As an academic community whose roots expose social inequality and seek to offer a path toward social change, the events of the last few months have allowed us to see many sociological truths. The pandemic has brought cascading illustrations of one of our most understood principles—the entanglement of people and their private troubles, with society and its public issues. The discriminatory brutality and violence of recent weeks also illustrates the connection between a fabric of inequality throughout our institutions and the personal trauma and grief of those who experience that inequality, all the while seeing the blindness of others in their community to their suffering. The Department of Sociology & Criminology at WKU sees the prejudiced, discriminatory, and violent actions occurring throughout our country—in addition to the marches, rallies, and riots protesting the racist police brutality exhibited recently by several officers—and we want to share the ways we will take action.
In our address to our graduating seniors this spring, we acknowledged “The hard work of addressing such social problems is also the work which ends the pain we personally feel in relation to them. As you struggle with these tasks, we hope you will do so in solidarity with others.” Today, we announce some important student groups fostering the collective work of the department in the upcoming year.
This past week, Eric Barry, Chanell Ellis, Kevyn Heckler, Yuritzi Lopez-Angeles, & Jesse Ricketts, accepted our offer to become Peer Mentors for the department. These students join Ashlee Gilbert & Elma Jasarevic—both outstanding leaders on last year’s peer mentor team. This group works closely with faculty, directed by Dr. Amy Krull & Dr. Pavel Vasiliev, to develop and implement departmental programming related to career and social activities, represent the department at recruitment events, and spend time mentoring our first year students in small groups and one-on-one settings when necessary. One outcome of the work of this group was our Women in Justice Professions event last fall which brought 26 professional women to campus in a networking event with our students centered on a critical reflection of careers in victim advocacy, law enforcement, the courts, corrections, juvenile justice, and fragile families for women. This event would not have occurred without the leadership of Ashlee & Elma from whom the idea was generated and with whose help the event was a tremendous success!
We also have a cohort of incoming freshman who are participating in our Citizenship & Social Justice Living Learning Community. They will be mentored this fall by Amanda Beavin, Kelley Holland, and Katelyn McKinney—three seniors completing the Capstone for the Citizenship & Social Justice minor. This group will work with both the surrounding community and the WKU community to foster dialog on social issues, selected by the students themselves. Dr. Holli Drummond, Dr. Molly Kerby, Dr. Lauren McClain, Dr. Scott Lasley, and Dr. Saundra Audrey will direct the work of this group through a collaboration between Political Science and Sociology & Criminology.
We are equally committed to continue our partnerships with community groups throughout the state via our internship program, directed by Dr. Holli Drummond and Dr. Donielle Lovell. Our positive relationships with the Bowling Green Police Department, WKU Police, Kentucky State Police, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and police departments throughout the nation are particularly important as approximately 35% of the more than 500 unique undergraduate students in our programs plan to pursue careers in law enforcement and we have many alumni already positioned within. Their role in these conversations is equally valuable as we need more open dialog with law enforcement in order to make the policy changes necessary to address the very real racial inequalities in our criminal justice system.
Our note begins with an offering of solidarity and path for social change through current programming and the degrees we offer. The department of Sociology and Criminology also acknowledges that while our field of study utilizes scientific techniques to examine and illustrate the roots of systematic inequality in our society, we still have work to do as a department of individuals, as a unit in a system of higher education, as authorities over the curriculum we teach, and as a discipline. It is important to also admit that we need your help. As citizens of Kentucky and the US more generally, public education needs your support. We encourage you to use your own power to make decisions which support unity, and opportunity for all.
The Department of Sociology & Criminology is a student-centered department, offering programs and course work designed to expand awareness and understanding of the social causes and consequences of human behavior in groups, including diverse societies, cultures, and organizations.
Completion of our curriculum provides you with the following skills:
- The capacity to explore, describe, explain, and evaluate the social world by utilizing the techniques of systematic observation.
- Data Literacy skills necessary to understand and communicate societal characteristics found in numeric, and graphic forms.
- Effective written and oral communication skills necessary to effectively frame and solve problems in a team setting.
- Empathetic listening skills necessary for developing successful social media and other marketing campaigns, consulting, and entrepreneurship endeavors.
Upon completion of our curriculum, past graduates have pursued careers in the following settings:
- Social Services--Case Management, Crisis Management, Life Skills.
- Justice Services--Law Enforcement, Courts, & Corrections.
- Nonprofit Organizations & Counseling Agencies serving Victims of Criminal Offenses, At-Risk Youth, and Fragile families.
- Health Services--Substance Abuse Education, Rehabilitation Counseling, Family Planning.
- Businesses--Community Development, Advocacy, Public & Social Media Relations.
Departmental Faculty, Advisors, Staff, and Peer Mentors facilitate growth through our programs and facilitate connection to life beyond the hill through our Career Connections Series, Academic Internships, Study Abroad Programs, the Alpha Kappa Delta honor society, and the Criminology and Sociology Club facilitated by our Peer Mentors.
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