A Message from the Chair of Sociology

Dear Colleagues, Students, Friends,

It is not normally the department chair’s duty to comment on political events, but yesterday’s election was not a normal political event. Yesterday the country elected a president who campaigned with direct threats and insults to immigrants, women, Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, the disabled, and countless others, and has exhibited contempt for science, knowledge, rational discourse and other fundamental values of our community.  

There is not much chairs can do in this situation but the little they can, matters to those affected. I would like to reaffirm that our department stands where it has always stood and will do anything it can to uphold the values that are now under threat. This university was built on diversity and reason and we will protect both.

Tomorrow we will hold an open discussion on the election. At this point, all of us are trying to make sense of what happened yesterday. While we may not know what it all means, it is clear that the election of Donald J. Trump is enormously consequential, both at a personal and an intellectual level. Just as the terror attacks of 9/11/2001 brought into question our entire understanding of the world order, just as the financial crisis of 2008 and the resulting Great Recession shook the foundations of our thinking about the economy, the 2016 elections force us to rethink our basic assumptions about society and politics.

At this civic forum we hope to start a conversation about a historic event that will affect our research as social scientists deeply, and that may change our lives profoundly in years to come.  The idea behind the forum, however, is quite modest: we would like to bring together expertise, ideas, experiences and voices scattered among us to help each other begin to understand where we are and why we are here.

 To turn Marx on his head: The world is being changed in various ways; the point is to interpret it.

 The civic forum will be held tomorrow,

Thursday, November 10,
at SSB 101.

Faculty, students and all community members are welcome to attend and participate.

Akos Rona-Tas


Sociology is the systematic study of societies: their composition, organization, culture, and development. At the micro level, sociologists do research on the effects of social interaction and networks on individual and collective behavior, beliefs, and cognition. At the macro level, sociology has at least three major foci.

The first is the study of the organization, culture, and development of collectivities (social classes, groups based on gender, ethnicity, or religion; national and transnational communities). This includes the causes and consequences of collective action by groups, movements, and organizations.

The second is institutions (economic, political, and cultural): how they are formed and sustained, how they interact, how they affect individual and collective action, and how they change.

Finally, sociologists study national societies (their structure, institutions, and culture), and the international social order. This includes the analysis of national and international social change, and processes of reform and revolution.

The Department of Sociology at UC San Diego is unique in that most of its faculty work in four fields: comparative-historical sociology, the sociology of culture, inequalities and the sociology of science. In addition, the department offers basic training in social theory, and quantitative and qualitative methodologies. A further distinctive aspect of this department is that a large proportion of its members are engaged in the study of foreign countries: their institutions, culture, interactions with other nations, development, and change. UC San Diego sociologists do research not only on the United States, but also on societies in Africa, Latin America, East Asia, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

A major in sociology will offer a rigorous preparation to students planning graduate work in sociology, political science, and other social and behavioral sciences. In addition, a sociological education is an excellent background for professional training in law, medicine, business, education, and social work. A sociology major provides a solid liberal education, and it is an ideal choice for undergraduates considering careers in the private sector, government, and non-profit organizations. I invite students interested in pursuing a sociology major or minor to meet our undergraduate coordinator, and get more specific information and advice on requirements, courses, and departmental activities in general.

Akos Rona-Tas
Chair, UC San Diego Department of Sociology

Click here for more information about Akos Rona-Tas.

Click here for more information on the history of UC San Diego Sociology Department.