Our courses aim to provide students with interesting, hands-on experiences that will continue to be valuable long after final grades are submitted. Here's a look at some of our new courses that are broadening student horizons: 

Spotlight Courses

This course teaches students about the impact of the nonprofit sector on American society.  The course explores the history of charitable organizations in the United States as well as seeks to explain the existence of the sector through social science theories.  SOCI 3321 highlights the importance of the nonprofit sector in relation to the roles that government and the economy might have.  This course also introduces concepts of strategic planning, fundraising, and financial management.  SOCI 3321 is geared towards students interested in working in the nonprofit sector, and is also beneficial to anyone interested in volunteering or other philanthropic behavior.  

For the vast majority of human history, society was rural. As late as 1900, only 10% of the world’s population lived in cities. Today, 55% of humans are city dwellers and by 2050, 75% of people around the world (~6 billion) will live in urban areas. It is thus frequently said that humanity has entered a new “urban age” of development.   This course provides students with an introduction to (1) the large-scale, structural forces shaping cities around the world, (2) how these forces impact urban communities and the life chances of urban residents, and (3) how local settlements and social formations resist, contest, and intervene in those forces.   This course pays special attention to the feats and follies of the “high modernist” city, with a special emphasis on Brasilia, Haussmann’s Paris, and compulsory villagization in Tanzania.   This course also examines urban conflict and change across space.  While mega-cities in the developing world are experiencing explosive growth, many of the formerly industrial centers of the developed world are experiencing stagnation, shrinkage, and abandonment. Case studies will highlight the distinctive challenges and opportunities facing urban communities in both contexts.   


The Department of Sociology actively supports the SMU in Taos campus and programs.  The department regularly offers three courses in Taos:  Research Methods, Introduction to Markets and Culture, and Contemporary Issues in the American Southwest.  In this course students are given a foundation in sociological theories in order to think about contemporary social issues in the American Southwest.  Sociologists contend that social problems exist within the context of particular societies and cultures.  While many of the social problems encountered in New Mexico are found elsewhere, this course explores local conditions in order to understand their unique character in New Mexico.  This course specifically focuses on food insecurity, environmental threats, poverty, and crime and domestic violence.  Through classroom lectures and extensive community engagement students come understand the local problems facing the Taos community and help to identify possible solutions.


This course is designed to move students a step or two beyond basic methods and practice in sociological research. By the end of the course, students are able to identify, select, plan and implement research strategies. In order to consider sociological issues such as inequality, activism, economic development, media representations, and much more, we study the availability of food in the community of West Dallas, a specific and historic community that is now part of the city of Dallas. Using sociological research methods and appropriate data (including archives, newspapers, photography, interviews, digital mapping and participant observation), we work as a team and as individuals collecting, organizing and analyzing data from West Dallas. SOCI 4390 is geared towards students who are considering careers or additional degrees that require experience with primary data collection. This is also a wonderful course for students considering independent research projects that might be considered for university awards such as department distinction, engaged learning, or Big Ideas. It is also a wonderful opportunity for students who wish to step out of the classroom to see how in-class learning applies to the real world.