The study of sociology helps students understand and engage the complexities of social life. The program in sociology is designed as a central component of the curriculum in the college of arts and sciences and in the university.

Sociology is the study of human action from the point of view of social interactions - covering everything from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes. Students in our courses apply rigorous theories and methods of social inquiry to real world problems. Our department specializes in outstanding training in multiple methods of social inquiry, including ethnography, documentary film, qualitative interviewing, historic/archival research, and survey research. We also teach students to work with critical social theories which explore social inequality, the relationship between language and power, and the social construction of reality.

Students in our program enjoy frequent collaboration with the Des Moines community through research assignments, service learning, and internships.Courses in sociology examine topics such as family forms and processes, crime and deviance, grief and dying, food and society, global youth experiences, gender, women, popular culture, mental illness, multiculturalism, and cultural diversity. They aim to help students appreciate and articulate the connections between the personal, social, cultural, and historical context to better understand local, national, and global communities.

DEGREE OPTIONS Bachelor of Arts in sociology

PROGRAM SIZE Approximately 70 students currently major in sociology, including a number of double majors. The average class size is 35 students. Many upper division classes are smaller.

FACULTY Sociology faculty serve as academic advisers for majors, minors, and open-enrolled students. In addition to the 6 full-time faculty who teach in the program, a small number of part-time faculty contribute. All full-time and part-time faculty hold doctoral degrees. They are active professionally, publish regularly, and are involved in other national and local community organizations.

ACADEMIC PREPARATION There are no prerequisite high school courses or requirements needed for enrollment in the sociology program, but students should have a well-rounded academic high school curriculum.

REQUIREMENTS FOR MAJOR A minimum of 34 credit hours in sociology is required and must include the following: one entry-level sociology course (numbered 1-25); 2 theory intensive courses (no transfer hours permitted); 2 method intensive courses (no transfer hours permitted); and the Senior Capstone Experience (under revision for 2013; no transfer hours permitted). An additional 5 courses (15 credit hours) in sociology and anthropology are required. No more than 6 hours of anthropology courses may count toward the major (but anthropology courses taken to fulfill the methods- or theory-intensive requirement for the sociology major need not count as part of this limit). In order to graduate with a major in sociology, students must earn grades of C or better in the courses noted above. Students completing the sociology major may not earn a major in anthropology and sociology (ANSO).

REQUIREMENTS FOR MINOR A minimum of 18 credit hours is required. The hours must include one entry-level course and an additional 15 hours of sociology and anthropology courses selected in consultation with a sociology faculty adviser to fit the career or academic goals of the student. A maximum of 6 hours in anthropology courses may be part of the 18 required hours. No more than 9 hours of transfer credit are allowed for the minor.

DRAKE CURRICULUM The Drake Curriculum, required of all undergraduates, is designed to help students meet personal and professional goals as they acquire fundamental knowledge and abilities in ten Areas of Inquiry, including communication, critical thinking, artistic experience, historical consciousness, information and technology literacy, international and multicultural experiences, scientific and quantitative literacy, values and ethics and engaged citizenship. Students work closely with their academic advisers to craft a program of study in general education that prepares students for civic and professional leadership.

The Drake Curriculum also requires first-year seminars, which foster development of critical thinking and written and oral communication skills through a topical focus; and a Senior Capstone, in which students demonstrate the capacity to bring information, skills and ideas to bear on one project.

INTERNSHIPS & OPPORTUNITIES Sociology majors have internship experiences in private and public agencies related to career and academic goals. Each student works with a faculty member to insure the best possible learning. Such internships may take students into law offices, agencies such as the Department of Elder Affairs or Children and Family Services, probation offices, domestic violence centers, or personnel offices of private corporations. Through the internship, students have the opportunity to bring their academic understanding to focus in the world outside the University. Students can complete independent and faculty-collaborative research to present at regional and national conferences.

A digital film-editing lab is available in Howard Hall for student digital video projects. The lab makes digital video cameras available to students and includes several Macintosh editing stations.


The major is excellent training for careers in law and public administration, medicine and public health, activism, social work, advertising and marketing, politics and public policy, business, banking, and consulting, to name just a few. Sociology students have used their work in sociology to enter government positions, primarily in areas of social policy. Other students pursue careers in the criminal justice system, including the FBI. Students also enter private business and management careers. Recent graduates have gone to graduate school in social work, business, law, paralegal studies, sociology, criminology, and anthropology. Sociology also helps you to become a more informed citizen and community member. A major in sociology is particularly well-suited to the student interested in shaping a career plan that reflects the details of his or her own past experiences, work, volunteer and socially responsible activities, and future aspirations.

HONORS Qualified students are invited to receive departmental honors. The McNurlen Award is given annually to the most outstanding senior sociology major, and the McNurlen Scholarship is given each year to the most outstanding junior sociology major. Sociology majors are eligible for membership in state, regional and national academic associations.

STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVITIES Alpha Kappa Delta is a national honor society open to students who have completed 12 hours of sociology courses with an overall GPA of at least 3.0.


  • Eric Torgerson, AS'93, account executive, Discount Mortgage Inc., Savage, MN
  • Tammy Ko Robinson, AS'96, director of SFAI's City Studio program and faculty in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Anne Wallestad, AS'98, President & CEO of BoardSource, Washington, DC


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