Welcome to the Department of Sociology

The Department of Sociology at Emory is a vigorous community of scholars. We engage in cutting-edge research, take pride in excellent teaching, and actively contribute to the University and wider community. Read below to learn about the following:

1) Emory Sociology: Faculty Research & Training

2) Emory Sociology: Undergraduate Program

3) Emory Sociology: Graduate Program

Emory Sociology: Faculty Research & Teaching

Three things stand out about our faculty with regards to their research and teaching.

First, we collectively cover a broad range of topics within sociology while also drawing upon interdisciplinary insights to enrich our sociological approach. That sociological approach, for all of us, includes a rigorous linking of theory and empirics -- both in our research efforts and in our classroom instruction. The figure below captures but a portion of all the topics we address.

Second, although we have much collective breadth in terms of our faculty interests, we also cohere around four key topics depicted prominently above. As it so happens, these four topics also stand at the core of the discipline in terms of historical emphases as well as the size of the community of scholars addressing them. 

  • We describe and explain how culture is “organized” – such as patterns of aesthetic tastes among socioeconomic classes across time and place; patterns in the diffusion of value-systems (“cultural repertoires”) among nations and amidst ongoing globalization; the collective memories created by groups and nations that, in turn, shape their identities; and access to specialized knowledge, including that involving Internet usage. Put another way, we treat “culture” as collective cognition.
  • We approach social psychology by describing and explaining how individual-level processes arise and unfold – such as the development of an identity (and the memories that entails); the assessment of what is fair, just and legitimate; and the evaluation of who and what is worthy. In doing so, we complement the work of those in psychology by interrogating and demonstrating how small groups and ongoing social interaction contribute greatly to these individual-level processes.
  • We describe and explain how social and cultural factors impinge upon health. Thus, we complement a strictly biological approach by showing how socioeconomic class, education, religion, etc. matter for differential access to healthcare, for longevity, for mental health, for the onset of various maladies (e.g., diabetes) and practices (e.g., smoking) and for well-being.
  • We describe and explain inequality while attending to its social context. For instance, we hone in on how racial, ethnic and gender inequality play out similarly and differently across various labor markets – delving into why returns to education experienced by women and minorities are greater in some labor markets than in others. We also address how class, race and ethnicity shape access to the political and financial systems -- with differential access mattering greatly for the positive life chances of some (e.g., whites, middle class) and the negative life chances of others (e.g., people of color, working class).

Finally, our faculty stand out, not only in terms of their interdisciplinarity, but also in terms of avoiding common silos found within Sociology, silos wherein scholars focusing on one topic from a particular vantage point may be unaware of the advances made on that topic by sociologists who employ a different vantage point. Hence, not only do we emphasize interdisciplinarity, we also emphasize the exciting intersections that are now enlivening Sociology. On the one hand, medical sociology has benefited greatly from looking at the intersection of health and inequality. Those inequalities we often document in terms of race, ethnicity, class and gender also "get into" people in terms of their metabolisms, health outcomes and well-being. On the other hand, those focusing on cognition are now finding that the intersection between culture and social psychology provides an exciting way forward. Among other things, this intersection helps ground micro-level processes in a broader macro-level context and vice versa. Put another way: identity happens both within small groups and within the broader context in which those groups are located (e.g., neighborhoods, nations).

Given our intersectional approach, we faculty of Emory Sociology are building much of our curriculum around the intersections occurring between culture, social psychology, health and inequality. While focusing on various combinations of these four topics, we are especially stressing the intersections depicted below, those occurring between Culture & Social Psychology and between Health & inequality. In fact, those two intersections are the the default areas of concentration in our graduate program. However,  we are also open to graduate student pursuing other intersections -- such as that between, say, social psychology & health.

Hence, our faculty stand out for their collective breadth and the coherence that stems from our overlap in terms of major topics and our commitment to the intersections occurring among those major topics.

Emory Sociology: Undergraduate Program

Our undergraduate program aims to provide a challenging introduction to the discipline as part of a first-rate liberal arts education while also exposing students to the research environment found at a top-tier university. We help to prepare students for a range of careers as well as for future graduate and professional study. We are committed to undergraduate teaching and our major is one of the largest of any at comparable institutions. Our program features:

  • small classes
  • award-winning teachers
  • a wide range of courses
  • a curricular emphasis across our classes on imparting social science research skills to our students
  • an active internship program
  • opportunities for research with faculty and graduate students (RISE)
  • the SouthEastern Undergraduate Sociology Research Symposium (SEUSS)
  • a Summer Study Abroad Program on Health Care in London

The last three items on this list deserve special mention. RISE (Research in Sociology at Emory) allows majors to be involved in ongoing sociological research conducted by Emory Sociology faculty and doctoral candidates. Not only learning about the nitty-gritty aspects of social research, those majors participating in RISE have also contributed to projects that yielded scholarly publications. If RISE provides a window into social research, SEUSS (the Southeastern Undergraduate Sociology Symposium) provides an annual opportunity for our students to present publicly the research that they themselves have conducted under the guidance of Emory Sociology professors. Finally, Comparative Health Care Systems (SOC 390) is our own summer study-abroad course, which lasts for 5 weeks in London. Among other things, students in that course collectively collect and analyze a survey that addresses the health care experiences of Londoners.

Emory Sociology: Graduate Program

Our graduate program aims to prepare outstanding new scholars for productive careers. Our graduate students build a record of accomplishment in research and teaching. A large portion obtain positions in high-quality academic and research institutions. Our program provides:

  • solid foundation in methods, statistics, and theory
  • a low student-faculty ratio
  • full funding for five years, including tuition waiver and a stipend
  • an extensive teacher training program and opportunities to teach independently
  • excellent facilities, including computer and social psychology laboratories

There are other notable resources that make our graduate program stand out. First, there is the solidarity that exists among current and past graduate students. This is in large part due to the efforts of COGS, our Coalition of Graduate Sociologists. This organization, and the officers that fellow graduate students elect, has been proactive in terms of putting together and / or funding a wide variety of support activities. These support activities have included weekend workshops on various research methods, professionalization workshops (e.g., reviewing for and publishing in journals; navigating the job market), talks by well-regarded scholars from beyond Emory, and social activities.

Second, Emory Sociology has long been marked by collegial and collaborative relationships between graduate students and faculty members. Indeed, we encourage our faculty to co-publish with students so as to mentor them in the research process and to introduce them to the journal / book review system. This easy access to faculty members is especially key because, on the one hand, Emory Sociology faculty are well-connected to the discipline, which in turn, benefits our graduate students in forming their own connections. Although a modest size department, it is remarkable that Emory Sociology faculty have assumed so many leadership roles in the American Sociological Association, as well as other associations. For example, consider those who have been elected by their peers to chair the various sections of the discipline. 

  • Sociology of Education Section (Richard Rubinson, Chair, 1989-1990)
  • Political Economy of the World-System Section (Terry Boswell, Chair, 1996-1997)
  • Political Sociology Section (Alexander M. Hicks, Chair, 1999-2000)
  • Social Psychology Section (Karen Hegtvedt, Chair, 2008-2009)
  • Emotions Section (Cathryn Johnson, Chair, 2010-2011)
  • Aging and the Life Course Section (Ellen Idler, Chair, 2013-2014)
  • Sociology of Culture Section (Timothy J. Dowd, Chair, 2014-2015)
  • Emotions Section (Karen Hegtvedt, Chair, 2015-2016)
  • Social Psychology Section (Cathryn Johnson, Chair, 2015-2016).

On the other hand, Emory Sociology faculty are also intellectual leaders. At last count, our faculty collectively serve on more than 20 editorial boards, and they have served previous terms on even more editorial boards. Moreover, three journals have formerly been housed at Emory Sociology, which is unusual for a faculty of our modest size. This occurred when Socio-Economic Review was edited by Alexander M. Hicks (2002-2006 ), when Social Psychology Quarterly was edited by Karen Hegtvedt (2010-2014) and Cathryn Johnson (2010-2013), and when Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research for Culture, the Media and the Arts was edited by Timothy J. Dowd (2010-2014). This leadership likewise benefits graduate students by connecting them to the latest scholarly developments. 

Finally, by virtue of our location, our graduate students are able to draw on a range of resources in the University and Atlanta area. These include, among others, the Candler School of TheologyThe Carter Center, The Center for Civil and Human RightsCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS)Goizueta Business School, Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods, The James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference, The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and Rollins School of Public Health. All these resources listed here and above make Emory Sociology a lively and productive place for graduate students.