Updated Nov. 18, 2022, 3:00 p.m.
The sociology department will be transitioning to a new structure as of Fall 2022, changing their course offerings and major requirements. These changes will only be in effect for any new students starting this fall who declare the sociology major and won’t affect any current sociology students, according to sociology professor Jonekke Koomen. However, all current sociology majors will be given the choice to “opt into the new soc[iology] major if they want to and if it works for them."
All declared sociology majors and minors were informed of these changes at a Zoom meeting held at the beginning of the Fall 2022 Semester. Senior sociology major Graham George (‘23), who attended that meeting, said that the primary change he became aware of is that the department no longer requires an internship to graduate; they are now offering a career course as part of their “senior experience” in place of the internship. George said the changes ultimately make it easier to graduate. Professor Koomen clarified for us that the department didn’t eliminate the Sociology Internship Class but rather eliminated the Sociology Thesis Class, since they recognized that the internship does more for student’s sociology education than the thesis class. Navigating these changes is something George as well as many other majors are still sorting out with their advisors.
Professor Koomen said that the Sociology department decided to change their course offerings and requirements for three main reasons. It was primarily a reaction based on students’ senior evaluations and what courses they said “contributed a lot to their education in sociology” and those that “didn’t contribute as much to their education or felt mismatched with the rest of their soc. major”, Professor Koomen said. The department was also responding to students’ need for flexibility in their schedule, especially in the wake of the pandemic. As the sociology department (and Willamette as a whole) is seeing an increase in non-traditional students, Professor Koomen said that faculty “wanted to build more flexibility in the major so that they could count more classes outside the soc[iology] department” as well as provide more ways for students to fulfill their requirements.
The final reason is due to an unfortunate decrease in the sociology faculty, down from six to only three: Professor Koomen, Professor Lorenzen and Professor Drew, who is currently away for the semester. The department has been suffering from the university’s “long-term hiring freeze,” which they are just now lifting to hire more permanent faculty members. The department is hoping to be able to hire a professor part-time in the spring, but ultimately is unsure when they will be hiring additional faculty.
George said that he’s ultimately excited about these new changes and probably will opt into the new major program since it alleviates the requirement to do an internship, though he still can do one if he has the time or finds the right program. All sociology majors are given until the end of the fall semester to determine if they want to opt into the new program to complete their degree here at Willamette.
Professor Janet Lorenzen, the sociology department chair, declined an interview, but did state that the sociology department is not the only department undergoing these sorts of structural changes.