Academics: Majors and Programs

Sociology and Anthropology

Learning Life

Have you ever wondered why countries use images of women to attract tourists? Or how The Coca-Cola Co. became an iconic global commodity? What about how African-American women make choices about their health care? The department of sociology and anthropology at Spelman College will guide you in finding answers to such questions.

“Instructors invite students to join together and explore ways society and history shape our individual and collective lives; and ways, as we give shape to our own lives, we literally create history,” said Dr. Daryl White, chair and professor of the department of sociology and anthropology. “We are always concerned with understanding society and culture in order to change both for the better. We call this scholar-activism.”

They're Related

According to Dr. White, sociology and anthropology have always been closely related disciplines.  He explained it as everyday interactions juxtaposed to culture – a symbiotic relationship.     “Many of the current national and international crises can best be understood by engaging in an analysis of the sociohistorical and cultural contexts of pressing issues, and that's what we do,” said Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence, director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs and associate professor anthropology and sociology.  “Sociologists and anthropologists develop special lenses through which we view society.  These characteristics prepare our students to enter varied professional contexts upon graduation.”

Lifelong mentoring of students is a key component of the program.  It is an aspect of Spelman that one student never forgot.  She attributes the mentorship and guidance of the former long-standing chair Dr. Harry Lefever, who maintained contact with her after graduation and continued to monitor her academic progress, for her own success.  Today, that 1978 graduate, Dr. Spence, is herself a mentor to students at Spelman. 

Our Methods are Intentional

“We are very intentional about the types of classroom and off-campus experiences that characterize a student's experience as a major.  Our curriculum produces students with very strong writing and research skills,” said Dr. Spence.  “We invest in our students' intellectual journeys, and we are even more intentional now than in the case when I was a student.”

The department is led by other faculty noted for their expertise in globalization and their international research experience as well as their abilities to contribute to Spelman’s signature African Diaspora and the World program. Under a U.S. State Department initiative, Drs. Barbara Carter and Erica Williams, both with research experience in Brazil, created a four-week credit course in collaboration with local scholars in Bahia, Brazil, in which nine students participated this summer.

Career Opportunities are Diverse

The effectiveness and broad practicality of the program is evidenced in the variety of postgraduate careers students pursue including law, public health, public policy and administration, higher education administration and social activism. Alumnae of the department include many accomplished leaders including Stacy Abrams, current Minority Leader of the Georgia Assembly; Dr. Marla Frederick, anthropologist, professor of African and African-American studies and professor of the study of religion, Harvard University; and Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes, associate professor of sociology and African-American studies, Northwestern University, and member of the Spelman College board of trustees.

“The sociology and anthropology department provides a nurturing environment with professors who express genuine interest in the academic progress, personal development, and professional growth of its students,” said Maranda Ward, C’2002. “Through the guidance and support of this department, I have participated in eminent internship programs such as the Shepherd Poverty Alliance Program where I gained invaluable experience through work at the Providence House in Brooklyn, N.Y.”