of immigration, and world-systems studies. Its graduates teach and conduct research in many of the major universities in the nation and abroad.

The Sociology Department at Hopkins is among the smallest of the major graduate training centers in the United States. We presently have twelve full-time faculty members and about thirty-six predoctoral students. The intimacy afforded by such numbers has allowed us to design a unique environment for graduate study. The term “research apprenticeship” probably best characterizes our structure and philosophy. Graduate training at Hopkins rests upon a careful blend of formal instruction, faculty-directed individual study, and supervised as well as self-initiated research experience. This balance has been a strength of the department since its inception in 1959. The social climate is informal, and the mix of students and faculty, both drawn from a wide variety of geographic and social backgrounds, constitutes a rewarding intellectual community.

We believe that a small department need not be narrow. The interests of the faculty are diverse and the requirements of the department flexible. The department is particularly strong in three broad substantive areas, these being Comparative and International Development, the Sociology of Human Development, and Sociology of Education. The department’s Program in Cross-National Sociology and International Development and its Program on Social Inequality, with which students can affiliate at their discretion, coordinate activities in the first two areas, and several faculty share an interest in the third. We also retain our long-standing commitment to rigorous preparation in quantitative research methods. Other interests represented in our core faculty include the family, demography, urban sociology, race and ethnic relations, economic sociology, political sociology, the sociology of intelligence, and world systems analysis. A listing of the full-time faculty and their areas of research interest is included in both the catalog and in one or both of the special program brochures.

The research and training opportunities available in the department are further enriched by the active participation of a distinguished part-time faculty. These faculty have their primary appointments in social science research institutes located on the Homewood Campus or in the School of Hygiene and Public Health, which offers first-rate programs in population and demography, mental health and mental hygiene, and health care organization, to name but a few.

The requirements for Sociology are great because they make sure that you take the necessary classes but also give you a lot of leeway in choosing what you want to learn.

Here’s the requirements straight from the department:

Sociology Major Requirements
Office of Academic Advising-Sociology Checklist

* 230.101 Introductory Sociology
* 230.205 Introduction to Social Statistics (formerly 301)
* 230.202 Research Methods for the Social Sciences (formerly 302)
* 230.213 Introduction to Social Theory (formerly 303)
* Either 230.322 Quantitative Research Practicum, or 230.323 Qualitative Research Practicum.
* Six elective courses in the department, at least four of which must be at the 300-level or above.  Credits from one or two credit courses may be combined to satisfy this requirement, but in no instance may more than one of the six electives be completed this way.
* Three elective non-sociology courses carrying an “S” designation in at least two other departments or programs.  Credits from one or two credit courses also may be combined to satisfy this requirement, but in no instance may more than one of the six electives be completed this way.

Core curriculum courses may not be taken pass/fail, and four of the five must be passed with a grade of “C” or better (a grade of C- is permissible for one, but only one, core curriculum course).  A grade of “C” or better is required of all elective courses.

Foreign language study is strongly encouraged for majors, especially those considering graduate or professional study.

Certificate Programs
Sociology majors may concentrate in one of the department’s two main areas of expertise.

The certificate Program in Cross-National Sociology and International Development (PCSID) is intended to serve undergraduate students with a special interest in the development of Third World regions and the social issues and problems arising out of growing global integration. The program focuses on issues of social inequality, stratification and social change from a global, comparative and historical perspective.

The certificate Program in Social Inequality (PSI) is intended to serve undergraduates with an interest in the role of social institutions such as the family, schools and work in generating and mitigating inequality. The focus is on race, class and gender in the U.S. context.

Additional Requirements for students pursuing a Certificate
* Three of the six Sociology elective courses and two of the major’s required three elective courses outside Sociology must have a focus relevant to the certification program theme.
* Foreign language through the intermediate level (equivalent of two years).
* One semester of research experience in the form of Independent Research (230.506) or an equivalent research assistantship in the Department of Sociology, sponsored by sociology faculty.

Senior Honors Program
The entrance requirements for the Honors Program are (1) a 3.5 GPA in all sociology core curriculum courses and at least two 300-level courses in sociology by the end of the junior year. Additionally, by the end of the senior year, foreign language study through the intermediate level (equivalent to two years) is required.

The Honors program requires completion of an Honors Thesis under the supervision of a department faculty member and enrollment in the year-long Senior Honors Program (230.502). These requirements are in addition to the requirements for the major.

Students interested in pursuing one of the Certificate Programs or the Senior Honors Program must declare their intention to do so to their faculty advisor by the end of the junior year. Additionally, all prerequisites for these programs must be fulfilled by the end of the junior year.

So far in the department I’ve taken Intro Sociology, Social Statistics, Latin American Societies, and Hot Topics in Education. They all have great aspects to them. For example, Intro Sociology Sofarivetaken is a great class where you learn a pretty broad range of interesting topics. This year it was taught by two professors; Bennett and Cherlin. Professor Cherlin is somewhat of a celebrity in the sociology world and one of the nation’s leading experts on sociology of the family. (He’s even quoted in our textbook!) He’s a great lecturer who keeps class interesting each day. I also liked Social Statistics because while it was a math class (which was actually a nice change of pace after two semesters of strictly humanities-based classes) it used real-world data to examine different statistics that affect our everyday lives. However, my favorite class so far would most definitely be Hot Topics in Education. We studied all aspects of education and focused heavily No-child-left-behind on inner-city education, specifically in Baltimore, and the No Child Left Behind Act. It was a particularly unique experience for me because while taking this class I was also working at an after school program with Baltimore City Public School kindergarten and first graders. It was interesting making connects with what I was learning in the classroom to what I was seeing for myself at work.

There are plenty of things to do outside the classroom as a sociology major. If you’re interested in politics there are the College Democrats and College Republicans. If you’re interested in community service there is the Center for Social Concern that has lots of groups dedicated to volunteering and making their community a better place. The department itself is constantly looking for students to help with research (often times as a paid position.) There is a sociology Outsideclassrm undergraduate committee and earlier this year they put together an event entitled “JHU Socio-Talk Forum: Bi-partisan priorities for the Obama Administration.” As I mentioned earlier, I work at an after school program at the Village Learning Place down St. Paul Street. I love working with kids so it’s been a really great experience.

Many sociology students will also study abroad for a semester (or sometimes two.) I’m planning on studying in London for the fall semester of my junior year. Sociology is a relatively easy major to go abroad with. It doesn’t always exactly exist in the way that you might study it at Hopkins on account of many times we’re studying American issues, but it’s definitely possible, and recommended, to study abroad. I can’t wait to study abroad. I know it will be great.

Once I graduate, I plan on going to law school. I don’t know if I’ll practice law, but I do know that I definitely want to get my law degree. I hope to work for a non-profit organization or maybe become a policy analyst for lawmakers. Who knows what the future has in store! Many sociology students go on to graduate school for Sociology, some become lawyers like I plan on doing, and some even become doctors. You can really do a lot of things with a Sociology degree. Studying sociology has been a great experience so far. I feel like not only am I learning in the classroom, I feel like I’m becoming a better, more aware citizen. Pretty much… I love sociology.


Click here to access more information about the Sociology Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Sociology question thread.