Founded in 1920 by Howard W. Odum, our department has played a prominent role in the development of sociology as a major field of study in the social sciences. Judged “distinguished” in the 1930s by an American Council of Education evaluation, we continue to be regarded as one of the very best in the world.
From the ranks of faculty and graduates have come seven presidents of the American Sociological Association, beginning with Odum and Rupert Vance and extending to the presidencies of Amos Hawley, Hubert Blalock, Peter Blau. Most recently, Arne Kalleberg, our former department chair, was ASA president in 2007-8. Our faculty continue to serve the discipline in prominent positions, with recent posts including President of the Southern Sociological Society, membership on the ASA council, and several section and committee chairs of the ASA.
Over 700 graduates have received graduate degrees through the program, and their work spans the entire range of sociological specialties. Diversity with balance and a thorough grounding in research skills characterize the sociology program at Chapel Hill in the 21st century.
Our department has always encouraged informal intellectual exchange and mutual support among faculty and students. The department’s colloquium draws outstanding speakers from around the country and abroad, as well as providing an opportunity for faculty and students to present their own research. Informal seminar series are also conducted by the programs in comparative and historical sociology, industrial relations and organizations, life course and family studies, and population and human ecology. Visiting faculty members and researchers are in residence from time to time for periods of a few weeks to a year.
The department’s training program is supplemented by institutes, centers and interdisciplinary programs. The Odum Institute, established by Howard W. Odum in the early 1920s, continues to play an important role in generating research and intellectual activity on the campus. Situated next to the sociology department’s main office in Hamilton Hall, the Institute houses the Louis Harris Data Archive, serves as a clearinghouse for social science activity, publishes a series of research reports, provides technical assistance on matters of research design, sampling and analysis, and orchestrates a series of colloquia.
The Carolina Population Center involves graduate students in the projects of some 50 fellows from social science and health disciplines across the campus and provides valuable research services, from proposal development to word processing and programming assistance.
The Kenan Institute for the Study of Private Enterprise, directed by sociologist John D. Kasarda, promotes a wide range of research projects on businesses and is a fast-growing source of opportunities for sociologists to interact with business leaders.
Other research centers of relevance to graduate training and research include: The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the Sheps Health Services Research Center, the Center for Developmental Science (CDS), and the Institute on Aging.
Today, as in the past, the department edits Social Forces, which is completing its seventh decade as one of the leading professional journals of sociology.