From the Chair

Jerald Herting
Jerald Herting

The University of Washington Sociology Department is among the oldest in the nation.  At the same time we can credibly argue that in some respects we are among the youngest.  I say this because of the additions that we continue to make to our faculty and because of our constant search to find new ways to improve our graduate and undergraduate programs and enhance support for the scholarly work of the department.  We are fortunate to have a rich intellectual history, a vital and exciting scholarly community, and a very bright future.

We are committed to, and aggressively strive to deliver educational excellence to our students while not losing the focus on the generation of new knowledge that is the hallmark of leading departments.  Key components of the intellectual life of the department are our seminars, where groups of faculty and graduate students discuss and critique our own ongoing research and scholarship.  The Institutional Analysis Seminar and the Deviance and Social Control Seminar are long standing, ongoing working groups that provide rich supplements to standard graduate courses.  Together with regular colloquia series offered by the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, The Center for Statistics in the Social Sciences, and the West Coast Poverty Center, these seminars provide a wide array of stimulating intellectual opportunities in and around the department.  Faculty members from the Sociology Department play leadership roles in many of these external centers, and our faculty and graduate students contribute to their continued vitality.  We also regularly invite outstanding scholars to campus to discuss their work.  During the 2008-09 academic year sociologists presented colloquia about gender and politics, rights and public policy, policing, poverty, the American labor movement, and urban communities.  The department also initiated a public tri-lecture series that we expect will continue to be our contribution to the University’s and Seattle’s intellectual scene.  In that first series three of our colleagues discussed their work on genocide, lynching, and homicide.

Our graduate program is small enough for students and faculty to know each other well, yet large enough to have real intellectual diversity.  We train our students to use a variety of methods to conduct theoretically driven research.  Graduate students have many opportunities to develop both research and teaching skills.  Most of their first publishing experience comes as a result of working on projects with the faculty, and the majority of them elect to take our well-established teaching seminar. 

Our undergraduate major is a classical liberal arts program, emphasizing the value of critical analysis, writing, and the development of analytic skills.  While we teach some (very) large classes, the major also includes small classes and seminars, internships, and opportunities to study abroad.  A few years ago we revised the major in order to better prepare students for advanced study or the labor market.  We have renewed our emphasis on the development of expanded opportunities for students to work in practica where they have the chance to do research and serve the community.  Recently our students have completed projects for the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Department of Labor, Seattle’s P-Patch Trust, and the Seattle Public Schools.  We constantly strive to create new opportunities for our majors to work with faculty and graduate students on research projects; in 2009 we held our first Undergraduate Research Symposium, an event that we aim to build into a new departmental tradition.

You can find out much more about our faculty, students, and programs elsewhere on this web site.  Please fill free to pass your comments and questions along to me at

Jerald Herting, Chair
Department of Sociology
University of Washington 
September 2011