226 Rachel Carson College
(831) 459-4888

Programs Offered

Sociology B.A.

Global Information and Social Enterprise Studies Minor

Sociology Ph.D.

Sociology Designated Emphasis

Other Programs of Interest

Latin American and Latino Studies/Sociology Combined B.A.

Sociology is the study of social interactions among individuals and social groups. More specifically, sociologists examine the cultural, ideological, economic and political contexts of human action including the processes whereby social institutions are created, maintained, and transformed.

Sociology was born as an intellectual response to the democratic and industrial revolutions that ushered in the modern era. As such, it considers how society is organized in relationship to a vision of a just, free, and equal society—a vision that may require fundamental social change. Developing an understanding of both social change and social justice as part of the sociological tradition is one of the teaching goals of sociologists at UCSC. In the process, we expect to develop in students an appreciation for the craft of social science: disciplined inquiry, observation, and research as part of informed global citizenship.

Our faculty have expertise in topics that include, but are not limited to:

  • Children, youth, and families
  • Civic engagement, voting, and citizenship
  • Community-engaged research
  • Cultural politics and the politicization of culture
  • The cultural politics of sex work
  • Critical ethnography
  • Drugs, botanicals, and pharmaceuticals in society
  • Educational inequality
  • Education (K-12 and higher education)
  • Environmental sociology
  • Feminist studies
  • Global and community health
  • Global inequality, crime, and deviance
  • Globalization and international development
  • Health, medicine, and wellness
  • Human rights and health justice
  • Identities and identity changes
  • Immigration and migration
  • International law
  • Intersection of race, class, gender and sexualities
  • Labor studies
  • Latinx communities
  • Law and society
  • Mass media and digital technology
  • Medicine and technology
  • Mortality studies
  • Political economy
  • Popular culture and cultural studies
  • Public policy
  • Queer studies
  • Science and technology
  • Social movements
  • Sociology of emotion and affect
  • Survey design and quantitative data analysis
  • Sustainability
  • Technology and social change
  • Traditional and holistic medicine
  • Urban studies

Sociology faculty use a number of approaches and methods, including field research, critical ethnography, cultural analysis, comparative historical analysis, and quantitative techniques.

Undergraduate Program

The sociology major at UC Santa Cruz is a rigorous program of study that retains enough flexibility to accommodate students with diverse career goals and plans. It ensures that all students are trained in the main theoretical and methodological traditions of sociology, yet permits considerable variation in students’ own areas of specialization. The major provides the necessary intellectual foundation for students who are considering graduate studies in sociology and related social sciences. It also can be used as preparation for careers in fields as diverse as law, social work, management, environmental planning, public service, education, health services, journalism, and counseling. Finally, the sociology major can provide a general liberal arts education for undergraduates interested in the study of contemporary society and social problems.

Because of the interdisciplinary emphasis among sociology faculty, undergraduates find the department amenable for double majors and minors, and non-majors find many sociology courses of interest. In recent years, students have conducted independent studies and written senior theses on a variety of subjects including undocumented immigrants, cultural diversity and inclusion in education, low-wage workers in Santa Cruz County, housing shortage, race and musical theater, homelessness, the impact of COVID on students, using technology for social good, incarceration and health care, weight stigmas and eating disorders, and belonging and exclusion.

The Sociology Department offers two undergraduate majors: 1) a general sociology major; 2) a sociology with a concentration in global information and social enterprise studies (GISES) intensive major. Students also have the option of a combined major in Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) and sociology, which can be found through the LALS Department. Additionally, there is a minor in GISES that is open to students in any major.

Global Information and Social Enterprise Studies

Sponsored by the Sociology Department at UC Santa Cruz is Global Information and Social Enterprise Studies (GISES), a rigorous and innovative program developed in collaboration with the Everett Program for Technology and Social Change. It aspires to create a new generation of well-trained advocates for social justice and sustainable development, who use the tools of information technology and social enterprise to solve global problems. Practically, students develop projects in solidarity with local and global organizations to democratize globalization, deepen social justice, reduce poverty, support digital education, and advance the transition to a sustainable world. The Everett Program combines social entrepreneurship with peer-to-peer and near-to-peer trainings in information technologies with the aim that students learn how to be innovative and creative problem-solvers in order to increase the informational, communication and organizational capacity of community and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The GISES program provides an excellent foundation for students pursuing careers in non-profit management, social advocacy, sustainable businesses, and technology. Depending on a student’s major, there are two ways to enter the GISES program. If a student is a sociology major and wishes to participate in GISES, they should declare the sociology with concentration in GISES intensive major. A student who majors in any field other than sociology should declare GISES as a minor.

Graduate Program

The Sociology Department at UC Santa Cruz is intellectually innovative, both in its interdisciplinary emphasis and in its commitment to inquiry that is engaged with the world beyond the university. The Ph.D. program is designed to educate students in sociological theory and methods and in the discipline's major substantive areas while simultaneously exposing students to other arenas of intellectual inquiry that will aid them as they pursue their research questions and interests. After completing a group of required courses, students work closely with individual faculty members in designing their course of study. The program leads to a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in sociology and prepares students for both academic and non-academic careers. The department does not offer a terminal master of arts (M.A.) program. However, students have the option of applying for a non-terminal master's degree en route to the Ph.D.