A 1950s city street with many lit up signs including Lucky Casino, The Mint, and hotels.
Program Overview


Making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Allen Memorial Art Museum

The Study of Collective Behavior

As one of the oldest departments in the country, sociology at Oberlin has retained its focus on the systematic study of social phenomena, from civil unrest to the dynamics of families, institutions, and subcultures. Sociologists ask questions about inequality along axes of race, class, gender and other markers of identity; the relationship between institutions and collective behavior; and the conditions that give rise to social upheaval and change. 

Oberlin’s sociology faculty are active researchers on questions regarding race, ethnicity, immigration, and nationalism; labor and work; inequality; gender and sexuality; social movements and identity politics; and the institutions of education, family, and state. Our department contributes to such interdisciplinary programs as Africana studies; comparative American studies; environmental studies; gender, sexuality, and feminist studies; law and society; and Russian and East European and Eurasian studies. 

A Tool-Kit for Change

Sociology students use the quantitative and critical skills learned in the classroom to address complex problems in the wider world. Our majors are trained to analyze, interpret, frame, and mobilize data at both the micro- and macro-level in ways that are desirable across a range of professions. From policy and advocacy work to education and the law, our graduates are equipped to pursue careers in both the private and public sectors.

Oberlin College introduced its students to the study of sociology in 1890 making it one of the first colleges in the country to offer instruction in this field.

Music and Popular Culture

From the origins of punk and hip hop to  queer nightlife, the study of music and popular culture is both a subfield within sociology and an interdivisional minor bridging Oberlin’s college and conservatory. In this minor, music serves as a lens through which students come to understand cultural practices both historically and globally.

A collage of music album covers including The Doors, REM, XTC, Bette Midler, and Beastie Boys.
Oberlin College is among the top producers of Fulbright scholars in the United States.
Learn more about Oberlin’s legacy of Fulbright scholars

Education and Social Justice

With a unique history beginning in 1833, Oberlin College works to acknowledge the distinctive cultural identities and histories of those who live, study, and work here while encouraging students to intentionally engage with those whose experiences and perspectives are different from their own.

1960s era protesters walk arm in arm, carrying a banner reading 'Bring our troops home now.'

Undergraduate Research at Oberlin

Bour Opoku

While a great deal has been written about the hypersexualization of Black women, not nearly enough is known about its negative psychological effects on them.

Featured Courses

SOCI 203

Sociology of Sexuality

Sociologists study the social origins of sexuality: how shared beliefs shape what we desire, what is taboo or what shames us. Historical and cross-cultural research illuminates the way modern sexuality transformed systems of dating, marriage, homosexuality, government, economics and racial classification. Following Freud, Foucault, feminist and queer theorists, learn why sociologists are skeptical of essentialist explanations that rely on biology and favor theories that recognize sexuality as a diverse, ever-changing function of cultural institutions.

Taught by
Greggor Mattson
SOCI 314

Unequal Educations

This course focuses on education as a social institution and the inequalities structured within it. Using theory and empirical evidence, education in the United States will be examined from pre-school through post-secondary levels. The intersections of education and other institutions (e.g., political, economic, and familial) are analyzed and include discussions of race/ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. Further, the role of education in social reproduction and social control will be examined.

Taught by
Daphne John
SOCI 219

Race and Racism in the U.S.

In this course, students learn about the social construction of race in the U.S. and the fluidity of the boundaries that define racial groups. Students think critically about the biological fallacy of race and the social reality of racism as widespread and embedded in the fabric of American society. Classic and contemporary texts give students a broad understanding of subjects such as institutional racism, colorblind racism, colorism, critical race theory, intersectionality, racial socialization, white privilege, and multiracialism, among others.

Taught by
Alicia Smith-Tran ’10
SOCI 284

Environmental Sociology

This course introduces students to the growing intellectual and pragmatic focus on the relationship between people and the environment. Throughout the semester, we will investigate the ways in which people and the environment interact with one another, examine how those interactions are influenced by socio-cultural processes such as political power and social inequality, and explore various responses to environmental issues, including individual behaviors, social movements, and policies that legislate human interactions with the natural world.

Taught by
Christie Parris

Student Profiles

A Fulbright Year in Berlin

During her senior year at Oberlin, Miriam Plane ’17, a sociology major and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies Program (GSFS) minor, completed a sociology research project on the education system in Germany, examining the inequalities that exist within the system. After graduation she returned to the country with a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

Miriam Plane

Imagining a New School of Education

Xavier Tirado ’17, a biology and sociology double major, received a Woodrow Wilson Academy Design Fellowship. Through collaboration with academy faculty and staff, fellows create and test assessments to refine the new graduate program while also working towards an initial teaching license in middle or high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects.

Xavier Tirado

Challenging Educational Norms

Jules Taylor ’21 hopes to learn who she is as an educator through a Teaching Assistant Program in France Fellowship. As a French and Sociology major at Oberlin College, Taylor served as a Ninde Scholars tutor within the Oberlin city schools and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Now, she plans to pursue a career in education, aiming to create a learning environment for every learner.

Jules Taylor '21

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.

Students in the grass outside the library.
Photo credit: Jennifer Manna