Undergraduate Programs

Sociology is the study of the social lives of people, groups, and institutions. 

Sociological research encompasses all aspects of our lives, from individual participation in social institutions and processes such as the family, the labor force, and voting; to how neighborhoods are segregated by race and class or how groups and populations of people share information across social networks or national boundaries; from corporate wealth and power to environmental policy; and from economic development to political movements and globalization.

The most exciting aspect of taking Sociology classes is that I am learning about what I am living “within.” I experience the theories and ideas that I study in class on a daily basis. My relationships, jobs, and conversations almost always relate to something I have read about in a Sociology class.

Blair Perry '11

My first Sociology course was a seminar on 'Racism' during the fall of my first year - I immediately fell for sociology because of how it connects the individual to society. The idea that our surroundings, families, and schools influence, though do not determine, the constraints and privileges that shape our lives is very compelling to me - it is how I see the world, and how I see my own life.

Alissa Cordner, graduate student

Sociology provides a useful set of analytical and methodological tools. Students can apply the theories, concepts, and research techniques they learn in sociology courses to make sense of the world they encounter in and after college.

While sociology is topically broad, the perspective is focused. Sociologists can ask questions about anything, but they ask the same kinds of questions about everything: How does the social interaction or social group work? How does this maintain or affect society? These questions continue to challenge me as I examine new social phenomena.

Hannah Wohl ‘10

Sociology teaches concepts that help put social issues in their broader context, which helps students to navigate a complex world of conflicting viewpoints and to communicate persuasively and knowledgeably. Sociology concentrators learn how to calculate, interpret, and communicate data and statistics to analyze social problems and develop social policy. Sociology courses also emphasize collaborative work, a skill valued by employers across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. 

Sociology is simply the study of people, why they interact with the world in a certain way, why they make certain decisions, why they do what they do. I find it fascinating to investigate not only others around me, but also my own world view. Why does one act in a certain way? While I like to think that I am an independent actor aware of my decision-making process and the motivations driving and determining my opinions, Sociology has taught me that there are often deeper roots and explanations for this behavior or contexts of thought. Sociology has given me invaluable tools in understanding the complexities of different individuals and insights into interactions among them.

Vanessa Danziger ’10.5

Some sociology concentrators have continued with their academic studies, receiving graduate degrees in sociology or in related fields such as law, public policy, and public health. Concentrators from this department have also pursued varied careers outside academia, including television production, social activism, stock trading, social work, market research, and  employment with non-governmental organizations. 

Sociology is also the discipline for those who are interested in working for social change, as it is the discipline that teaches us how to understand the constraints and possibilities offered by different social contexts and institutions. Sociology focuses on the interrelationships between the experiences of individuals and the social, economic, political, and cultural structures in which they live. At the core of sociology is the study of power, and how different forms of exercising and resisting power shape society and our lives. It is an ideal field for students who seek to understand and to act upon the world. 

The most fascinating aspect of sociology for me is the personal development that occurs when sociologists understand their social position and are able to make sense of how their lives, perceptions and actions affect the lives of others.  Sociology is about knowledge production as well as activism. It has the potential to change the way we think about and change the world we live in. Sociology also transforms who you are as a social being. That is why sociology is my discipline of choice.

Orly Clerge, graduate student 

The Department of Sociology at Brown is a friendly environment in which students can develop their interests. The department encourages and promotes the involvement of concentrators on research projects with the department faculty.

The Sociology Department is a close-knit community of scholars and learners. While students sometimes get lost in larger departments, the intimacy of the Sociology Department allows for a lot of personal attention. Sociology classes tend to be small, there are many opportunities to work on research with professors, and professors are enthusiastic about helping students with theses and individual research projects. The sociology professors do not view me merely as a student, but as a whole person, and have helped me grow both academically and personally at Brown.

Hannah Wohl, Brown 2010

We encourage you to explore Sociology by contacting us about concentration requirements, career options, honors programs, and any other questions you may have. Feel free to email the undergraduate concentration advisors, Michael Kennedy and Carrie Spearin.