The Major | Congruence with the MBC Mission Statement | Serving the Needs of the Students

  1. A strong emphasis on application of sociological principles and perspectives through community service (Each academic year, two to three courses include service-learning components. Student involvement in these opportunities tends to carry forward to additional volunteered community service.)
  1. A focus on theory and research methodology through our series of upper-level, core required courses (Our statistics and research methods courses offer graduate-level learning opportunities, which are utilized further in our senior seminar. Work completed is often publishable and has led to professional presentation opportunities for many students.)
  1. Professional preparation through distinctive sociology internships and direct inquiries, and field instruction in social work
  1. An emphasis on social inequalities and global perspectives throughout all of our courses
  1. Use of technology in coursework, through utilization of internet resources and statistical software
  1. The Alpha Kappa Delta International Sociology Honor Society
  1. An optional senior thesis that allows eligibility to graduate with Distinction in the Major and to participate in the Capstone Festival
  1. Combined majors with psychology, anthropology, and coming soon: justice administration


A sociology bachelor of arts degree is a strong liberal arts degree certifying knowledge of social analysis, group dynamics, and the nature of society. The bachelor’s of sociology is consistently ranked as one of the most popular majors on the Mary Baldwin College campus. The department currently has over 130 majors and minors in sociology and the sociology/social work combined major. There is no “typical” sociology student; our student body boasts an impressive diversity in all areas, though all are committed to the study of society and improvement of the human condition. Sociology is a discipline that immediately intrigues; once a student declares her major or minor, she is very unlikely to change it. The department faculty strive to maintain this retention of students, and have proven very successful in this endeavor.

The primary goal of the department is to lead students to an understanding of the sociological perspective or, as it is often called, the sociological imagination. Students of sociology will discover the social world and the intersection of sociocultural forces and individual biographies. One of the primary purposes of the sociology/social work department is to foster the understanding that groups, organizations, and social institutions are social constructions that guide individual behavior.

In addition to teaching the fundamentals of a sociological perspective, our department focuses to a great extent on social inequality, community, and community service. These areas are included in the goals of the department to instill a sense of community service and altruism in our students.

The grasp of the sociological imagination is developed through an understanding of the major concepts in the field, research methodology, and the ability to examine data from a critical point of view. Students are also taught an understanding of the history of the discipline and the major historical and theoretical perspectives. In addition, students are able to communicate their understanding of sociological concepts with oral competency and improved academic writing skills.


With the primary goal of the department grounded in leading students to an understanding of the sociological perspective, focusing on issues of inequality and commitment to the community, sociology courses are congruous to the objectives of Mary Baldwin College. The courses give the students a firm foundation in the social sciences, emphasizing the theoretical underpinnings and the empirical investigative techniques that guide social science. The courses introduce the student to cultures and subcultures other than her own and emphasize cultural relativism as the accepted social scientific perspective. May Term courses provide the student with a variety of multicultural learning experiences. Several courses allow the student to experience the educational value of internet sources. The student is introduced to computer technology and complex statistical software as it can be used to store, describe, and analyze data in both the statistics and research methods courses. These tools empower the student with competitive skills for the rapidly growing digital environment.

The student of sociology is expected to look deeper than common sense understanding of the world and to search for the most accurate rather than the most expedient answer to problems. Many of our courses require the students to work in group projects and demand that they select a topic to present to the class, divide the labor for the presentation, work together outside of class to prepare the presentation, and deliver an organized coherent oral report. These assignments ensure that students must work together, in concert, and promotes the ability to work with others toward a common goal. Additionally, three courses (Sociology of Community, Social Inequality, and Senior Seminar) include the writing emphasis designation.

The department is steadfastly dedicated to ensuring that we instill some sense of character and social commitment in our students. We have begun to stress the importance of community service and altruism in our course offerings as a necessary and required component of majoring in sociology. The community service requirement offers not only the opportunity for our students to work with their peers, but also with the community at large. This means, in essence, that the student establishes meaningful relationships within the social environment through successful community outreach experiences.


Academic Needs:
PEG, ADP, VWIL, and traditional students are present in most all sociology courses on campus. Professors in the discipline offer a wide range of the courses to off-campus ADP students as group tutorials, individual tutorials, and on-line courses. With the addition of computers at Roanoke and Richmond ADP centers, we are now able to offer a comparable research methods course to all ADP students. The department offers a variety of degree plans, including the sociology major, thethe sociology minor, the sociology/anthropology combined major, and the sociology/psychology interdisciplinary major. In addition to these degree plans, the department extends internship opportunities to the student to allow her a degree of professional development in her chosen area.

ADP Needs:
The sociology department is committed to serving the needs of our adult students. Virtually every course in the discipline is made available to ADP students, either through a group tutorial, or an independent tutorial. Members of the department strive to create open, easily accessible communication with adults, who are often not on campus and must have access to instructors through e-mail, regular mail, or telephone. Our courses are organized for adults to ensure that the syllabus is up-to-date, organized, and the goals of the course clearly defined. In addition, we make sure that there are several meaningful conversations with the students throughout the learning process. Members of the department are also involved in handling and overseeing degree plans, attending ADP orientations for new students, and holding various workshops designed to improve the quality of adult learning.

In addition to serving the academic needs of our students, the department is dedicated to the maintenance of social cohesion among students and faculty. Professors have established an open door policy to all students, and are readily available to address the academic, professional, and social needs of the student. An ongoing monthly off-campus meeting has been successful in bringing students, faculty, and community together in a relaxed atmosphere. Students and faculty also work side-by-side in community outreach planning and application. This community rapport that develops between students and faculty serves to deter the alienation that often occurs in educational settings, and helps to prepare the student for collegial relationships in the professional world.

Professional Needs:
To assist in professional development as well as to reward rigorous study, Drs. Usher and Stuhlsatz chartered a chapter of the International Sociology Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Delta, in 2003. Induction into the honor society is limited to students of the highest academic caliber, and the lifetime membership offers substantial benefits to the active sociologist.