Students in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Wheaton will develop a biblical foundation for understanding social interaction both within American society and across cultures and be prepared well for graduate school and a variety of careers.
Why Study Sociology and Anthropology at Wheaton?
One Department, Two Majors
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Wheaton College includes two majors and a certificate program:
What's the difference between sociology and anthropology? Dr. Amy Reynolds explains >
Effective Training For Today's World
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology wants students to understand themselves as embedded within and products of social and cultural contexts. Our students are trained to have the relational and analytic tools to operate effectively within the social complexity of our dynamic world and engage people cross-culturally, both in America and abroad. Students will become critical thinkers, addressing social problems and cultural analysis through theory, data, and practical solutions.
The general goal of the department is to develop a biblical foundation for understanding social interaction both within American society and across cultures.
The sociology faculty recognize the need to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ at several levels of social interaction:
- The micro level involves face-to-face communication, for example, in marriage or the family.
- The middle-range level reflects activities in organizations or social movements.
- The macro level presents issues of culture and societal structures.
At each level, social processes such as socialization, stratification, urbanization, and social disorganization are examined.
The anthropology faculty emphasize both the particularities of varying cultural systems, as well as the universal characteristics of humans made in the image of God. Recognizing culture as a set of only partial solutions to human problems, Wheaton's anthropology faculty also examine the ways in which the gospel and culture can operate jointly to explain human adaptations in different societies. Similarly, anthropology's exploration of human universals is based on a distinctively Christian perspective, combining a biblical orientation with empirical precision.
The Sociology and Anthropology Department has established a unique identity because of its focus on contemporary social and cross-cultural issues along with solid training in statistics, theory, and the subfields of the disciplines. A major in sociology or anthropology complements and fits nicely with the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) certificate program and the Wheaton in Chicago semester.
The combined department offers several general education courses that fulfill the requirements of the social science cluster.
Preparation for Your Future
The students who take our classes want to develop a sociological imagination and then use it to make the world a better place, whether they go on to graduate school or a career in one of the many fields available to them.
The department's cross-cultural focus and emphasis on social concerns help to prepare students for cross-cultural and domestic vocations in education, social service, teaching and missions. Recognizing the importance of the social and cultural dimensions of heath care, many students have gone on to graduate work in nursing, public health and medicine and have become physicians, nurses and public health specialists.
The department ranks 14th in the Franklin and Marshall report on the baccalaureate origins of Ph.D.s with 62 Wheaton graduates having earned Ph.D.s in sociology and anthropology between 1920 and 1995 (following in rank order, Oberlin, Reed, Barnard, Beloit, Radcliffe, Swarthmore, Antioch, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Wellesley, Carleton, and Pomona). According to a more recent report published by the National Science Foundation, our sociology program ties for 6th in Ph.D. acquisition between 2003-2012.
Students from the department continue to be accepted into competitive graduate programs at a rate comparative to the best schools in the country. The first fifty years of the Sociology and Anthropology program has laid a strong foundation for both current and future generations of students.
Learn more about our alumni >
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology began in 1957 during the presidency of V. Raymond Edman under the leadership of chairman Gordon Jaeck. Formerly, sociology had been a major in the history and social sciences department and anthropology had been a major in the archaeology department. Both majors had already existed for almost two decades.
Sociology began with Dr. Lamberta Voget who joined the faculty in 1935. Dr. Voget was recognized on campus for her urban sociology immersion trips to Chicago, and became increasingly popular among the student body during the social activism in the 1960s. She retired in 1975.
Wheaton was one of the first liberal arts colleges in the country to offer anthropology courses and was the first Christian liberal arts college to have an anthropology major which was popular from its beginning. Billy Graham ('43) is probably the most well-known graduate in anthropology. Several sociology and anthropology graduates have teaching careers in colleges and universities around the country.
Want to talk with someone from the department? We’re happy to answer your questions. Simply email us at email@example.com or call 630.752.5036.
Graduation Year: 2009
Major: Anthropology, on a pre-med track
Why did you choose Anthropology?
I grew up as a missionary kid in Bolivia, living my whole life there through high school graduation. I didn't anticipate how much of an adjustment moving back to the States full-time would be. Quite by accident I found myself in Intro to Anthro with Dr. Howell my freshman year, and loved it. Much of what we were learning in that class helped me process my own culture shock and outside of that, I found the discussions surrounding culture, symbols and worldviews fascinating. It was that class that made the decision for me.
Which courses made the most impression on you?
Intro to Anthro, obviously, as well as Biculturalism and Human Origins.
How did that affect your career choice?
These classes didn't necessarily affect my career choice, but profoundly impacted the way that I think and approach my relationships with others. In the medical field, a lot of the things I learned directly influence the way I interact with patients, regardless of their background.
Which professors impacted you?
Dr. Howelland Dr. Arnold. Dr. Howell does not shy away from challenging all of our cultural preconceptions, not only at Wheaton but in the evangelical community as a whole. He challenged me to think about the way things were and if that was the best way for them to be. His classes were well-taught and full of great information and new ideas. Dr. Arnold brought a wealth of knowledge and experience with him to his classes. His ideas were rooted in years of research and field work, and being able to learn under him was a privilege.
How and why did you choose to follow your path beyond graduation?
I had planned on going to medical school from my sophomore year at Wheaton. Once I started that path it's rather hard to get off of it, so here I am! My father is a doctor and my hope is to be involved in medicine internationally as well as here in the US, specifically with underserved populations. Anthropology was a great fit for me as I looked forward then to what I'm doing now.
What are you doing now?
What advice could you give a potential major?
Study something that you love and find fascinating, not something you think is practical. Increasingly so, a bachelor's degree is just another step toward getting a graduate degree, and few "career" jobs start right out of college, meaning that what you study in college does not predict what you will ultimately be doing. Several of my classmates in med school studied biology or biochemistry not because they liked it, but to get in to med school. Very few of them really enjoyed what they learned, but I absolutely loved my Anthro classes and reference that knowledge all the time. If you study something you love, you'll learn it better, remember it longer, and I believe will have a broader, more well-rounded base of knowledge going forward.