The American Sociological Association has recently labeled sociology “a 21st century major” based on the relationship between the dictates of the 21st century labor market (fast-paced, ever-changing, increasingly global and technologically driven) and the tools and skills taught in our courses. Furthermore, these tools and skills which form the distinctive niche of the Department of Sociology also are linked to several strategic guiding principles of the University of West Georgia and the College of Social Sciences. Specifically, our niche is made up of the following four outcomes (though this is not an exhaustive list):
Opportunities to conduct research and analyze data – Sociology students not only learn the basics of research methodology and data analysis at UWG, but they also have opportunities to engage in experiential learning. This is accomplished by providing students the opportunity to engage in research activities, both independently and in collaboration with faculty. These students then often present their work in university, regional and nationwide academic settings, and when possible, submit this work for possible publication to university and external outlets. These skills and experiences are invaluable for our students as they seek employment opportunities or further education after their time at UWG. This corresponds with the institutional guiding principle #1 of balancing the liberal arts with professional preparation and often also these research endeavors also correspond with institutional guiding principle #4 of engaging in community service to match the needs of all of our stakeholders.
Ability to communicate skillfully – Sociology students learn how to convey their ideas and observations effectively in a variety of oral and written formats. This is accomplished through course discussion and presentations, course assignments/papers, and a variety of other pedagogical approaches, as well as the dissemination of research they conduct (noted in #1 above). The ability to communicate skillfully is an indispensable component for success in today’s economy and in broader social life. This corresponds with SACS accreditation requirements, the institutional guiding principle #1 of balancing the liberal arts with professional preparation and the university Quality Enhancement Plan, which is focused on applied discipline specific writing and communication.
Opportunities to practice critical thinking – The sociological perspective is one that fundamentally leads practitioners and students alike to critically assess many underlying assumptions and arrangements they observe in society and social life through careful analysis. Asking the “why” questions and finding logical and/or empirically defensible answers is what we train students to do. This corresponds with the institutional guiding principle #1 of balancing the liberal arts with professional preparation.
Gaining a perspective and appreciation of diversity and difference, both local and global – Sociology students are exposed to a diversity of perspectives, social arrangements and peoples, including those around them (i.e. local) and those far away (i.e. global). Students engage in thoughtful analysis of diversity and diverse realities across space and time. This is accomplished through work in the classroom and also through external engagements with the local community and the broader world, such as through internships or interaction with outside speakers, community leaders, or groups. This corresponds with institutional guiding principle #1 of balancing the liberal arts with professional preparation and also institutional guiding principle #4 of engaging in community service to match the needs of all of our stakeholders.