Sociology and Anthropology

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The department of sociology and anthropology offers courses that encompass sociological and anthropological analyses, methodologies, technologies and theoretical perspectives. The department offers two majors: sociology, and sociology and anthropology. In addition to the resources within the College and the Atlanta University Center, the department uses the vast reservoir provided by social agencies and research projects in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

Sociology and Anthropology Majors

Sociology and Anthropology Minors

Learning Life

Have you ever wondered why countries use images of women to attract tourists? Or how did The Coca-Cola Co. become 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 former chair and professor Dr. Daryl White. “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

Sociology and anthropology have always been closely related disciplines. 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 socio-historical 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.

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 includes many accomplished leaders, including Stacy Abrams, a politician, lawyer, and author who served as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and was the Democratic nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election; 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 vice president for research and professor of sociology and African American studies at Northwestern University.

Sociology Thesis or Anthropology Thesis

The senior thesis, an original and independent research project, is required of all seniors majoring in sociology or in sociology and anthropology. Designated faculty advisers and readers supervise the research projects. While majors may take Contemporary Social Theory or Anthropological Theory during the same semester that they are enrolled in thesis, all other major core courses must be successfully completed prior to enrolling in Senior Thesis. All majors must successfully complete SOC 432 or ANTH 432 to complete the major.

Sociology Internship

During their junior or senior year, majors are encouraged to enroll in the internship course (SOC 435). The internship provides students with practical experience by allowing them to work in metropolitan Atlanta area nonprofit, governmental, social service, or research institutions. Students are required to work at least 15 hours per week for an entire semester. In addition, students must complete weekly reports, an agency description, and a research paper and make a formal presentation as part of their course requirements. A faculty adviser makes a site visit during the semester. Students who successfully complete an internship will earn four hours of elective credit for the experience.


Upon completion of the prescribed program for a major in sociology or a major in sociology and anthropology, the student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge essential for understanding society and culture from sociological and anthropological perspectives on a global scale.
  • Identify and critically evaluate the contributions of female and Black sociologists, anthropologists, social scientists and scholars.
  • Identify and critically evaluate the social and historical forces and institutions that influence her life.
  • Pursue graduate study or careers in sociology, anthropology, law, medicine, public health, criminal justice, social work, and other fields in which social and cultural expertise is essential.
  • Apply the analytical and research methods analysis of sociology and anthropology to social issues and conflicts in preparation for participation as an agent of creative social change.

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