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Department History

By 1921: Pomona College History Professor George Stedman Sumner was teaching Elements of Sociology, Poor Relief, Problems of Labor, Theories of Social Reform, and Immigration. These courses reflected the Social Gospel Movement, a public policy coalition centered on ameliorating urban problems associated with rapid industrialization. This movement encouraged the type of research associated with Chicago School Sociology, which emphasized urban reforms.

1922: Pomona College hired its first professor trained in sociology, William Kirk. Educated at Johns Hopkins University, Kirk was hired as Professor of Social Economics. At that time, departments did not exist formally, so his courses were part of the Pomona College curriculum in Economics and Sociology. William Kirk shifted the Pomona College sociology curriculum from a focus on social problems to one that emphasized theories of social behavior across institutions.

By 1930: Kirk was teaching sociology courses such as The Family, Criminology, and Social Theory, and included empirical evidence to substantiate theoretical perspectives.

1940s and 1950s: William Kirk, who retired from Pomona in 1946, was the only sociologist at Pomona until 1939, when the College hired Ray Baber, whose Ph.D. was from the University of Wisconsin. When Pomona hired him, Baber had just published Marriage and the Family, which became the leading textbook in that field and brought him national visibility.

The next sociologist to arrive at Pomona College was Alvin Scaff, who earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1940. After World War II, Scaff went to the University of Texas for two years of study before Pomona College hired him. He completed his dissertation during his first year at Pomona in 1947. While Baber preferred empiricism, Scaff enjoyed teaching social theory. Ray Baber retired from Pomona College in 1956. 

In 1960, Pomona College President E. Wilson Lyon learned that Robert (Bob) Herman, a 1951 Pomona College alumnus, was interested in returning to Claremont. So, Lyon asked Alvin Scaff to offer Bob a position. Like Ray Baber, Bob Herman¹s graduate training was at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to the required sociology courses, Bob taught electives on family and criminology.

1960s: The sociology curriculum of the mid-1960s reflected the growing concerns about racism, poverty, and other related social and political issues. In addition to Sociology 51 (at that time titled The Study of Society), sociology majors in 1965 completed six upper division courses, including a seminar in Modern Social Theory. Statistics was recommended, but not required for majors. The electives included Social Problems, Criminology and Penology, Race Relations, The American Community, Comparative Social Movements, Seminar in the Family, and African Social Structure and Social Changes. In addition juniors and seniors were eligible to take Sociology Tutorials (independent studies) in World Demography, Industrial Sociology, Social Structure, Primary Group Interaction, and Institutional Analysis.

1963: Pitzer College was established as part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, with an emphasis on Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology. Within a few years, Pitzer's sociology faculty numbered six persons (eventually seven full time faculty by the early 1990s), bringing a much wider array of elective offerings in sociology to Pomona students, who have been able to cross-register for classes there since Pitzer's inception.

By the mid-1970s: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology included three sociologists and two anthropologists. Bob Herman renamed his family course to Nuclear Family and Its Alternatives. Additional sociology offerings in 1975-76 included Metropolis and Community, Social Aging, Sociology of Religion, Social Organization, Population and Human Ecology, and Race and Ethnic Relations. There were two theory courses  History of Sociological Theory and Contemporary Sociological Theories. A budget crisis in the late 1970s led the College to reduce the number of sociologists to two. 

By the early 1980s: Bob Herman was the only permanent sociologist. In 1983, Jill Grigsby, whose Ph.D. in Sociology & Demography was from Princeton University, joined the department, bringing the number of full-time sociologists to 2 FTEs. At that time the sociology major consisted of 8 courses: Introduction to Sociology, Sociological Research, Classical Theory, Contemporary Theory (both theory courses were taught at Pitzer College), Senior Seminar (1/2 credit), Senior Thesis (1/2 credit), and three electives. 

Mid-1980s: After his 1984-85 sabbatical in Boston, Bob Herman became an urban sociologist, and in 1985 he began giving tours of downtown Los Angeles, and eventually wrote a book on walking tours of downtown L.A., Downtown Los Angeles: A Walking Guide (Claremont, CA: City Vista Press, 1996). In addition to Urban Sociology, other electives in 1985-86 included Criminology and Penology, Nuclear Family and Its Alternatives, Social Aspects of Aging, Small Group Interaction, and Population and Society.

1989: Gilbert Cadena (Ph.D. from UC Riverside) and Lynn Rapaport (Ph.D. from Columbia) were hired, bringing the number of sociology FTEs to 3. By this time, Bob Herman was ready to teach part-time, and until he retired fully in 1998, there were 3.5 faculty positions in sociology. The position held by Gilbert Cadena became a joint position with Chicano Studies, and Lynn Rapaport and Jill Grigsby introduced Women's Studies courses into the sociology curriculum.

By the late 1980s: Sociology was contributing to several interdisciplinary programs at Pomona College, in addition to Chicano Studies and Women's Studies. Students could major in Sociology and Public Policy, a concentration that includes courses in politics and economics, and a semester-long applied internship in a government or private organization. Jill Grigsby's population course was an elective for International Relations majors, and several sociology courses were electives for American Studies majors. Pomona College introduced the Critical Inquiry Program in 1986  requiring all first year students to take an ID 1 seminar in the fall semester. At least half of the years since the program began, sociology faculty members have taught ID 1 seminars on topics related to the transition to adulthood, family, race and ethnicity, cities, and terrorism.

By 1995-96: Sociology electives included: Population Trends and Issues, Life Course of Women, Urban Sociology, American Family, Social Aspects of Aging, Popular Culture, Sociological Perspectives of Immigration, Sociology of Childhood, Sociology of Religion, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Social Stratification, Women's Roles in Society, Latinos and the Politics of Religion, Diversity and Ethnicity in Education, and Mind, Culture and Sport (taught by Pat Mulcahy, a Physical Education faculty member with a Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA and a Pomona alumnus). The sociology major by this time had increased to 9.5 courses -- Introduction to Sociology, Sociological Research, Classical Theory, Contemporary Theory, a statistics course, Senior Seminar (.5 credit) and Senior Thesis (1.0 credit), along with three electives.

1997: Gilda Ochoa (Ph.D. from UCLA) began her tenure-track position, with a joint appointment in Chicano/a Studies. She was hired to teach two cross-listed courses in sociology and Chicana/o Studies and three strictly sociology courses. She has added courses on Chicanas/Latinas, Chicanos/Latinas and Education, and Los Angeles Communities to the curriculum. Several of her courses offer service learning options in the areas of education, labor, and migration.

1998: Bob Herman retired from the College.

2000s: Andrew Roth (Ph.D. from UCLA), initially a visiting Mellon Postdoctoral Scholar at Pomona College from 2000-2002, was hired from 2003 to 2005 and taught sociology courses that were part of Media Studies and Environmental Analysis.

2001-2002: Hung Cam Thai, who was working on his dissertation in Sociology from U.C. Berkeley, was selected as the Minority Scholar in Residence at Pomona College. In this position, he taught Transnationalism, Migration, and the Family among Asian Americans and took students to Vietnam during spring break.

2003: The Department of Sociology modified the methods requirements for the major. Instead of taking Sociological Research (which covered both qualitative and quantitative research) and a course in statistics, sociology majors are now required to take Qualitative Research Methods (Sociology 102) and Survey Research Methods (Sociology 104). The other requirements remained the same -- Introduction to Sociology, the two theory courses, Senior Seminar, Senior Thesis, and three electives.

2006: Hung Thai rejoined the Department as Assistant Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies. He has contributed new courses on Immigration & the Second Generation and Asian Americans. As a joint appointment, he teaches two sociology courses, one course cross-listed in Sociology and Asian American Studies, and one Asian American Studies course each year.

*The early department history (until 1983) is taken in large part from a faculty lecture given by Robert Herman during the 1987-88 Pomona College centennial celebration.