Major Spotlight: Sociology

To help undecided students get a sense of what different majors are like, this semester Her Campus Columbia Barnard is doing a series of major spotlights asking people for their thoughts and experiences with different departments.

This week’s major spotlight focuses on the Barnard sociology major only and not Columbia’s. Thanks to Michele Budin (Barnard class of '18) for letting me interview her!

Her Campus: What’s your major?

Michele Budin: My major is sociology.

HC: What do you think of the department overall?

MB: The Barnard sociology department has been pretty disorganized in the past, and there haven’t been a lot of accessible group meetings or sociology-related meet-ups for getting to know others in the major. I think the thesis process has also been run poorly, and it’s not been made clear where to start or when to start. I’ve also had trouble getting a thesis advisor because it seems like some of the professors that do advising maybe don’t want to—I won’t name names. This seems like it’s ended up putting an unnecessary burden on other professors in the department. This year, they did add a senior thesis class to help people with the thesis process, so I hope they continue that in the future.

However, all the classes that I’ve taken in the sociology department I have largely enjoyed. There are usually readings that have illuminated me to social problems that I saw and experienced, or saw others experience but couldn’t explain. I’ve also gotten to go on some field trips, which is always a special experience in college. I also don’t think that there is an overwhelming amount of work, but there is a lot of reading, depending on the class. I’ve taken a lot of four-credit classes where you have to read a book a week, and they’re small enough that you have to demonstrate your knowledge which is good if you really want to delve into the major. At the same time, the major is only 10 classes so there is a lot of room to take other things you enjoy, which I value.

HC: What’s something you like about the department?

MB: The community of sociology majors is filled with a lot of wonderfully passionate individuals. Many of them are driven by social justice causes and will push you to try to think of ways to organize around social problems effectively which is really cool. I’ve met most of these people through my classes.

HC: Any advice for people thinking about the major?

MB: My advice to anyone choosing a major in general is to look at the requirements and what [classes] fill them for several majors they are interested in. I thought the sociology major would have more freedom to take classes ... about gender and that was not so much the case, for example, so I wish I had looked into women’s studies and urban studies.

I would advise starting with Intro to Sociology for an overview of the major. If you’re worried that won’t be exciting or niche enough, then I think challenging yourself with a 200- or 300-level class is fine! Just be sure to talk to the professor and look at the syllabus. My worst classes in the department have been the larger ones because I find that people are disengaged. The largest class I took was Sociology Methods, which is a required class for the major.