2021-2022 Humboldt State University Catalog 
    May 21, 2024  
2021-2022 Humboldt State University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Sociology, M.A.

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The master’s program in public sociology, focuses on social justice and environmental sustainability, while fostering a network of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members who are committed to social change. Public sociology translates sociological knowledge and skills for communities where these resources are needed.

The concept of social justice emphasizes a holistic understanding of the relationships between people, built and “natural” systems, and the social implications of particular structures and relationships. Race, class, gender, and the environment are central to analysis, as well as strategies for action. The action component emphasized in our program is tightly linked to the idea of public sociology. We understand public sociology as social change work that draws heavily on knowledge of social movements, community organizing, and applied research methods as particular plans are strategized, implemented, and evaluated.

Our MA students choose an experience emphasis in either Practicing Sociology or Teaching Sociology. Regardless of their emphasis, our alumni graduate with a solid foundation in social theory and social research that is marked by a departmental commitment and curricular integration of public sociology and social justice, as well as knowledge and skills for social action. Sociology faculty members, along with the Sociology and CJS Community Advisory Board, cultivate a range of field placement opportunities for students emphasizing Practicing Sociology.

Students develop their specialization by drawing on coursework, carefully selecting a field placement and working with faculty mentors.

In the Teaching Sociology emphasis, students learn cutting-edge pedagogical practices, and receive both hands-on experience and close mentorship. This is great preparation for facilitating and leading groups, designing and delivering workshops, teaching at the community college level, and creating educational and training materials.

In the Practicing Sociology emphasis, through classes, a 240-hour placement, paid research opportunities, and their thesis/capstone work, students become well-trained and valuable applied sociologists. They develop skills in qualitative, quantitative, and program evaluation methods; frameworks (theory) needed for complex analytical thinking and problem solving; and advanced professional communication skills- writing, speaking, presentations.

Requirements for the Degree (39 units)

For a description of degree requirements to be fulfilled in addition to those listed below see, “Master’s Degree Requirements ”.

Students must earn a “B” (3.00) or better in all courses taken to satisfy the requirements of the degree.

Social Action Electives (4 Units)

Complete one of the following courses:


Other courses that are social action oriented and experience based may be approved by the graduate coordinator.

Area Seminar Electives (4 Units)

Complete one course in consultation with the graduate coordinator. At least one of the two program electives (Social Action or Area Seminar) must be at graduate (500- 600) level.

Experience Electives (3 Units)

Thesis or Project (6 Units)


The decision to enroll in “project” or “thesis” units is based on the orientation and content of the student work itself and is not dictated by the experience emphasis. Students should review the discussion of thesis and project units in the Public Sociology “Graduate Manual” and work with the graduate coordinator and their committee chair in determining the most appropriate course number (SOC 690 or SOC 692) for their work. Students emphasizing Practicing Sociology should enroll in thesis or project units concurrently with their field placements (see below).

Progress Requirements

The department reserves the right to dismiss from the program a student who does not make academically adequate and timely progress in moving through degree requirements. For more information, see the graduate school handbook regarding academic probation and disqualification.

Additional M.A. Degree Information

Field Site Placement Requirements

Students emphasizing Practicing Sociology are required to complete 240 hours of field placement work that may include up to 40 hours of academic administrative work such as scheduling and meeting with faculty advisors, preparing and submitting required reporting and evaluation information, and formatting final products as required by the graduate school. Students should work closely with the graduate coordinator to identify a placement that will best support their interests and long-term goals.

Teaching Associates (Optional)

Students may apply for a teaching associate position, which is a paid union position. Teaching associates will work with a faculty member in one of two large lecture courses: SOC 104  (Intro to Sociology) or SOC 303  (Race and Inequality). Teaching associates will run up to three recitation (discussion) sections with 25-33 students per section. Teaching associates also grade student work. This model provides teaching associates a hands-on experience in the classroom.

Teaching Internship (Optional)

In addition, there are occasionally opportunities for students to petition the department to be allowed to engage in a higher level internship with a faculty member. This allows advanced students to co-teach a course with a faculty member. The positions are reserved for only the very strongest of new teachers with evidence for readiness to teach their own class. If selected, one to two students will work with a faculty mentor to teach a section of an appropriate course. The student should enroll in SOC 682 - Teaching Internship ; the course is not required for the MA. Prerequisites for participating in the Teaching Internship include SOC 560 - Teaching Sociology  and having served as a teaching associate as described in the above paragraph.

Plans of Study Submission Including Committee Identification (Semester One)

Near the end of the first semester in the program, a student should consult with the graduate coordinator to develop and submit a “Plan of Study” (see website for sample). The plan sets student goals and strategies for accomplishment including not only coursework, but also additional professional development plans such as professional meeting attendance and networking strategies. The plan also requires that the student, with the help of the graduate coordinator, secure the commitment of two sociology graduate faculty members to serve on the thesis or project committee. This plan must be submitted to the graduate coordinator and will be placed in the student’s permanent file.

Thesis/Project Proposal (Semester Two)

Working with their committee, the student should propose their plan for completing a thesis or project. This proposal should include a potential theoretical foundation, data to be collected, and overview of literature, as applicable. This proposal must be submitted to and approved by the student’s full committee.

Advancement to Candidacy Application (Semester Three)

In the third semester in the program, students submit their applications for candidacy to Graduate Studies. This application includes a list of approved classes, a title and abstract of the thesis or project, internal review board (IRB) approval documentation and the signatures of the committee members, as well as the signature of the graduate coordinator. The application when approved places the student on the program for graduation.

Project or Thesis Work, Continuous Enrollment Requirements, and Leave of Absences

Once a student is approved for candidacy, they are required to enroll in at least 1 unit of thesis or project work every semester (fall and spring) until work is complete and each committee member has provided formal acceptance of the project or thesis. Students must file a formal “leave of absence” application if they are unable to continue enrollment (see Graduate School Handbook). If thesis/project work is in process after all coursework is complete (except for RP grades for 6 units of SOC 690  or SOC 692 ), the student may choose to meet the continuous enrollment requirement by taking 1 unit of SOC x693 each term through the College of Extended Education & Global Engagement.

Supplemental Coursework

Students may enroll in additional courses to supplement their coursework and further develop interests and expertise. Students desiring additional preparation for professional positions in program evaluation are encouraged to take advanced statistical analysis courses in other departments to supplement their core of methodology courses.

Conditional Program Admission

Students who lack adequate undergraduate preparation in sociological theory and methods may receive conditional program admission. Conditionally admitted students must complete with an “A-” or better all or some of the following undergraduate courses:

Program Learning Outcomes

Students completing an MA in Public Sociology will have demonstrated the following program learning outcomes:

  • Communicate orally at a level appropriate for an advanced professional about social science theory, methods, and/or applied field experience (oral communication)
  • Effectively identify and communicate in writing about central social science contemporary theory (critical thinking - written communication)
  • Identify systems of power and privilege and methods for creating diverse, inclusive, and just communities (critical thinking - social justice)
  • Explain the relationships between communities, social systems, institutions, and the natural world (critical thinking - sustainability)
  • Evaluate research designs and analytic techniques (critical thinking - methods)

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