A Message from Professor Paul E. Willis, Director of the Sociology Concentration
Sociology at Princeton offers a cutting edge undergraduate concentration for people interested in the social dimensions of politics, economics, history, psychology, and demography.
Our graduates are admitted to the leading medical, law and business schools. They take a variety of jobs from Wall Street to social activism.
Our faculty do research and teaching on important topics of concern in the “real world” from social networks, immigration, and inequality to globalization, politics, and economic sociology. But the best way to learn about what we do is from our students themselves in the videos below.
Before deciding on the concentration, we recommend that you take a Soc course or a freshman seminar taught by one of our faculty. If you have come to the decision late without a background in our department, please talk to me in advance.
Class of '13 '12 '11 and '10 talk about their Senior Theses and the Department (Video)
Graduates from Princeton's Sociology program have successfully pursued careers in the non-profit and private sectors, government, and academia. Some examples follow:
First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama
Former Vice President at the University of Chicago Hospitals
Michelle Obama grew up in a working class family on the South Side of Chicago and attended Whitney Young High School. At Princeton, she discovered sociology during her freshman year, excelling in the department's courses from the outset. For her senior thesis, she completed a questionnaire survey of Black alumni of Princeton University and life-cycle changes in their orientations toward the black community and toward the white community. Her course work and independent work earned her honors in the major and she went on to Harvard Law School. Later, she returned to Chicago and had a successful career practicing law at the corporate firm of Sidley and Austin.
It is not uncommon for people who study sociology to have a social conscience: Michelle ultimately decided to leave corporate law, and to bring her legal and advocacy skills to bear on community and urban problems in her local neighborhood of Hyde Park. Prior to becoming First Lady of the United States, she worked as Vice President at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
David Van Zandt ‘75
President, New School University, New York City
When David Van Zandt graduated from Princeton’s sociology department in 1975, he was awarded the Isidore Brown Thesis Prize and went on to study for his doctorate at the London School of Economics as well as his J.D. at the Yale Law School. At Yale, he became Managing Editor of the Yale Law Journal and then went on to become a clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Professor Van Zandt became dean of the Northwestern University School of Law in 1995 and then moved to the New School University as its president in 2010. He is an expert in corporate law and international finance. He has published articles on the regulation of international financial markets, the sociology of religion and deviance, social theory, and the economics of common sense. He is a director of the American Bar Foundation and several private companies.
Professor and Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA
Sylvia Hurtado has published numerous articles and books related to her primary interest in student educational outcomes, campus climates, college impact on student development, and diversity in higher education. She has served on numerous editorial boards for journals in education and served on the boards for the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE), the Higher Learning Commission and is president-elect of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). Black Issues In Higher Education named her among the top 15 influential faculty whose work has had an impact on the academy. After receiving her B.A from Princeton, Hurtado received her masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her Ph.D. in Education from UCLA. has coordinated several national research projects, including a U.S. Department of Education-sponsored project on how colleges are preparing students to achieve the cognitive, social, and democratic skills to participate in a diverse democracy. She is launching a National Institutes of Health project on the preparation of underrepresented students for biomedical and behavioral science research careers. She has also studied assessment, reform, and innovation in undergraduate education on a project through the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement.
David Stark is Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Columbia University where he is Chair of the Department of Sociology and also directs the Center on Organizational Innovation. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton's sociology department in 1972. Author of numerous books on the sociological aspects of economic life, his most recent book, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life was published by Princeton University Press in 2009. Stark studies how organizations and their members search for what is valuable. Dissonance – disagreement about the principles of worth – can lead to discovery. To study the organizational basis for innovation, he has carried out ethnographic field research in Hungarian factories before and after 1989, in new media start-ups in Manhattan before and after the dot.com crash, and in a World Financial Center trading room before and after the attack on September 11th.