Public Sociology

Our Curricular Core:

The Sociology Department's core areas-- Social Change, Inequality, Social Institutions and Organizations, Individual, Culture and Society are arrangements of courses that correspond to sociology as a set of questions:

  • What does it mean to be social beings, how has that changed over time ?
  • What is the basis for social order and disorder?
  • Why are people unequal in society in terms of race, social class, gender and other social attributes?
  • Are human beings free and what is social control?
  • Why is there misery and what are the social causes?
  • Does and can the individual make a difference?
  • How do societies change, and what influences societies to change?
  • How do societies (globally) culturally and socially influence one another?


Students learn methodologies and practices to develop their sociological imaginations to think about the social worlds they live in and to imagine alternative futures. They engage all of this practically through courses in Research Methods, Community Organizing and Visual Sociology in which they might  employ to write for publications , help do studies for community groups, and help organize community presentations. Students may complete photographic and other visual studies of cultural and social processes.


Public Sociology Weaves Everything Together: 'Sociology in the Public Interest'

Public sociology involves the study of changing, maintenance or creation of living conditions that are conducive to human welfare. Living conditions affect the individual, the community, institutions, and wider societal levels. American sociologists have long been engaged in public issues. With policy makers and activists they have promoted social change. Public Sociology aims to improve human welfare and to meet human needs for education, health, housing and social security. Public sociologists asks what is to be done to secure basic structural,cultural and personal changes in American society.  Sociologist study the social relationships in and between groups as well as the cultural and structural relationships of a society. These relationships are based on distribution of what a society values in terms of living conditions conducive to human welfare.

Public sociology " promotes and informs public debate about living conditions and human welfare. They challenge the world as we know it, exposing the gap between what is and what could be."

Exposing the gap between 'what is ' and 'what could be' entails that we find the means to describe and explain how, when and where changes might be made.  Exposing the gaps also suggests that we  learn  processes that may lead to solutions. This means that  students learn  different ways in which sociological ideas can be translated usefully so as to be of practical use to communities of interest.

Students in the sociology department often study issues  of life chances, and the quality and quantity of resources available to various social groups. The goal of public sociology in our department is to help students to think positively about change and to see the value of participation in their community's discussions and solutions to social welfare issues. Students are asked to develop skills, leadership and commitment and to be engaged in changing their own as well as other people's attitudes and behaviors. Students become involved with living conditions of the workplace, a school district, a particular group in need of social justice,equity or fairness .  Students are invited to do public sociology  at  a particular level of social change: the individual, the community, institutions and organizations and other societal forms such as media and as such, students begin a lifelong enterprise  to weave study, observation, and action to address the well-being of all of us. 

Many courses in the department have a  Public Sociology dimension to them.  Students may have exercises that may ask students to apply sociological knowledge to help neighborhood groups gather data, to develop programs to help tutor; they may document, they may write reports, papers or produce presentations that question and analyze  social or community issues and to make available information  to communities  that may help public discussions.

 Students may take on larger projects and research that may extend for a school year when they are seniors.  Some students may participate in public sociology work not only in Ithaca but  even in the Dominican Republic!  There is room for different kinds of activities geared to social improvement and change. 

Majors and minors in Sociology benefit by seeing and experiencing the relationships between what they learn in the classroom, and in their co-curricular activities and eventually they may use sociology to prepare themselves as  journalists, documentary photographers, human service professionals, lawyers, social policy analysts and still others may become public intellectuals or activists .   




School of Humanities and Sciences  ·  201 Muller Center  ·  Ithaca College  ·  Ithaca, NY 14850  ·  (607) 274-3102  ·  Full Directory Listing