Sample course descriptions from current teaching
Graduate class on social inequality
This course focuses on the three primary sociological concepts of inequality: race, class, and gender. The course is also intended to highlight the role of “intersectionality,” namely the way these various sources of power overlap, resulting in variation of outcomes and experiences. Race and gender are typically recognized as being important sources of status and stratification but are often thought of as biological rather than positions in a social structure. Class is just as complicated: there are many ways to measure class (even social scientists do not always agree or adhere to the same standards of what class means), while many Americans do not believe in class as a source of advantage or disadvantage at all. While we all have race, gender, and class positions, and experience each simultaneously, the relationships between these statuses and their primacy may shift in our self-understandings. This course considers cultural and structural explanations for inequality; how to conceptualize and measure race, class, and gender; various life-course outcomes associated with variation in these social positions; and the ways that these statuses intersect within particular institutions such as the workplace or the family.
Sociology capstone course: Contemporary College Worlds
This capstone requires students to bring together their topical, methodological, and theoretical learning in the service of understanding contemporary student life. Our focus will be holistic, but focused on experiences rather than outcomes—in other words, we won’t be spending very much time quantitatively comparing GPA or graduation rate variations, but rather thinking about and observing students’ day-to-day lives. Over the semester, students will review qualitative, especially ethnographic, work in different areas of higher education—academic learning, partying, Greek life, time management, and so forth. Based on these works and students’ own reflections, we will then design our own ethnographic research projects here at OU. Students will work in groups to conduct fieldwork and interviews, culminating in a final paper and presentation.
Sociology of Education
Schools are the center of many contemporary social questions: Are students from particular schools, states, or family backgrounds doing better than others? Who is responsible for making sure students learn? What benefits come from going to college, and is it worth the high cost? Are standardized tests helpful for measuring accomplishment or potential? The sociology of education tackles these kinds of questions by examining the many roles that schools and school actors play, from socializing individuals to reproducing status over generations. This class provides an introduction to American education. Readings cover primary, secondary, and post-secondary education, with a focus on education’s role in stratification, namely the way that schools provide advantages or disadvantages to individuals according to particular characteristics, most commonly race/ethnicity, class, and gender.