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Department of Sociology
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Phone: 509-963-1305
Fax: 509-963-1308

Student Handbook

Welcome to the Department of Sociology at Central Washington University. This handbook is designed to assist you in completing a successful program of study with the department. Please read it carefully. If you have any questions, please ask someone in the department to assist you. Please note that this handbook is not a substitute for the University Catalog. You should refer to that official document when planning your studies.

Table of Contents

General Department Information

Through its curriculum, the Department of Sociology provides opportunities for students to understand the major conceptual and methodological tools used by sociologists and others to understand society. Students will be encouraged to:

  • see society as a concrete, day-to-day behavior of human beings.

  • grasp the relationship between history, society and the individual's own life.

  • realize that social patterns are tools for the accomplishment of human ends and are not necessarily unalterable facts of life.

  • develop the ability to observe critically and analyze social phenomena.

In providing these intellectual skills, the Sociology major is relevant to a wide variety of academic and occupational pursuits and is concerned with developing skills of analytic thought and practice in areas including the social services profession, labor and business organization, personnel work, government program administration and graduate study.

Students who major in Sociology are required to register with the Department, at which time an advisor will be selected. In order to develop a Program of Study, students are required to meet once a quarter with their advisor. Further information on specific courses, the faculty and career opportunities is available in the Department office. Students must complete an end of major assessment prior to graduation.

What Is Sociology?

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social cause and consequence of human behavior. Sociologist investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject mater of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious cults; from the division of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports. In fact, few fields have such broad scope and relevance for research, theory, and application of knowledge. (American Sociological Association).

Through its curriculum the Department of Sociology provides opportunities for students to understand the conceptual and methodological tools used by sociologists and others to understand society. Students will be encouraged to:

  • See society as a social construct - the result of day-to-day behavior of human beings.

  • Grasp the relationship between history, society and the individual's own life.

  • Realize the social patterns are tools for the accomplishment of human ends and are not necessarily unalterable facts of life.

  • Develop the ability to observe critically and analyze social phenomena.

In providing these intellectual skills, the Sociology major is relevant to a wide variety of academic and occupational pursuits. Majors will develop skills of analytic thought and practice which will provide a foundation for personal growth, post-graduate education, and entrance into many public and private sector occupations.

Why Study Sociology?

Sociology provides many distinctive perspectives on the world, generating new ideas and critiquing the old. The field also offers a range of research techniques that can be applied to virtually any aspect of social life: street crime and delinquency, corporate downsizing, how people express emotions, welfare or education reform, how families differ and flourish, or problems of peace and war. Because sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is a rapidly expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft policies and create programs. Sociologists understand social inequality, patterns of behavior, forces for social change and resistance, and how social systems work.

Sociology is an exciting discipline with expanding opportunities for a wide range of career paths. Sociology is a valuable liberal arts major for students planning careers in a wide variety of fields including social research, criminology, demography, social psychology, public administration, gerontology, education, rehabilitation, social work, and market research. It provides a useful background for those planning to enter law, business, medicine, community planning, architecture, and politics. In many professional schools, sociology courses are part of the requirements. (American Sociological Association)

Learning Outcomes

Central Washington University and the Department of Sociology are committed to producing high quality graduates for entry into service related and other forms of employment. One way to accomplish this goal is to insure that our graduates are able to communicate various aspects of the "Sociological Imagination" effectively.

We have identified several assessment outcomes to accomplish these tasks. Briefly, we want to know how well our students can:

  • Describe and analyze the world in sociologically imaginative ways by identifying and/or demonstrating the linkages between individual experience and social issues both theoretically and in practical applications.

  • Comprehend the world beyond the single dimensionality of any cultural world view, recognizing the value of other cultural perspectives, and understanding the relationship between power and perspective.

  • Understand and recognize the ubiquitous and changing forms of social inequality (specifically race, gender, and class) at institutional and individual levels in U.S. and in global society, and their consequences of exclusion, exploitation, and oppression to particular groups.

Declaring a Major or Minor - Admission Policy

Once a student has formally registered for classes at CWU he/she may declare a major or minor in one of our programs. Students are encouraged to declare a major or minor as soon as possible and certainly before they have earned 100 university credit hours. Course work planning is important to avoid delays in completing graduation requirements.

Declaration Forms for programs in Sociology, Social Services, and Ethnic Studies can be obtained from the department office or the web page here and must be completed and signed by a Sociology Department advisor.

Steps in declaring a major or minor

  • Select a Sociology Department advisor (See "Selecting an Advisor" below). If you do not have a preference, the department will assist you in locating a faculty member to help you with your major or minor declaration.

  • Meet with your department advisor to discuss your academic and career goals. The advisor will help you select a program of study that most closely matches your academic and career goals (you may change your major or minor at a later date by submitting another declaration form).

  • Submit the signed forms to the Department Secretary and who will process them.

Selecting an Advisor

If you have contemplated pursuing a course of studies with the Sociology Department, it is very important to discuss your academic and career goals with an advisor affiliated with our department. Any Sociology Department faculty member may be selected as an advisor, and you may change advisors at any time. This person can assist you in deciding whether one of our programs (or a program offered elsewhere on campus) is really the best option given your career and academic goals. If it is determined that your interests and goals can best be served through our curriculum, the advisor will suggest the most appropriate major (or minor) to enroll in. You will also be provided with information regarding the specific requirements of the major (or minor) and guidance as to when you should take certain courses.

While students are only required to see an advisor when a major or minor is first declared, it is recommended that you to consult with your advisor on a quarterly basis, and certainly at a minimum once per year. This faculty member may have important information to pass along about changes in course scheduling; opportunities for extra-curricular activities; or other information which might affect the quality and efficiency of academic progress. During general advising and in classroom announcements, students are reminded to obtain a CAPS report at the close of their junior year and to have it reviewed by their advisor to assure smooth progress in meeting all graduation requirements.

Other Important Considerations

The next section of your handbook lists course requirements for the various majors in sociology. (You can find the same thing in your University Catalog). Knowing what courses you must take to complete a specific major is only the first problem in completing your studies efficiently and productively. We would like to discuss some other things for you to consider.

Most courses are taught only once each year. Because of the extensive range of courses we offer, combined with limited faculty to teach each course, most courses are offered once a year. This is especially true of many upper-division (300-400) courses. This is a vital consideration when planning your major or minor with the department. You must plan ahead! Seeing your advisor on a quarterly basis is a good way to ensure successful progress in your chosen major or minor. For additional aide and course information, the Sociology department prints a course schedule for the up-coming quarter. The schedule is posted outside the main office and is posted on this website.

Some courses have prerequisites. Be careful to note in the catalog whether a course requires you to complete another course(s), have a certain class standing, or to have a specific number of credits in sociology, before you are allowed to register in it.

Courses may be taught in a sequential pattern. Although some courses do not have formal prerequisites, it may not be wise to take them before taking other courses. The background content gained in one course may be invaluable when taking the next course in the sequence. For example, it would be advisable to take "Introduction to Social Services" before taking "Social Welfare Policy." Your advisor and the course instructors can assist you with course planning.

Because of course prerequisites, course sequencing, and because a particular course may only be taught once each year, it is essential that schedules be planned early in the major.

Approved Electives for Sociology Majors:

All upper-division courses taught within the department (those with either a SOC or ETS prefix) constitute approved electives in sociology.

With the prior approval of your advisor and the department chair, in certain (unusual) instances an upper-division course taken from another academic discipline may be accepted as an elective for the major in sociology; outside courses are not permissible for the minor in sociology. In order to exercise this option a student must address the rationale for including the proposed course with their advisor before enrolling in the course and secure the advisor's signature on an Approved Electives form (it can be obtained from our main office). Your advisor will then discuss this with the department chair to obtain her/his approval.

Approaches to choosing electives:

  • Consider the relevance of the course to your occupational goals.

  • Consider how the course might contribute to your personal growth.

  • Discuss the course with your advisor.

  • Discuss the course with the instructor.

  • Go to the University bookstore and review the course textbook(s).

  • When in doubt, take a course from an instructor you have not had. Each instructor has a unique, individual perspective.

Other Educational Opportunities

Individual Studies: Soc 296 and 496 are 1-6 credits "Individual Studies" courses which are designed to allow the maximum flexibility in student-designed educational experiences. Working with a professor, students carve out a specialized topic and procedure for study.

Teaching Assistantships: A number of faculty use teaching assistants in their courses Soc 492 "Sociology Teaching Experience" repeatable up to 10 credits. This is excellent experience for anyone who is interested in teaching and/or intending to pursue graduate study. It is an opportunity that is unique for undergraduates at smaller universities in departments which do not have graduate students to serve as teaching assistants. Sometimes payment is available for this or students may enroll for Individual Study credit.

Research Assistantships: Faculty engaged in research projects are always looking for research assistants Soc 495 "Sociological Research" 1-15 credits, repeated up to a maximum of 15 credits. This is a great opportunity for hands-on learning about social scientific research. It is also an important part of the undergraduate experience for students intending to go on to graduate school.

Honors in Sociology:

1. The sociology department’s honors program is designed for students who wish to explore a particular research problem in depth.

2. Admission to the program

     The student must:

      (a)  Have a 3.50 or higher cumulative GPA in sociology courses
      (b)  Be at least a junior
      (c)  Have a faculty member sponsorship; the faculty member would submit student’s name to the department for admission

3. Requirements

     The student is required to:

      (a)  Maintain a 3.5 or higher GPA in sociology coursework (including any approved outside electives) applied to the sociology degree
      (b)  Enroll in SOC 495 beginning fall quarter of the senior year (minimum of 10 credits over the course of that year)
      (c)  Complete a research project under the supervision of a faculty
      (d)  Participate in a public presentation of the research project (such as SOURCE, a professional conference, or other departmental-approved venues)

4.Those who fail to maintain a 3.5 GPA in the major, or who fail to participate in a public presentation will not receive honors.


AKD - Alpha Kappa Delta Honor Society

The Sociology Department at CWU invites eligible students to become a member of AKD, the Sociology Honor Society.


Incomplete Grade Policy

As a general department policy, Incomplete ("I") Grades should be given only when a student is not able to complete the course by the end of the term due to demonstrated medical problems, extreme personal hardship, or family emergencies. Incompletes are not to be given for any other reason. In addition, an Incomplete may not be issued unless the student has satisfactorily completed a majority of course requirements prior to the exigency. Except for extreme circumstances, department faculty are encouraged to set the maximum date for the completion of the student's work at one month.

Grade Change and Contesting Grades Policy

As a general policy of the department, Grade Changes are only to be submitted when errors occur in grade calculations. A grade change is not an appropriate remedy for allowing students the opportunity to increase their course grades via the submission of new or additional materials. In keeping with university policy, all student requests for grade changes must be made (processed and resolved) prior to the end of the quarter following the one in which they took the course. Errors in spring quarter grades may be changed until the end of the following fall quarter.

In order to contest a grade a student must present graded exams, papers, and any other feedback received in the course. Therefore, it is critical that students retain all returned course materials. Faculty should return course materials to students, retain them for at least one year, or inform students in their syllabus when and how they may pick up course materials after the close of the term. As indicated in university policy any student seeking to challenge a course grade must first meet with the faculty member responsible for the course. Only after meeting with the faculty member can a student appeal a grade to the department chair, dean, and the Academic Affairs Committee (in that order).

Assignment and Exam Policy

As a general policy of the department, all faculty members will specify their specific rules pertaining to paper and assignment due dates and times, the mechanics for submitting papers and assignments, as well as any penalties assessed for not meeting deadlines or failing to follow submission expectations. Thus, the faculty member will define where, when and to whom an assignment is to be turned in, whether electronic submission is or is not acceptable, and whether late assignments are accepted and what penalties are associated with missed deadlines. If a faculty member allows for extra-credit work and/or re-submission of course assignments/exams as a mechanism of improving course grades, he/she will specifically address how these materials will be assigned, graded and processed. It is also the explicit policy of the department that these materials must be submitted and processed by the end of that quarter (so that grades can be turned in on time). Thus, extra-credit and re-submission opportunities may not result in the late submission of final course grades or the issuance of "Incomplete" grades. If a faculty member does not specifically make reference to extra-credit and/or re-submission options in a course, students are to understand that these are not allowed in that course.


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