Courses | St. Lawrence University Sociology



In addition to the regularly taught courses listed below, Special Topics courses are often offered.

101. IntroSoc: Principles of Sociology.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to theories and concepts of sociology, as well as to facilitate the development of each student's "sociological imagination." Members of the class will critically examine how social institutions and social structures operate, and to what ends. After introducing the sociological perspective and the research methods used to study society, we will examine what sociologists have come to know about various social structures and institutions (i.e., class, crime and deviance, the economy, education, gender, family, media, race, sexuality, etc.) as well as forms of social inequality (stratification and social class, race and ethnicity, and gender inequality). By discussing and applying theories and concepts central to the discipline, we will begin to deconstruct and understand how these social structures and institutions shape individuals' ideas about, and experiences in, the social world. Fulfills SS Distribution (2013 curriculum). 

110.  IntroSoc: Global Problems.

This course introduces students to the sociological perspective through examination of global actors, processes and problems. The course focuses on the process of the consolidation of the world into a single economy. While some people and some regions have benefited greatly, others have suffered tremendously. We look at how social disparities take shape and figure out the reasons they are justified.

112.  IntroSoc: Inequality.

An introductory course that examines forces behind the unequal distribution of economic, political, social, cultural and psychological rewards in contemporary U.S. society and globally. The course also examines the consequences of this distribution for both individuals and societies. Students are encouraged to take a closer look at social inequality through fieldwork projects and autobiographical reflections.

161.  IntroSoc: Social Problems and Policy.

This course explores the causes of and responses to the phenomena labeled “social problems.” The course examines how social phenomena are defined as problems and developed into issues. We investigate the role of the media, social movements, government and private capital in identifying problems and placing them on the public agenda. We also focus on a variety of policies proposed (and/or implemented) in response to specific social problems and the political conflicts that result from competing policy alternatives. The social impacts of various policy options associated with these issues are explored.

169.  IntroSoc: Media and Society.

This 100-level course is designed to explore the complex and often contradictory relationship between media, culture and society. Like the professor and textbook authors, we will cultivate sociological perspectives to analyze and explain how various forms of media-from traditional to digital-can spread their influence across society. On what terms is media content produced and consumed, and what "effects" are likely to follow? What is the "new media environment," and what significance does it hold for media professionals and citizens? How do culture, technology, and political economy factor in? Throughout the semester, we will address each of these questions (and many more!) as we embark on an engaging, eye-opening journey through the realities of life in the increasingly mediated world.

187.  IntroSoc: Environment and Society.

This course explores the complex interrelations between human societies and the environment via the sociological perspective. The sociological perspective is a means of making the familiar aspects of our lives, and our understandings of the world, seem strange and new. In doing so we can better analyze our world and our place in that world especially with regard to human and natural interactions. In this course we will learn about the concepts, theories, and methods that sociologists use to understand critical issues of environmental degradation and ecological crises and how these problems are experienced differently depending on one’s location in global society. By the end of the course students will become familiar with analytical tools that enable an understanding of some underlying drivers of environmental degradation and ideas of what can be done to chart a better future. Also offered as ENVS 187.

3000-3999. The content of each course or section of these 100-level or 200-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester.

203.  Foundations of Social Theory.

This course brings under scrutiny the false dichotomies crowding the sociological imagination: structure/agency, history/theory, macro/micro, global/local. The broad-based analytical perspective enables students to appreciate theory in the context of historical relations and processes, and to approach history from a coherent theoretical angle of vision. Students are encouraged and expected to reflect on hegemonic rationales and conventional structures of knowledge. Students are assisted in perceiving the absurd fixation of mainstream knowledge on simplification and the axiomatic authority of disjunction, reduction, reification and abstraction.  They are encouraged to see the virtue of complexity as an alternative form of knowledge of ecological/historical relations and processes. The objective of the course is to empower students by allowing them to discard simplification, and to embark on complexity as the intellectual path suitable to their reality.   Prerequisite: any 100-level or 200-level Sociology course.

219: Power, Politics and Society. 

In this course, we will examine the relationship between power and politics (broadly defined), and how this relationship shapes our societies. In doing so, we will start by asking some general questions about power: How can we define it? Where can we locate its sources? How is authority exerted in society? Who has it and why? Can the holders of power be challenged, and if so, how? Tackling these questions will lead us to trace the development of the modern state, nations and nationalisms, democracy, and citizenship. As we delve into these complex topics, our class discussions will include empirical cases from different parts of the world. 

221.  Sociology of Sex and Gender.

This introduction to social science ways of thinking about sex and gender pro- vides an overview of contributions from a variety of disciplines and considers both theoretical and historical materials. We examine the social construction of gender and sexuality and the ways gender and sexuality and society interact with and affect each other, and how change takes place. The social developments and history of gender and sexualities are explored, and contemporary issues studied. In particular, how and why gender and sex became politicized, and continue to be so, is explored.

225. Women's Health and Aging.

This course will examine current issues related to the health and aging experiences of women in the U.S. and around the world.  Special emphasis will be placed on the challenges women face as they experience various life transitions.  The social, historical, cultural, economic, political factors related to women’s health and aging will be examined.  Topics include puberty, menstruation and PMS, childbirth, infertility, menopause, body image and ageism, employment and retirement, caretaking and social support, widowhood, and dying.  The implications of changing demographic characteristics of the aging population in the United States and worldwide will be considered especially with regard to the consequences for women.

228.  Race and Ethnicity.

This course introduces students to race and ethnicity from a social-historical perspective.  It provides a conceptual background for understanding race and ethnicity.   We do not treat race or ethnicity as “natural” or “obvious” identities, but study the sociological and historical emergence of race as an idea: as an effective way to categorize people and as a legitimate basis for social and structural hierarchies.  We focus on how socio-historical relations and processes led to current conceptions and patterns of race and ethnic categories in the U.S., and consider possibilities challenging the nature of racial/ethnic identities by examining changes in political economy and anti-racist social movements.

233. Consuming Food.

Food is often seen as human beings’ biological needs. However, food is also how we relate to others as social beings.  How we eat, cook, and share food and what we consider to be food are bound with social and cultural meanings, as tastes and preferences are socially constructed and often related to class, gender, age, and ethnicity. This course will explore how industrialized agriculture and the food processing industry has changed our relationship to food and the various controversies over alternative food systems like organic food, local food, vegetarian and vegan food, and techno-food.  It will also look at how the global capitalist food system has commoditized food and transformed food provision and consumption in developing countries, creating the concurrent existence of epidemic hunger and obesity in the world today. It will discuss the impacts of such a system on farmers and land use in both developed and developing countries.

235.  Earning a Living: Work and Occupations in a Global Economy.

Much of the construction of our self-identity is concerned with preparation for and taking up a place in the occupational structure. Our occupations and the “social value” of the work we do contribute to definitions of our social worth.  This course is about the complex of social, economic, political, cultural and psychological processes that contribute to what we want to “be” when we “grow up” and what then becomes possible in a global economy. It examines what happens when there is no place for us.

236. Education and Society.

This course provides a critical examination of the structure and consequences of one of our society’s major institutions:  the formal system of education.  It is through participation in this institution that individuals access societal rewards. The course examines the structure of the formal system of education, the processes that maintain this structure, and the consequences of both for individuals and for larger society.

239. Culture & Identity in the Digital Age.

In this 200-level course, we ask: what does it mean to live in a networked world, where our offline lives are increasingly and irrevocably tied to digital spaces?  The popularity of phrases  like "in real life" represent a common view of the physical world as something wholly distinct from and superior to the digital realm. Still, the digital realm has proven to have very real consequences, which increasingly structure individuals' opportunities and experiences in everyday life. Beyond the vast array of viral posts and status-seeking influencers, the networked world provides seemingly endless opportunities opportunities for social interaction and identity construction, community building, and indeed, the (re)production of systemic inequalities and political polarization. With these concerns in mind, this course will examine the role digital media and communication technologies play in the shaping of culture as well as the organization and maintenance of contemporary social life. (Dual-listed as FILM 240.)

240. New Media, Conflict & Control.

The focus of this 200-level course is to explore and explain the increasing role of new media tools in conflict and democracy, as well as to take a deeper look at the paradoxical potential for surveillance that these technologies also afford. As seen through the recent examples from the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, social media can serve an integral function in democratic mobilizations. At the same time, digital media have also been effectively employed by governments and cooperating institutions to assert both direct and indirect forms of control. Thus, this course will explore the many ways in which social media afford journalistic, communicative, and controlling functions. How and to what effects new media technologies are leveraged is thus contingent upon many interwoven factors. By applying sociological knowledge about conflict and surveillance to the discussion of emerging media, students will learn new and revealing ways to think about the social and political implications of new media technologies. In addition to learning about emerging forms of media, this course will also require all participants to work with new media in both research and discussion.

246. What’s So Bad about Aging? (w/Community-Based Learning component).

This course examines the impact of aging on individuals and society, as well as the reactions of individuals and societies to aging.  Theories and research on aging will be discussed, as well as the social, demographic, economic, historical, cultural, political, and health factors related to the aging process. Topics include diversity in the aging experience, housing and long term care, health care, social support networks, interpersonal relationships, work and retirement, leisure, and death and dying.   A Community-Based Learning component is integrated with the course material to facilitate a thorough understanding of aging in society. This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for majors.

253.  Race, Class, and Environmental Justice.

This course focuses on the distribution of environmental degradation and environmental protection, both domestically and globally. The social processes that generate synergistic racism and class stratification, affecting the distribution of ecological costs and benefits, are explored. Substantive topics include the siting of hazardous facilities and thermo-nuclear weapons testing, the socio-ecological conditions of migrant farm workers, extraction of resources from Native lands, and the transnational export of toxic waste to the “Global South.” The course examines the origins and impacts of a distinct environmental justice movement that has emerged in the U.S. Written and oral assignments involve individual and collaborative quests for socially equitable solutions to socio-eco-historical injustices.   Also offered as ENVS 253.

254. The Social Identity of Policing.

This course is neither about the Police as a specific occupation or profession, nor is it about social Identities as free-standing and eclectic categories. It is, instead, about policing as a relational ground emerging in multiple social identities and singular police vocation. Conventional knowledge wrongly assumes and defines, on the one hand, the police as a professional institution of administrating and enforcing established universal laws. On the other, it assumes that social identity to be peculiar and autonomous categories. The goal of this course is to transcend the incompatible assumptions and establish policing as the basis of the paradox, simultaneously producing 1) multiple identity forms, and 2) single universal law. We will focus on how and why policing has become the underpinning of modern social relations through the conflicting dynamics between many identities and one law. Therefore, social control is not merely avocation of the police; it is rather the foundation of policing. It is embodied in identity forms instituted in the law. By adopting a long-term, large-scale lens, we will embark on uncovering the identity/law relational processes that transpire in the social identity of policing. 

266. Criminal (In)Justice (with Community-Based Learning component)

This 200-level course provides an in-depth look at the American criminal justice system, including longstanding and contemporary challenges as well as opportunities for reform. After laying a foundation of sociological perspectives on crime and punishment as an institution and social problem, we begin envisioning what paths to justice look like for some of the most vulnerable members of our own community. With an emphasis on the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility (SLCCF) in Canton, NY, this class integrates a Community Based Learning component with more traditional academic work. In addition to in-class discussion, reading, writing, and oral presentation assignments, the class will make numerous visits to SLCCF throughout the semester.  By placing a specific emphasis on recidivism and community reintegration, we will work in collaboration with incarcerated individuals and staff at SLCCF on the North Country Resource project (, which aims to identify and improve outcomes and access to resources for those reentering the surrounding community.  This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for sociology majors.

275.  Medical Sociology.

In this course we examine a variety of aspects of health, illness, medical systems and institutions from a sociological perspective. We look at the social causes and consequences of illness, the social construction of disease, and roles played by patients, medical personnel, health institutions and society and the ethical questions they present. Attention is paid to health policy development in the United States and that of other countries.

288. Dilemmas of Development.

What does development mean? Is economic development always at the expense of social integration? By whose standard should we measure development? Is there a single best way of development? Are some cultures more likely to develop than others? Is globalization the remedy for underdevelopment?  This course covers the basic sociological theories on development and globalization, and answers the above questions by looking at issues such as gender and class inequality, power of multinational corporations and multilateral agencies, consumerism, environment, and the search for alternative models in Asia and other parts of the world. Also offered as ASIA 288.

290.  Independent Study in Sociology. (0.5 unit)

Open to students who wish to pursue more specialized or advanced sociological study, fieldwork and research with a faculty mentor.   Prerequisite: at least one Sociology course.  Permission of instructor is required.

300. Qualitative Research Methods.

This writing-intensive course is an introduction to a variety of qualitative social research methods. It includes discussions of the principles of social research, the relationship between theory and method, research design, issues of validity and reliability, and dilemmas and ethical concerns in qualitative research. Students learn qualitative techniques of gathering and interpreting data through a variety of “hands-on” projects in the field and classroom using methods such as participant observation, in-depth interviews, content analysis and other unobtrusive methods. Students engage in an individually designed, ongoing research project throughout the semester. Prerequisite: SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory.

301.  Quantitative Research Methods.

This writing-intensive course is an introduction to quantitative social research methods with an emphasis on survey data.  Students engage in questionnaire and table construction, and data management and analysis using SPSS to complete an individually designed, ongoing research project throughout the semester. The course covers topics such as hypothesis and questionnaire construction, conceptualization and operationalization, sampling, data collection, processing, and analysis, reliability and validity, research ethics, and the presentation of research.  Students learn using a hands-on, computer-based approach to quantitative methods and data analysis.  Prerequisite: SOC 203, Foundations of Social Theory.

308.  Death and Dying.

This course explores social, historical, ethical and cultural aspects of death and dying. We will analyze the social meaning of death from a historical and cross-cultural perspective. Additional topics include the historical evaluation of images and attitudes toward death, ways of dying, the medicalization and consequences of high-tech dying, life extension, the role of palliative care and hospice, euthanasia, body disposal and abuse, and the death industry. The course will offer an opportunity to formulate, analyze and deepen our views on a number of issues related to death and dying.  This course fulfills the Capstone requirement for majors.  Prerequisites: one Sociology course at the 100 level, one at the 200 level, and SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory.  SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods recommended but not required. Majors Only.

309. Internships.

Internship opportunities exist in social welfare, gerontology, health care, social policy, law, criminal justice, the media and college administration. The department also encourages students to be imaginative and innovative in developing internships to meet their own interests. Internships require a commitment of eight hours a week. Students may not enroll in more than one semester of internship credit without petitioning the sociology department for approval. Students interested in exploring internship opportunities must contact the instructor prior to course registration during the preceding semester. Not open to first-year students. Prerequisite: at least two Sociology courses.  This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for majors.  Permission of instructor required.

310.  Slavery, Race and Culture.

The purpose of this seminar is to familiarize students with the world of slavery and its relation to the wider world of capitalism. Long a part of the global capitalist economy, slaves and slavery have been critical historical agents in shaping various aspects of social relations. The history of slavery has laid the foundation for race formations. Far from being a peculiar institution, slavery is indeed central to the making of the modern age. Also offered as AFS 310. This course fulfills the Capstone requirement for majors.   Prerequisites: one Sociology course at the 100 level, one at the 200 level, and SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory. SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods recommended but not required.  Majors Only.

314.  Nomads in World History.

Throughout history, the terms nomad and barbarian have been used interchange- ably, and with negative connotations.  Similarly, the terms settled and civilized have been synonymous, with positive associations. This dichotomy arises out of particular class and power interests and has had, as a consequence, an impact on our understanding of world history and the place of nomads in it. It has resulted in the stigmatization of nomads. In this course, we bring the nomadic factor back to focus and establish a more comprehensive picture and interpretation of world history.   This course fulfills the Capstone requirement for majors. Also offered as ENVS 314. Prerequisites:  one Sociology course at the 100 level, one at the 200 level, and SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory. SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods recommended but not required. Majors Only.

317.  Twitter and Society.

This course will explore the sociological significance of Twitter as a platform for personal expression, interaction and networked communication. The breadth of meanings various user communities ascribe to the service, as well as the access and usage patterns found among this and other digital tools, pose obvious challenges for how sociological research may approach or explain Twitter users and the data they produce. Nevertheless, the apparent diversity of Twitter use and users also provides an opportunity to reveal significant insights about how users leverage the affordances of the service, and to what effects. Thus, this course will begin with an introduction to Twitter and its significance for various sectors of society. Then, we will learn to ask sociological questions about Twitter usage and to develop theoretically and methodologically grounded approaches to answering those questions. This will allow us to design and conduct exploratory analyses of Twitter data. The coursework will culminate with students creating digital presentations to showcase their work in engaging and innovative formats. 

377.  Sociology of Consumption.

In this seminar, we explore consumption along a wide range of material dimensions. The sociology of consumption is concerned with the relationships of (a) the social to the natural and (b) the social to the social and (c) their consequences, such as social disruption and environmental destruction; “things” are fetishized and humans are commodified.  The sociology of consumption helps us to understand this in the context of both the capitalist world economy and cultural expressions from early modernity to postmodernity.  This course fulfills the Capstone requirement for majors.   Also offered as ENVS 377.  Prerequisites: one Sociology course at the 100 level, one at the 200 level, and SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory. SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods recommended but not required. Majors Only.

390.  Independent Study in Sociology. (1 unit)

Open to students who wish to pursue more specialized or advanced sociological study and research with a faculty mentor.  Prerequisite: at least two sociology courses.  Permission of instructor required.

4000-4999. The content of each course or section of these 300-level or 400-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester.

465.  Environmental Sociology.

What is the “environment”? How do we know it’s in trouble?  Why should we protect it? What are we protecting it from? Who are we protecting it for? We examine both the social origins of the major environmental problems facing us today and the political conflicts that result. We focus on the role of society’s use of natural resources in creating these crises, as well as the way societies identify them as social problems, and examine the social responses. We explore the ways in which these responses lead to political conflicts, and seek to develop viable solutions to socio-environmental problems.  Prerequisites: one Sociology course at the 100 level, one at the 200 level, and SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory.  SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods recommended but not required. Majors Only.

489/490. SYE Independent Study.

This requires completion of an individual research project mentored by one of the sociology faculty. Before registering, students should work with a faculty mentor to prepare a research proposal outlining the intended thesis, theoretical framework, methodology and ethical considerations including the application for human subjects review approval where necessary. This is a one-semester project (Fall or Spring). Prerequisites: SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory, SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods, any 300 or 400-level seminar, and a SYE Application submitted to the Sociology Department for approval during the semester prior to the project's start.  Permission of instructor required.

495/496. SYE Honors in Sociology.

This requires completion of an individual research project mentored by one of the sociology faculty. The project is undertaken over two semesters. Students need to register for both 495 (fall) and 496 (spring). Honors will be granted to students who have completed and defended a thesis before a departmental committee. Prerequisites: 3.5 major GPA, SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory, SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods, any 300 or 400 level seminar, and an SYE Application submitted to the Sociology Department for approval during the semester prior to the project's start.  Permission of instructor required.