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; and 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 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 combined department offers several general education courses that fulfill the requirements of the social science cluster.
The department ranks 14th in the Franklin and Marshall report on the baccalaurette 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).
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.
History of the Department
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.