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philosophy

The goal of any liberal arts education is to produce students who are strong critical thinkers and capable problem-solvers. I believe these goals are best reachable through the discipline of sociology. Using sociological theories, perspectives, and methods, students are best positioned to become civic-minded and engaged citizens, competent workers, and good people. Thus, critical pedagogy is the cornerstone of the kind of teaching I aim to do: more than merely transmitting knowledge, I want to foster epistemological curiosity, critical thinking, and ability to analyze qualitative and quantitative data in my students, empowering them to use sociological tools to reflect on their place in the world.

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courses

MODERN LOVE: INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. Yet, the landscape of romance, dating, and marriage has drastically changed from what it was even decades ago. Aided by technological innovations and cultural and political climates widening what is acceptable in the realm of love and marriage, single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. What’s the good in all this change? What’s the bad? Integrating social science perspectives (including sociology, history, psychology, and anthropology), this course explores romantic love, sexuality, and intimate relationships in the modern world. Progressing through the semester, class readings, films, and discussions focus on the various ways individuals fall in love, come together, settle down, break apart, and find love again. In doing so, we critically interrogate the evolution of dating and marriage in U.S. history and abroad, along with their impact on contemporary society. We will also consider contemporary issues that impact our current understandings of romance, dating, and marriage – including cohabitation, online dating, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the globalization of love and intimacy.

CHARTS, GRAPHS, AND TABLES

Every day, we are presented with social statistics about our world. Where does this information come from? What does it really tell us? And how do we know which statistics are credible, which are not, and which are…somewhere in the middle? In this course, we will familiarize ourselves with the core concepts and techniques sociologists use to understand the social world. We will cover the basics of research methods, sampling, statistics, and reading and designing charts, graphs, and tables. These topics will be illustrated using data and examples from social science research. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to (1) read and understand social statistics, (2) produce and present data in meaningful ways, and (3) apply the sociological perspective to contemporary social problems.

GLOBAL FAMILIES

Virtually all of us grew up within something that we would define as “family.”  However, how we experience family can vary greatly.  In what ways has your family experience been shaped by social and cultural forces outside of your immediate environment?  This course travels across geographic, cultural, and historical boundaries to explore the diversity of the world’s families – in structure, in relationships, and as a globally changing social institution.  We will integrate social science perspectives (including sociology, history, psychology, and anthropology) toward studying families in a systematic way, resulting in a scholarly perspective of families that is interdisciplinary, varied, and at times controversial.  We will explore how the world’s families are formed, terminated, re-created and blended through the socially constructed roles of parents, spouses, children, and kin.  In doing so, we will examine the impact of broader societal issues such as global inequality, public policy, and globalization. Class sessions will take many forms, including discussions of case studies of family life in places such as the United States, India, the Netherlands, Israel, Mexico, and the Philippines; cultural activities; film screenings; and student presentations.  Additionally, course assignments are designed to engage with students’ individual world area interests and culminates in a research project of the student’s own design.

CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY

Sociology is the systematic and scientific study of human social life–its structures, patterns, and problems.  As a social science, it uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of improving contemporary society. The purpose of this course is to introduce you to the field of sociology and the ways sociologists ask and answer questions about the world in which we live.  As a class, we will explore concepts and tools central to sociology as we navigate different aspects of contemporary society, from various forms of social inequality to social institutions like religion, the family, and the educational system.

THE FAMILY

We all are part of families, for better and for worse. Families are universally important social institutions, past and present. Although the majority of families around the world have certain things in common—relating people biologically and socially, organizing care and residence, the specifics of how these things are accomplished may vary substantially across time and space. This course focuses on families in the contemporary U.S. It will introduce you to how sociologists study families and along with them, topics that seem very personal, emotional and important to many of us—ideals about love, marriage, gender, parenthood, sex and sexuality—scientifically. We consider both the “public” and “private” dimensions of families over the course of the semester‐‐ families as settings for socially important tasks such as raising children and caring for family members, and a focus for public policy and as the place where we experience much of our private lives. A central theme will be diversity and change, as we consider the many ways families have changed over the last 60 years in particular in the U.S., and the many forms of family diversity that surround us. During the first part of the course, we consider the history of (U.S.) families from the 19th century to today, focusing on the influence of marriage and changes in family organization overtime. We also discuss sociological theories and methods used to study and understand families, including theories of gender and sexualities. In the second part of the course we focus on family experiences. We begin by considering diversity in contemporary families, how variations in families are socially patterned and political aspects of families. We then move on to exploring dimensions of experience in contemporary family life, including relationships between men and women; parents and children; social institutions and family.