Learning Goals for the Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Consistent with the broad ideals of a liberal arts education, our principal goal is to foster critical thinking on the part of our uniquely diverse and talented students so that they may meet the challenges of global citizenship in the twenty-first century. Through coursework, study abroad, advising, and senior thesis work, we challenge them to place their considerable accomplishments in a broader context, not to diminish them but to make clear that socio-cultural systems play an important role in shaping aspirations, aptitudes, and practices in the classroom and beyond. Our expectation is that through systematic exposure to discipline-specific concepts, theories, and methods of inquiry, majors in Anthropology and Sociology will strive to challenge conventional wisdom, wherever they find it, and contribute to a more just world.

Beginning with a parallel sequence of introductory, theory, and methods coursework, Anthropology and Sociology majors develop an understanding of basic sociological and anthropological concepts, of theories and theorists consequential in advancing disciplinary thinking over the years, and of methods for empirical documentation which will enable them to pursue systematic investigations of their own. Majors also complete elective coursework in each discipline (including, for Anthropology majors, at least one Sociology course and for Sociology majors, at least one Anthropology course) which enables them to construct an individualized program of study focusing on specific substantive areas while simultaneously striving to integrate concepts, theories and empirical findings across those areas. For seniors who choose to pursue it, the year-long thesis project focusing on an independently chosen topic serves as a capstone experience in which, through close and continued consultation with a faculty advisor, they demonstrate their accumulated knowledge, analytical skills, methodological proficiency, and intellectual creativity in the completion of a substantial research paper.

Through completion of an Anthropology or Sociology major, among the more specific intellectual competencies we seek to foster in our students are identifying the social and cultural underpinnings of human action and their variation across time and place; understanding how broad-based structures and institutional dynamics shape society, culture, and the self; exposing assumptions that underlie disciplinary research; grasping complex empirical and theoretical problems and developing appropriate analytical logics to study and explain them; comprehending power dynamics that generate stratification and inequality; grasping the political and ethical implications of social research; communicating anthropological and sociological knowledge effectively in written and oral forms; and recognizing and respecting social and cultural differences, including the role they play in rethinking the truth claims of hegemonic discourse, inside and outside the classroom.