Hands-on Sociology

Committed Sociology majors have the opportunity to participate in sociological research that plays a real-life role. The Department offers an advanced service learning based internship seminar, and several other courses have directly involved students in the community in various ways. For example:


Two-year Sociology Department project teaches research skills and provides students with real-world experience while producing a report for the Vermont Department of Corrections:
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From 2011 to 2013, in a unique collaboration with Vermont Department of Corrections, four Sociology faculty and roughly two dozen Sociology students studied the impact of incarceration on families. Beginning under Alice Fothergill, students in Sociology's Service Learning Internship seminar visited and worked in prisons throughout Vermont, and - with the help of Prof. Nicholas Danigelis - designed surveys and interviewed prisoners. Then another group of students continued the project under the tutelage of Kathy Fox, where they continued to work in the prisons and conduct the survey. In addition, students in Jenn Strickler's methods course helped to code and analyze the data. Across three courses, students gained direct experience with prisoners and their families, experience in developing and administering surveys, and experience with managing and analyzing data - all of which are skills increasingly required by employers. The work culminated in a student-written report to the Women and Family Services Coordinator at Vermont's Department of Corrections. The project took students far out of the classroom and outside of class routines - many
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worked through the summer, for example, and several spent Labor Day with Professors Fox and Fothergill on a visit to a prison. And it directly serves the State of Vermont: the DOC expects to use the report to help improve DOC policies. “It really impacted me when one of the people I was interviewing wrote down that they were the same age as me,” said senior Alexander Loomis. “Staring that person in the eye and me being on the outside was pretty impactful. It changed the way I think about the criminal justice system and the people who are in it.” In December ’13 students presented their report to the VTDOC, who noted that “we don’t know of any other state that has done such a survey with their inmate population . . . . The significance of this project is immeasurable.” http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmpr/?Page=news&storyID=17255


Lessons Learned in the Aftermath of Irene
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When Tropical Storm Irene devastated Vermont with destructive flash floods in 2011, Prof. Alice Fothergill had just started her seminar in the sociology of disasters. Responding quickly, she reorganized the course to get students in the field as volunteers, spending many weekends with students at disaster sites. Students helped clean up debris, sort out belongings, and rebuild homes. “It is very taxing work. Not just physically, but also emotionally,” senior Iva Bugbee said. “You are helping someone that has lost everything they had. Their stories are all too real. . . . You simply can’t experience this from inside a classroom. We read a couple of articles and saw some pictures of the mobile home park, but it is completely different when you actually witness it.” Fothergill noted that “Irene allowed us to volunteer and do research on how some groups are affected more than others. But it also allowed students to use the concepts that they have studied and apply them in real situations. . . . A lot of the victims feel like their voices aren’t being heard. There is a lot of dispute on how aid should be distributed and some do not feel like they are part of the recovery process.” http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/08/29/sociologists_of_disaster_see_research_in_storms http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmforvt/?Page=news&storyID=12447&category=irene