Sociology Department

Sociology is the scientific study of society and people in society. Sociology is also the study of patterns and processes of human social relations and human behavior. Whether it is the study of small social groups or of populations and organizations involving thousands, sociologists assume that where there are two or more people, what goes on between and among these people should be studied. The sociology program at Colby provides students with conceptual frameworks and analytic skills necessary to understand how social forces shape people’s lives and how people shape and transform society. Students acquire expertise in qualitative and quantitative research methods in order to assess data and interpret published research. Courses focused on a wide range of issues, problems, and organizations show how sociological theory enables us to analyze institutions, social and cultural change, and persisting inequalities relating to race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Opportunities for intensive discussions, closely supervised research, and community-based learning foster the development of critical and creative thinking. Seminar requirements for sociology majors foster analytical and communication skills. Sociology students are prepared to participate in the private and public sectors of a diverse democracy and world.

A note on course prerequisites: Students who feel they have satisfied a prerequisite in an alternative way are strongly encouraged to consult the instructor to obtain authorization to enroll.

Study Abroad

The department prefers that students majoring in sociology complete Sociology 215, 271, 274 and at least one of the other required courses (except Sociology 493) prior to study abroad. Generally, students will receive credit toward the major for one course per semester taken abroad; preferably that course should be approved in advance. Students majoring in sociology are urged to seek approval for a range of courses, in advance, to be prepared for possible cancellation of an approved course in any program abroad. Exceptions to the one-semester and core-course credit rules may be granted for students qualified to study abroad in the year-long sociology program at the London School of Economics.


Chair, Professor Cheryl Townsend Gilkes
Professor Cheryl Townsend Gilkes; Assistant Professor Matthew Archibald; Visiting Assistant Professors Pamela A. Blake, Karen E. Macke, and Daniel Sherwood 

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Sociology

Eleven courses including Sociology 131, 215, 271, 274, 493, and either 252 or 276. Among the five additional elective courses, an additional methods course (212 or 272) is strongly encouraged and at least one elective must be a 300-level seminar. One course in another social science at the 200 level or above may be substituted for one 200-level sociology elective. One elective may be taken in a study-abroad program. Sociology 215, 271, and 274 should be completed before the senior year, preferably during the second year.

Requirements for the Minor in Sociology

Seven courses including Sociology 131, 215 or 218, 271 or 272, 274; one elective at the 200 level or above; and two electives at the 300 level or above. One course in another social science at the 200-level or above may be substituted for the 200-level elective. Electives may include an independent study (Sociology 491 or 492) for at least three credits. Although the Senior Seminar (493) is not required, students pursuing the minor are welcome to enroll.

Note: Sociology 271 fulfills the quantitative reasoning (Q) requirement.

Honors in Sociology

The Honors Program in Sociology (Sociology 483, 484) provides a special opportunity for independent sociological research. Seniors majoring in sociology may apply for the honors program by securing a faculty sponsor in the department, a secondary faculty reader, and approval of the department as a whole. To apply, a student must have a 3.25 overall grade point average and a 3.6 grade point average in the major. Exceptions require a petition for approval of the department. Students may apply for the program at the end of the term prior to the semester in which they would begin honors work and no later than the second week of the term during which honors work begins. A maximum of six credits may be received, none of which may count toward the required elective credits in the major. Enrollment options include spring semester; spring semester and Jan Plan; fall semester; fall semester and Jan Plan; fall, Jan Plan, and spring semesters. The final product is expected to be an extensive research paper of exceptional quality. With permission of the department, a thesis in the area of sociology, completed as part of the Senior Scholars Program, may be substituted for the honors thesis.

Distinction in the Major

Distinction in the major upon graduation requires a 3.75 grade point average in the major and a 3.5 overall grade point average.