The Major

The SOAN department does not impart a set of professional skills so much as educate students to see the world through the eyes of a social scientist. In training students to view human events from a number of perspectives, SOAN develops the analytical and problem-solving skills needed in any career.

The department sponsors events for majors, faculty, and anyone else who would like to attend. These events include colloquia, potables-and-cheese type parties, taking a faculty member to lunch (there is such a thing as a free lunch!), and the spring SOAN picnic. If you're a major, come to as many as you can, as they are good opportunities to get to know your fellow majors and the faculty on an informal level.

We can't overstate how important it is that every SOAN major gain a deep, integrated understanding of another culture, and to learn about the practical and philosophical obstacles that make achieving such understanding difficult. Doing an intensive study of some other culture is not easy. Nor does it guarantee that you will understand that culture. If you don't make the effort, though, you miss out on two crucial and distinctive aspects of sociology and anthropology: 1) the fight against ethnocentrism through both empathetic and intellectual understanding of other cultures, and 2) the practice of certain techniques in achieving such understanding.

Another important reason for gaining such in-depth knowledge of other cultures is that doing so will put you in a better position to understand and critique theory and method in sociology and anthropology. Your own efforts to understand another culture should lead you to appreciate the illumination that theory can shed on features of human society that seem to resist all comprehension. At the same time, the insight you achieve can point to the strengths and weaknesses of particular theories for answering certain questions.