College of Arts and Sciences
Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology

The Department of History, Philosophy, Religion and Sociology brings together four disciplines that study human societies and ideas as part of the quest to understand the human condition, past and present, and grapple with the problems we face as a society and as humans.

Faculty share a mission to educate students in each discipline through critical thinking on important problems, analysis of contemporary and historical texts and practices, and through social scientific investigation and inquiry. We seek to produce well-rounded global citizens, ready to face the challenges of career or study in the modern world with intelligence, fairness, thoughtfulness, an awareness of the past and a desire for justice.

The critical thinking and communication skills that department graduates have gained have led them a wide variety of professional careers and graduate study.

100 percent of recent department alumni are employed or in graduate school within one year of graduation. Read more about our alumni outcomes.

Learning Outcomes

History Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate understanding of some significant historical concepts, events, people and themes. (Knowledge and Inquiry)
  2. Students will demonstrate understanding of how historians think and approach the past using debate or argument. (Knowledge and Inquiry)
  3. Students will apply historical methods to historical problems, including how changes occurred over time, in research, writing and presentation. (Critical Thinking, Knowledge and Inquiry)
  4. Students articulate understanding of diversity within and among past cultures and societies. (Identity and Culture, Ethics and Social Responsibility)
  5. Students will demonstrate the application of historical approaches to historical issues and problems in written English and American Sign Language. (Language and Communication)
  6. Students will demonstrate ability to contextualize and evaluate primary source evidence. (Critical Thinking)

Philosophy Student Learning Outcomes

Upon successfully completing the program, majors should be able to perform all of the following tasks. Minors and students who take individual courses should be able to perform selected goals, depending on their coursework.

  1. Analyze and critique arguments.
    1. Identify the premises and conclusion of an argument, as well as other relevant features of its logical structure.
    2. Evaluate arguments, judging the quality of the reasoning and the accuracy of the information.
    3. Raise clear, relevant objections against arguments.
  2. Effectively argue in support of an opinion.
    1. Clearly state the opinion to be defended.
    2. Provide compelling reasons in support of the opinion.
    3. Avoid common argument flaws, such as over-simplification, bias, jumping to conclusions and straw-man arguments.
    4. Pose and thoughtfully respond to objections against one's argument.
  3. Intelligently discuss important philosophical problems and theories.
    1. Identify philosophical questions, clarifying what is at issue and why the question is controversial.
    2. Describe significant attempts to answer these questions (i.e., theories, particular philosophers' responses).
    3. Discuss shortcomings in these attempted answers and how they might be refuted.
  4. Make reasoned decisions about ethical issues.
    1. Articulate multiple points of view on ethics and values.
    2. Describe ethical theories, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses.
    3. Apply ethical concepts and theories to evaluate actions one performs or observes in everyday life.
    4. Apply ethical concepts and theories to debate controversial social issues.
  5. Actively engage with debates and developments in the history of philosophy.
    1. Explain themes, theories, and arguments involving philosophers from the (1) ancient/medieval period, (2) early modern period, and (3) late modern to contemporary period, demonstrating connections among them.
    2. Present arguments that build on other authors' work, but also include original analysis.
    3. Effectively apply writing methods used in the history of philosophy.
    4. Analyze complex arguments within extended primary source texts.
  6. Perform high-quality independent philosophical research.
    1. Identify a clear and specific philosophical question and develop a research plan to address it.
    2. Integrate material from relevant, diverse, high quality sources to apply to the question.
    3. Present arguments that build on other authors' work, but also include original analysis.
    4. Apply a - c to create a substantial scholarly document which explores a student-selected philosophical topic.

Sociology Student Learning Outcomes

  1. CORE CONCEPTS -- Students will be able to:
    1. Define the sociological perspective, and explain how sociology is different from the other social sciences.
    2. Define and give examples of each of the following terms, as well as explain the relevance of each to current social issues:
      1. social structure
      2. culture (with its accompanying norms and values)
      3. status and roles
      4. socialization
      5. institutions
      6. deviance and social control
    3. Recognize the diversity and inequality in the global context, as well as America more specifically, including:
      1. Discussing power and inequality in terms of differentiations by race/ethnicity, gender, age, class and disability.
      2. Discussing the social factors (including institutional factors) that create and perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and inequality.
  2. THEORY -- Students will be able to:
    1. Describe the role of theory in sociology.
    2. Describe, compare and contrast the major sociological perspectives (including conflict theory, structural functionalism and symbolic interaction), including the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  3. RESEARCH AND DATA ANALYSIS -- Students will be able to:
    1. Explain the scientific method of investigation.
    2. Be able to explain the different methods of sociological investigation and the strengths and weaknesses of each (including: surveys, evaluation research, secondary data analysis, participant observation, in-depth interviews and experiments).
    3. Construct a small probability sample.
    4. Define variables and categories, including operationalizing concepts.
    5. Create hypothesis with independent and dependent variables
    6. Identify ethical issues that arise in sociological research.
    7. Explain the differences between validity and reliability.
    8. Use SPSS to analyze social science data, including producing and interpreting descriptive statistics, analysis of differences between groups, and basic correlation and regression
    9. Understand and interpret tests of significance
    10. Develop a bibliography or reference list composed of high quality and timely material related to a specific topic.
    11. Write research reports using both quantitative and qualitative data.
    12. Critically examine the use and misuse of data in the popular press.
  4. CRITICAL THINKING -- Students will be able to:
    1. Explain the difference between an example and a definition.
    2. Distinguish between arguments based on empirical evidence and arguments based simply on opinion.
    3. Gather information in order to make an argument based on evidence.
    4. Summarize the main points in articles about social issues and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments within them.
    5. Evaluate sources of information--including newspaper articles and internet web sites--in terms of their neutrality (or connections to groups with vested interests), their quality, and the reliability and validity of the data behind their claims.
    6. Examine how students' own social position, cultural beliefs, and values and practices, impact their evaluation of social issues.
  5. COMMUNICATION -- Students will be able to communicate sociological concepts and research results through:
    1. Written products such as brief summaries, persuasive essays, research papers, empirical reports based on their own analysis of data.
    2. Public presentations.
    3. Electronic media.
  6. WORK LIFE CONNECTION -- Students will:
    1. Plan, successfully complete and meaningfully reflect upon, an internship experience in which they applied sociological skills in a workplace environment.
    2. Develop a plan for securing a job or entering graduate school.
    3. Be able market their sociological skills on applications, resumes and in interviews.
  7. SOCIAL JUSTICE -- Students will have a positive orientation toward social/civic involvement and will:
    1. Appreciate the relationship between rights and responsibilities in society.
    2. Recognize the moral dimensions of their behavior and accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
    3. Have an appreciation for social justice and understand the ways that individual action (activism) can either promote or reduce social justice.
    4. Understand how the sociological perspective can be translated into political and social action.