Tis the season where first-years and sophomores start deciding what they are going to major in! It is an exciting time, especially for those who came to Whitman intending to major in one department, but after taking a super cool class as a part of their distribution requirements, they completely change their mind. I had this exact experience. I came to Whitman thinking that I wanted to save people as a doctor and a BBMB major, but after taking the Principles of Sociology class, my mind had completely changed and I redeclared my major in the spring of my junior year. Some may say that I am daring, others may say silly. But my worldview has completely broadened and changed after taking more classes in Sociology and I feel like it is right where I belong.
Why Sociology at Whitman? It’s true, Sociology is one of the most popular majors and it appears as a major at most colleges. It can seem very generalist at first glance but I see it as a field of many opportunities where thinking critically about how systemic and microscopic issues overlap can influence the way society operates is an essential skill for every college graduate. Sociology gives us the tools to be a creative problem solver in multiple facets.
At Whitman, every Sociology student is required to write a thesis and complete an oral defense as components of their senior assessment. While many departments at Whitman require theses to be written, Sociology is unique in that it is mostly student-chosen, independent research that is grounded in theory. You are able to choose to do research in almost any field, including incarceration, race and ethnicity, family, education, environment, healthy, and more. We work closely with faculty thesis advisors to produce a quality thesis. This is great preparation for graduate school and I am particularly excited that we have this opportunity to write a thesis as undergrads. My thesis will probably be one of the most important papers that I write to date and I think it will be nearly 100 pages! Senior sociology majors are also required to take a senior seminar class together where we are able to read a range of recent research together and help each other with our theses, like colleagues. Most of us will be presenting our thesis research at the annual Pacific Sociological Association Conference in March 2020.
Have I mentioned that the Whitman Sociology faculty is probably the coolest faculty in all of campus? My advisors and professors in the department have gone above and beyond for me to connect me with alumni who are working in fields that I am interested in, opportunities in the community, and grad school options. A lot of my love for sociology consists of the love I have for the faculty, who are all personable and excited about student learning. My major advisor and I routinely share pictures of our dogs with each other and I’m looking forward to the holiday party coming up that she hosts at her home every year for Sociology majors where her black Labrador puppy will be getting a lot of pets from students missing their dogs from home.
One of my favorite classes in Sociology thus far at Whitman has been Community-Based Sociology, where students are required to secure a community placement and we learn how to conduct field research and gain a better understanding of how sociology operates beyond academia. I love this class because of the hands-on learning that takes place and the discussions tend to be so free-form. From this class, I’ve started to think more sociologically in my everyday life, which has been helpful in engaging in and applying sociological concepts outside of the classroom. Walla Walla is also a fantastic place to be a sociologist as Whitman has many community partners who want to work with Whitman students through internships, fellowships, and volunteerism. Go Sociology!