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Karina Havrilla, ASA Minority Fellowship Program
Generating and sustaining student involvement in sociology departments is a vital part of maintaining interest in the discipline. In a sociology club, students learn to apply what they are studying in class to activities outside of the lecture hall and they develop a deeper appreciation for sociology. According to a study conducted by the ASA Research and Development Department, students who engage in extracurricular activities such as a sociology club or participate in Alpha Kappa Delta, the sociological honors society, are more likely to increase their social and cultural capital (Spalter-Roth, Van Vooren, and Senter 2009).
In an effort to promote the establishment of more sociology clubs on college campuses, the American Sociological Association (ASA) published a manual, titled The Sociology Student Club Toolkit, written by Stephen Steele in 1992. This manual included detailed descriptions of successful activities and examples of flyers used to promote the club and recruit participants throughout the year. This manual has been edited and republished a few times since the original publication in 1992. The most recent revision was published this past summer and is titled The Sociology Club Guide: Ideas for Generating Student Involvement in Departments of Sociology. This edition builds on the strong content from previous issues, and adds ideas about how to use 21st century social networking technology and other communication tools to promote a sociology club and its activities. It also has updated examples of sociology club activities and initiatives from departments around the country.
A sociology club is beneficial not just for the students but also for the department. This club, like any extracurricular club and organization, provides faculty and staff alike an opportunity to identify leaders on campus and in their departments. A sociology club provides faculty the opportunity to recognize students who are committed to a cause and will most likely continue on in the sociological higher education pipeline. Being involved in such a club can increase the chances that a student will use the skills they obtained from the major when they start their careers.
Having a sociology club demonstrates to undergraduates how sociology can be applied in a real-world setting. Students can take the theories, concepts, and research methods they learn in the classroom to see how sociology is everywhere! Earlier this year, ASA issued a call to various departments asking what activities the sociology clubs at their institutions were doing. A few departments reported encouraging their students to take field trips. Hanover College suggested going to a local mall or park to see how people interact in public spaces. Students at Jacksonville State University have organized trips to social service agencies to get a firsthand account of the social problems they study in the classroom.
Another popular activity that was suggested was a book discussion group. Since students and faculty are both busy with research, it is best to choose a book that addresses a social issue, but is not overly theoretical or academic and is a relatively quick read. At the end of the month, a student panel can lead a discussion about the book and have a professor who has expertise in the subject serve as the facilitator. Other activities that were suggested included career nights, departmental alumni nights, film screenings, colloquiums, talks, and lectures, community service events, and faculty and student socials.
For students interested in starting a sociology club, the key ingredients are the support of your peers, the faculty, and the school administration as well as the drive and motivation to keep it going. First, speak with the faculty in your department to see if there has ever been a sociology club, and, if so, what happened to it. Next, work with a faculty advisor to develop a mission statement to propose to the administration and student government. Once the school has approved a club, you will want to work with other students to develop a constitution for the club, elect officers, and create a proposal to receive funding from the school to get your club started. Many of these steps may depend on school policies. Finally, promote, promote, promote! Use flyers, start a Facebook group, send emails out through the department or schoolwide listservs, attend student club fairs, etc. If you need more details, ideas, or have more questions about sociology clubs, you can purchase the The Sociology Club Guide from the ASA bookstore! See www.asanet.org/teaching/white_papers_and_web_links.cfm.Back to Top of Page