Our Approach

Sociologists and criminologists believe that people’s actions are strongly influenced by the conditions and situations in which they live, work, and play. Everybody makes decisions, but we recognize and study how social structures and institutions affect and constrain those decisions. Our goal as researchers is to expose and analyze the impacts of those circumstances on human decisions, societies, and opportunities. Methodologically, we incorporate multiple perspectives and analytical approaches to help create a more holistic understanding of our society.  Our mission is to empower students to think critically about individuals and societies.

One of our primary responsibilities to Villanova is to be excellent teachers and mentors to our students. We are proud that our faculty includes two winners of teaching award at Villanova, including 2012’s winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Our courses focus on critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills. The best source for information about our teaching comes from our current and former students (view selected testimonials about our courses and programs).

A second priority, and one that supports and enhances our teaching, is active engagement in scholarship. Our faculty members routinely publish on a range of topics, including racial inequality, student discipline, mental health outcomes, social networks and capital, and poverty.  Faculty have published in such prestigious journals as Sociology of Education, Crime and Delinquency, Criminology, Social Problems, Social Forces, Social Science Research, and the Journal of Religion and Society, and written books published by presses such as NYU Press, Vanderbilt Press, and Paradigm Publishers (view a more comprehensive list of publications). Faculty research has been funded by sources such as the Fulbright Program, the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Rockefeller Foundation. We proudly include amongst our faculty multiple winners of the University Outstanding Research Award.

Graduates of the department have gone on to jobs as lawyers, judges, and legislative aides, as well as research analysts for the Urban Institute, University of Pennsylvania, and Janney Capital Markets.  Graduates have also assumed leadership roles as administrators and directors at schools, corporations, banks, and universities such as American University, Harvard University, and Duke University.  Other former undergraduates now work as psychologists, social workers, and program managers at local, state, and federal government agencies, social service and nonprofit organizations, and hospitals.  Another route often chosen by graduates is law enforcement, including roles such as probation officer, police lieutenant, and special agent for the F.B.I., the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Finally, other alumni have entered graduate programs in sociology or criminology at top graduate programs such as Stanford, University of Texas-Austin, and the University of Pennsylvania, and have received prestigious postgraduate awards including a 2013 Fulbright.  Please visit the Resources & Opportunities section of our website to explore the ways in which our department assists students with the process of exploring careers, acquiring hands-on experience through internships, service learning, and research projects, and preparing successful application materials for employment and graduate school.

We seek to empower students to think critically about societies. We help to cultivate an understanding of the broader social milieu in which humans are located. We instill analytical skills that students can use to decipher great varieties of information, and understand the processes through which social facts exist, evolve, and change.

Overall, we nurture in students an awareness of theory in a comparative perspective, and a desire to analyze information of all kinds with rigor. Through our diverse offerings on local, regional, national, and global social processes, we strive to create more complete human beings with a keen sense of humanity, social justice, and appropriate social policy.

Each year the department surveys graduating seniors and alumni to obtain feedback about our program. The following comments offer some insight into students' perspectives on majoring in our department:

"After graduation, I started working as an intern with the Organized Crime Task Force at the New York State Office of the Attorney General. I committed to volunteering for a year, but I'm so happy to say that I was recently hired!  My title is Investigative Analyst, and I work with attorneys and investigators with investigations of criminal enterprises.  A big part of my job is monitoring wiretaps and surveillance videos, and analyzing phone, financial, and other records that I've subpoenaed. It's a ton of writing, but I honestly think that being a SOC and CRJ major prepared me for it (with all those research papers and such)!  My boss told me that I have the writing ability of an attorney... I have the SOC/CRJ professors to thank for that!!  I love my job, and it has been awesome thus far." -Nicole Accurso '13

"I decided to major in sociology because knowing about people and understanding how the environment affects those people will be instrumental in almost any career. I know that no matter what job I end up in after graduation, I want to help others, and I will need to be able to look deeper than surface level into the lives of those around me if I really want to help them. Lastly, I have been impressed and pleased by the array of courses offered within the department and feel that my degree will give me a very broad social education."
-Jessica Flynn (an undergraduate currently majoring in sociology) 

"Thanks to Villanova's B.A. in Criminal Justice program, I have developed the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to succeed in a wide variety of career paths.  Through coursework focused on theory, research methods, and critical analysis of the justice system, I am well-prepared for a future in law enforcement, legal work, social advocacy, or academia.  Additionally, the wide array of volunteer and internship opportunities offered through the department has allowed me to apply what I learn in the classroom in ‘real-world’ situations." -Kenneth C. Tsang (2013)

"I've been with the FBI for about a month and a half now.  The things I learned in [my sociology/criminal justice classes] have been very useful to me in order to succeed in my position.  I've been working hand-in-hand with Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts as a Research Analyst and the techniques I learned from you have helped me tremendously.  The writing aspect has also been a great help as I have to prepare many analyses of findings.  Thanks to you -- and the rest of the faculty -- I've been very successful so far.  I just wanted to... thank you for everything you taught me. "  -J.D. (2009)

"I find myself more and more using the skills I learned at Villanova in my sociology classes... [including] a lot of research, critical thinking, etc.  I am very glad I have my Villanova education to help me out with [my current] stressful job!"  -J.O. (2005)

"I use SO MANY of the skills I learned in my theory and methods courses in my job everyday... Tell your students that it has been over 2 years since I presented my paper at the Mid-Atlantic Conference and I still talk about it. I also think about it every time I get up to give a speech about what I have been working on to corporate officers (and it is good practice because college students are kinder audiences then CEOs!)" -C.D. (2005)

"Academically, I found that my undergraduate coursework prepared me for the intense workload and challenging courses of the doctoral program. This has been particularly true in my required statistics, methods, and theory courses. The major requirements provided a strong background for me so I could apply the course material to my own research interests. The time management skills I gained also aided my transition to graduate school; this has enabled me to complete my coursework, be a teacher’s assistant, and pursue my own research interests." -J.S. (2004)

"I am thankful for the experience of writing multiple research papers because it was great preparation for graduate school. Students should realize that while these may seem like a daunting task at the time, in the end it will be worth it." -J.F. (2003)

"A sociology major exposes students to a great deal of research and writing, which are the foundations of law school.  The study of sociology also teaches you how to think and approach problems analytically and critical analytical thinking is a skill you need in law school." -M.D. (2002)

"Sociology has helped me in many aspects of my career. It has broadened the landscape of my mind by forcing me to recognize the differences between society and individuals. Providing me with special insight into organizational behavior, it gave me a head start in my experiences after graduation." -M.R. (1999)

"My sociological background provided an edge in my career. Sociology taught me to look at the 'big picture' and helps me to better understand my clients, assess their needs and effectively communicate with them." -K.C. (1998)

"A sociology major exposes students to a great deal of research and writing which are the foundations of a law school...it teaches critical thinking which is a skill you need to master in law school." (Sociology graduate and practicing attorney)

"Overall, the teachers are wonderful... and the course options are tremendous.  In the Sociology department, I have always found a teacher-student relationship... The Sociology department is a family that welcomes a student to join their family.  It is a kind of department that helps a student to succeed in life." (Anonymous)

"I think the Sociology department is wonderful at this school.  Compared with other programs, the staff is much more helpful, open and responsive to the needs of the students than I've found in other departments." (Anonymous)

The professors have been widely available and are eager to assist and get you involved in jobs, research, etc.  Information came to me!  I was very pleased with my Sociology department experience."  (Anonymous)

"I never had a problem with any teacher or class.  Everything was straightforward and clear cut.  Teachers were always available to help me.  They also never forgot my name in future experiences... I always received good advice from [my Sociology] teachers.  The fact that it is a small department is a plus." (Anonymous)

"Through-out my years studying Sociology, the majority of my classes encompassed tackling research and writing effectively and clearly. While the rigors of law school demand much from an aspiring attorney, critical reading, writing, and analytical skills are absolutely necessary for success in the field...My under-graduate experiences provided me with a great advantage in starting law school in that I was already exposed to analytical thinking and writing." (Anonymous)

"Sociology has provided me with a great background of both creativity and concreteness. I learned to balance ideas, observations and impressions about society with action and concrete data." (Anonymous)

This award is presented to a graduating student who best combines "Academic Excellence with a Commitment to Social Justice."  Dr. McGarry was a member of the Sociology Department from 1963 until 2004.  A deeply spiritual man, Dr. McGarry was a quiet yet relentless advocate for social justice.  Generosity and a deep-seated concern for others were two of the outstanding qualities that made him a special human being.  Each year he made significant contributions to a number of a non-profit organizations serving the poor.  He always maintained a cordial and helpful relationship with his students, never failing to greet each of them with a smile.  He was an esteemed colleague and an excellent teacher who was respected by four generations of students.  His colleagues honored him for his commitment to his students and the less fortunate by estabishing this award.

Past Winners Include:

2013    Melissa Madden, Amanda Mathew, & Molly Sapia

2012    Weddy K. Worjroh

2011    Mary Anna McCabe

2010    Diondra T. Burney & Caitrin L. Coccoma 

2009    Jaclyn McNamee

2008    Lauren E. Thum

2007    Kristyna N. Carroll

John E. Hughes was the Founder of the Department of Sociology at Villanova University. This award is presented to a graduating Sociology major who exhibits excellence in academics.

Past Winners Include:

2013    Kristen DiGloria

2012    Kristen E. Valosky

2011    Alissa C. Ricci

2010    Caitrin L. Coccoma

2009    Jacquelin Giacobbe

2008    Maggie T. Grace

2007    Brianne M. Orner

The Edwin Sutherland Award is named after a leading figure in criminal justice theory and research. The award is given to a graduating major in Criminal Justice who exhibits excellence in academics.

2013    Nicole Frisch

2012    Christopher M. Putvinski

2011    Chelsea K. Moylan

2010    Richard R. Baccare

2009    Kelly Kreider

2008    Ashley R. Newman

2007    Katie D. Baranek

Many of our former students have gone on to study in a variety of excellent doctoral programs all over the country; some have become professors, and others are researchers.  Know someone who should be added to this list?  Questions about earning a Ph.D.?  Email the Chair at robert.defina@villanova.edu!

Molly Barrett (’05): Current PhD student, State University of New York - Albany

Sarah Blanchard (’08): Current PhD student, University of Texas - Austin

Jocelyn Fontaine (’03): PhD, American University (’07);
Senior Researcher, Justice Policy Center, The Urban Institute

Nicole Frisch ('13): Current PhD Student, University of Maryland - College Park 

Rebecca (Joyce) Kissane (’96)
: PhD, University of Pennsylvania (’03);
Associate Professor, Lafayette College

Melinda Kane (’93): PhD, Vanderbilt University (’00);
Assistant Professor, East Carolina University

Amy Langenkamp ('97): PhD, University of Texas - Austin ('97);
Assistant Professor, Notre Dame University

Kristin Lavin ('06): Current PhD student, Florida State University

Melissa Logue (’98): PhD, Pennsylvania State University (’03);
Assistant Professor, St. Joseph’s University

Monica McDermott (’93): PhD, Harvard University (’00);
Associate Professor, Stanford University

Julie McLaughlin (‘95): PhD, Rutgers University (’04);
Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina - Charlotte

Evan Montgomery (’01): PhD, University of Virginia ('11);
Senior Fellow, The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Bruce O'Neill ('04): Current PhD student, Stanford University

Francis Pryor (’09): Current PhD student, University of Pennsylvania

Helen Rosenbaum (‘02): PhD, Temple University ('11)

Joelle Sano Gilmore (’04): PhD, Boston College (’09)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Annenberg Center for Advanced Study in Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Matthew Schoene (’09): Current PhD student, Ohio State University

Tanja St. Pierre (‘98): Current PhD student, Pennsylvania State University
Sociology Instructor, Pennsylvania State University

Jessica Streeter (’06): Current PhD student, Rutgers University