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About the Department

We believe that the goals of sociology, (originally known as the “science of society”), are strongly consistent with the objectives of the liberal-arts tradition. The sociological lens provides a powerful analytical tool for explaining, predicting, and understanding human behavior. Sociological insights can be applied to virtually every type of group setting, ranging from families, marriages, and small groups to institutions, organizations, and nations. Sociology is especially relevant for the analysis of the causes and consequences of social change in a global landscape.


Vision

We believe that the goals of sociology—originally known as the "science of society”—are strongly consistent with the objectives of the liberal arts tradition. The sociological lens provides a powerful analytical tool for explaining, predicting, and understanding social relationships and collective behavior. Sociological insights can be applied to virtually every type of group setting, ranging from families, marriages, and small groups to institutions, organizations, and nations. Sociology is especially relevant for the analysis of the causes and consequences of social change and collective action in a global landscape.

We are therefore convinced that students of sociology are in a special position to shape public conversations, strengthen the educational experience here at VCU, and enrich the quality of human life. Thus, the intention of the Department of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University is to provide our students with the skills necessary to excel in these endeavors. To that end, we have defined a distinctive vision for our teaching, research, and service as follows:
Questioning the structures of power and inequalities.

  • Building awareness and understanding the questions of power, structure, and inequalities across intersecting forms of oppression.
  • Engaging and pursuing those questions via research and application.
  • Applying teaching, research, service, and activism to make an impact.
  • Connecting students to each other, their community, and the world through active learning, public engagement, and critical scholarship.
  • Promote a sense of responsibility and the humility, respect, and courage to change the world.

Mission

The mission of sociology at VCU is to provide an engaged, learner-centered experience for our undergraduate and graduate students through active involvement in research and community engagement. The substantive focus of both curricula is one of critical encounters with intersecting forms of social inequality with particular emphasis on challenging inequalities in health, labor, and digital media across the global landscape. Through cutting-edge research, excellent undergraduate and graduate teaching focused on critical thinking, applied opportunities, vital service and community outreach both nationally and internationally, and preparation of students for a wide range of jobs, sociology plays a vital role in the strategic plan of the College of Humanities and Sciences as well as the larger VCU mission.

Our overarching goal is to build a well-regarded sociology program offering a vibrant and engaging undergraduate and graduate experience unique to an urban environment. The students, at both levels, should leave with strong analytical and methodological skills in preparation for future academic and/or professional work. To that end, we have set the following goals:

Goals

  • Research: To promote outstanding research in core areas most relevant to the unique VCU experience. Our research examines a variety of substantive topics and attempts to explain and interpret them within the context of sociological theories. We value and support collaborative efforts involving interdisciplinary faculty as well as both graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Teaching: To promote outstanding undergraduate and graduate education in a positive learning environment that prepares them for future academic and/or professional success. We are committed to offering students at all levels of rigorous courses analyzing social problems and issues by:  
    • Understanding scientific principles of social life.
    • Gaining skills in critical thinking, research, and data interpretation.
    • Developing public-engagement practice through experiential learning.
    • Applying scientific principles to critically encounter and deconstruct modern social problems.
    Using both theory and methods, we aspire for our students—both graduate and undergraduate—to develop a sociological imagination central to the critical analysis of modern social problems.
  • Practical Experience and Applied Opportunities: To provide both undergraduate and graduate students with unique learning opportunities in the “field.” Opportunities to participate in research projects, internships, and other training programs are important features of the department. Students learn to think about, refine, and apply what they learn in the classroom.
  • Digital Innovation: To better understand the contemporary reproduction of social inequalities as a result of the proliferation of digital technologies and promote social change through research, teaching, and critical engagement with digital social problems.
  • Global Engagement and Transnational Coalition: To promote the development of research projects, teaching resources, learning experiences, outreach initiatives, and other forms of collaborative works that transcend the national and cultural borders, translate the tactic strategies for social justice, and transgress the current oppressive global structures.
  • Service and Community Outreach: To promote service and outreach activities to the larger community through service learning, providing digital resources, certificate programs, and internships and offering consulting expertise to a variety of organizations.

Areas of Expertise

We are a comprehensive department with particular expertise in the following areas:

  • Digital Sociology: studies of digital change in social relationships, social stratification, and the social self.
  • Environmental Sociology: studies of human-environment interactions, the environmental impacts of modern society and technology, and the social impacts of environmental change.
  • Health/Medical Sociology: studies of health disparities, health beliefs and behaviors, sexual/reproductive health, demography, and global health.
  • Migration and Transnational Sociology: studies of the global flows of people, ideas, objects, media, technology, and institutions across national and cultural borders.
  • Public Sociology: studies that raise public awareness of sociological research and shape broader conversations about social problems and their possible solutions.
  • Relationships and Family: studies of family and relationship issues related to sexuality, violence, poverty, and the self.
  • Social Inequalities: studies of intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality.
  • Social Movements: studies of social and collective movements especially as related to environmental and social justice issues.
  • Work and Labor Markets: studies of labor politics and policies, especially as they relate to the reproduction of inequalities and patterns of production and consumption.

Values

All of our activities are conducted in accord with our values:

  • Integrity: at all times.
  • Excellence: commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and service.
  • Diversity: commitment to pursuing excellence through a diversity of voices, bodies, and intersecting identities.
  • Inclusion: inclusion of everyone regardless of intersections across gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability.
  • Equity: dedicated to creating spaces where all people are treated with dignity and respect, can thrive in their own chosen efforts, and intersectional differences are considered an asset.
  • Justice: committed to challenging and dismantling interlocking systems of oppression, such as white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, economic exploitation, and settler colonialism.
  • Community: of scholars, teachers, students, and other people.
  • Compassion: toward all people and the environment.
  • Creativity: utilizing creative and innovative solutions to all challenges.
  • Collaboration: with colleagues and students inside and outside the department and University.

 

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