First Year Seminars

We currently offer four first-year seminars in sociology: 20th Century Revolutions, Emotion and Culture, U.S. Social Stratification, and Race and Ethnicity. Each first-year seminar is intended to help students see similarities between reading academic scholarship and producing it. Through class discussion and small group work, students will develop their capacity to think critically, conduct research, and write within the field of sociology.

Sociological writing requires students to critically survey the existing literature, develop research questions, discuss methodology and produce results. By the end of the first-year seminar in sociology, students will be able to: 

effectively analyze the social factors shaping individual experiences; perform critical readings of assigned works; offer compelling oral arguments in class discussion; write in a style consistent with expectations of the discipline of sociology; and, evaluate and revise their own and others’ writing.

FS: 20th Century Revolutions

(course syllabus)

18S: 2

The twentieth century has witnessed tumultuous social and political upheavals, ranging from the rise and demise of the Bolshevik communists to the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism. The examination of these upheavals will form the core of this course. Using a comparative framework, we will analyze critical political developments in Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. Before their political breakdown, authoritarian states in these countries generated impressive economic growth and development. We will examine the factors that led to the rise of social conflicts and the eventual collapse of these states. We will also analyze the causes of the different outcomes that emerged: Bolsheviks in Russia, Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, revolutionary socialism and its subsequent collapse in Nicaragua, and the restoration of liberal democracy in the Philippines. Finally, we will investigate the position taken by the United States in these revolutionary upheavals. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW. Parsa.

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FS: Emotion and Culture

(course syllabus)

Not offered in 17F through 19S

In this seminar we will study emotion from a sociological perspective—meaning how the culture and structures within a society shape both our experience and expression of emotion. Substantive topics include emotion norms, emotion management, and emotional socialization. We will also examine how emotions operate at work, in the family, and in social movement organizations. You will be asked to produce three writing assignments (two of which require multiple drafts), participate in two peer review processes, and present your final paper—which may or may not involve original data collection—to the class. Dist: SOC. Lively. 

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FS: Race and Ethnicity: Social Constructions and Social Realities

(course syllabus)

18S: 10

In this course we start from the premise that racial and ethnic distinctions are a social construction. Students will explore how race matters by interpreting their own identity and experiences through the lens of a social scientist, examining interpersonal and institutional forms of racism and their consequences, and discover prospects for change in the future. Students are required to interpret class readings, perform short critical writing responses, evaluate others' work, facilitate and participate in class discussion, and write one 5-7 page essay, and one 8-10 page research paper. Dist: SOC; WCult: W. Walton.

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FS: Sociological Perspectives on Social Stratification and Inequality in the United States: A Century of Continuity and Change

(course syllabus)

18W: 2

When we think about social inequality, it’s tempting to view it as the inevitable byproduct of effort, where those at the top are rewarded for their perseverance, and those at the bottom should work harder to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” In this class, we will interrogate these naïve assumptions, and explore sociological understandings of social stratification and inequality in the context of 20th and 21st century United States. We will focus on a range of topics, including (but not limited to): social mobility, poverty and social welfare policies, stratification by race and gender, the causes and consequences of rising wealth and income inequality, and the changing face of inequality before and after the Great Recession. Dist: SOC. Houle.

FS: Healthcare in the US

Not currently offered

This course examines the health care system in the United States, focusing in particular on how health care institutions and providers are organized to practice medicine and deliver health care. We will begin the course by examining the historical development of medicine, and its relationship to both disease and broader social changes. We will examine the organizational structure of the current health care "system" in the U.S. We will also explore social differences in health and access to health care for various groups in society. Finally we will examine recent policy changes and debates about reforming health care in the U.S.  Anthony.

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