American Sociological Association

Department Chairs Preconference

The Sociology Major in the Changing Landscape of Higher Education: Recommendations from the ASA Task Force on Liberal Learning

Friday, August 11, 2016.  8:00am-4:00pm, Department Affiliates: $150/Non-Affiliates: $180

Chairs Pre-conference Agenda

In March of 2017 the ASA Council approved the final report of the Task Force on Liberal Learning. Titled The Sociology Major in the Changing Landscape of Higher Education: Curriculum, Careers, and Online Learning, it includes 12 recommendations for the undergraduate major and three strategy sections designed to guide departments in implementing the recommendations. The ASA Department Chairs Preconference in Montréal will examine the implications of the newly released recommendations for sociology programs and departments across the full range institutional contexts, including PhD-granting, MA-granting, BA-granting, and multi-disciplinary departments.

In the 13 years since the ASA last issued recommendations for the undergraduate major, the higher education landscape has shifted significantly along multiple dimensions. Program assessment is now virtually universal--although its use-value remains highly contested and curricula with logical sequences building to clear learning outcomes are harder to find. Larger student loan burdens, wide-spread wage stagnation, and an increasingly diverse student body all mean that students (and their parents) are considering the employment implications of their college choices even before they set foot on college campuses. Online education, which was not even mentioned in the 2004 recommendations, is now a feature of over 60 percent of sociology departments (Spalter-Roth, Van Vooren, Kisielewski 2013). The ASA’s new recommendations for the sociology major are designed to help departments build solid and flourishing programs in this challenging terrain.

The pre-conference opening plenary will focus on the changing landscape of higher education and will feature Richard Arum, Dean of the School of Education at UC Irvine and co-author of Improving Quality in American Education (2016), Aspiring Adults Adrift (2014), and Academically Adrift (2011) and Mitchell Stevens, Stanford University, co-editor of Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education (2015). Susan Ferguson, Grinnell College and Task Force Co-Chair and Diane Pike, Augsburg College and Task Force Member, will be the speakers for a second plenary that will address the ways to the task force process and recommendations respond to that changing landscape. 

In addition to plenary presentations and roundtable discussions linked to this year’s Chairs Conference theme, the conference also will help department chairs—both new and experienced—develop their leadership and management skills in core areas of responsibility such as: running effective department meetings, managing budgets, increasing majors, responding to MCAT 2015, preparing for program review, and building and maintaining department morale.  Concurrent roundtable sessions during the conference are scheduled to allow Chairs from the full range of academic institutions find topics in each session that are appropriate in their context.


All 2017 Department Chairs Conference participants will receive two free books:

  • The Sociology Major in the Changing Landscape of Higher Education: Curriculum, Careers and Online Education (Pike et al. 2017)
  • Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessments for the 21st Century (Arum, Roksa, and Cook 2016)


Pearson 2017
University of McGill Department of Sociology 2017
Quebec Research Fund-Society and Culture
Federation for the Humanities
Concordia 2017
UMontreal 2017