I teach or have taught the following courses:
Sociology of Religion
The sociology of religion is concerned with the social nature of religion and the mutually-influencing interactions between religion and its social environment. While religion can be studied through a variety of theoretical lenses, the sociological perspective treats religion as a social institution that can be an agent of social change, control, cohesion, or division. We will be attuned to the ways in which religion intersects with other social institutions including the state, education, and family, and well as the intersection of religion with race, class, gender, and sexuality. Our primary objectives are three-fold: (1) To gain an understanding of the sociological approach to studying religion; (2) To recognize ways in which religion and society (including social institutions and identities) are interconnected; and (3) To learn about some of the major issues, problems, and findings in the sociology of religion.
As described by the American Sociological Association, “sociological studies of inequality and stratification examine the distribution of wealth and power within and across societies and the systems of stratification that develop including class, caste, race, and gender. Forms of inequality that arise among individuals and groups may include income, occupation, education, or health.” In other words, studies of social inequality ask who HAS? Who does NOT? And WHY? Research in this area compares the sources and impacts of inequality and mobility. It measures how inequality is maintained (or reduced) through time and across generations. Sociologists analyze processes of stratification within institutions including the economy, education, and religion, using empirical evidence and the methodological tools of social science. Readings in this course emphasize the ways in which inequality plays out in the United States context.
This course will examine classic and contemporary theories of the nature of society and human behavior. Social theory, typically the most philosophical and abstract requirement for sociology majors, will help you to construct a “big picture” of the discipline. Theory is, in essence, an attempt to better understand the world. This course should synthesize what you’ve learned in sociology thus far and provide essential background for those who may be contemplating graduate study in sociology. Focusing on critical questions of epistemology, the course will aid you in developing more clearly your own understanding of the relationship between the individual and society.
Collective Behavior and Social Movements
What are the causes and consequences of riots or crowd behavior? What is the meaning of protest? How do individuals band together to promote or resist change? This course begins to examine the varieties of collective behavior, with special attention given to social movements. Examples such as civil rights, religious, gay and lesbian, and environmental movements will shed light on the ways in which people mobilize, build collective identities, encounter authorities, and challenge the existing social order.
Perspectives on the Social Order: Immigration
Millions of people have left their countries of origin seeking religious freedom, family reunification, political asylum, and economic prosperity. Immigrants play a significant yet contested role in the culture and economy of receiving nations. Through readings, videos, interviews, debates, data analysis, and discussion, this course examines classic and contemporary social scientific perspectives on immigration. We will contemplate topics including the meaning of citizenship, the rise of transnationalism, historical responses to immigrant groups, immigration’s impact on the economy, and the immigrant experience.
Regardless of your choice of major or career path, you will inevitably live with the realities of disaster. Though we prefer to think that it could never happen to us, this same thought likely crossed the minds of those who experienced Hurricane Katrina, September 11th, the water landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, or the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. As individuals, communities, and nations, we are often unprepared for disaster. This course will help us to contemplate the meaning of disaster, how to study disaster, the media framing and policy implications of disaster, and our role in disaster response. You will also have the opportunity to become certified in disaster response through the American Red Cross, qualifying you to volunteer in our community.
Sociology is the scientific study of human social life, groups, and societies. By engaging the sociological imagination, we begin to see our world through a new perspective – one that is attentive to dynamics such as race, class, gender, and nation. This course will help you to develop a sociological imagination and apply sociological insights (concepts, theories, methods, current research) to understand and analyze our complex social world.
Roman Catholicism Today
This course is designed as an introduction to contemporary Roman Catholicism, with particular focus on the post-Vatican II period. We will be taking a sociological and critical (rather than theological) approach to studying Catholicism and the lived experiences of Catholics. Our course objectives include: (1) learning the basic structure and characteristics of the Catholic Church and practicing Catholics; (2) understanding the changes and debates that emerged from the Second Vatican Council; (3) engaging with some of the major issues facing the Church today and in the future; and (4) seeing ways in which race, class, gender, and nation have both shaped and been shaped by the Church and lived experiences of Catholics.
Research Methods will introduce you to the variety of ways that sociologists study social phenomena. Course objectives include (1) building and refining basic skills in the collection and analysis of social data, including both quantitative and qualitative approaches; (2) linking sociological methods with sociological theory; (3) learning how to critique social scientific research; and (4) discovering ways by which research methods can illuminate variation in race, class, gender, and cross-cultural social patterns.