A Message from the Chair of Sociology

Dear Colleagues, Students, Friends,

It is not normally the department chair’s task to comment on political events, but since November 2016, we left the predictable world of normalcy and entered a new era.  Our country elected a president who as a candidate campaigned with direct threats and insults to immigrants, women, Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, the disabled, and countless others, exhibited contempt for science, knowledge, rational discourse and other fundamental values of our community, and once in office has kept his course.  

There is not much chairs can do in this situation but the little they are able to, matters to those affected. I would like to reaffirm that our department stands where it has always stood and it 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.

In addition to the challenges to our basic values, sociologists also face an intellectual and professional challenge. Just as the terror attacks of 2001 brought into question our entire understanding of the world order, and just as the financial crisis of 2008 and the resulting Great Recession shook the foundations of our thinking about the economy, the 2016 political landslide forces us to rethink many of our basic assumptions about society and politics.

This is a busy time for social scientists, as we find ourselves under the spell of the famous but apocryphal Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

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

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