Media contact: Dr. Ronald Wimberley, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Sociology, 919-515-9026 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In September 1920, after a two-week trek from Missouri to North Carolina on muddy, pot-holed roads that battered their automobile, Dr. Carl Taylor and graduate student Carle Zimmerman arrived on the campus of the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering. Their task: build a new program in sociology, the first of its kind at what is now known as North Carolina State University.
The pair got to work quickly, within a year granting the first master's degree in sociology at N.C. State. And, in 1926, the fledgling sociology program awarded the university's first-ever Ph.D. — also the first sociology Ph.D. granted by any southern university.
Now celebrating its 85 th anniversary, the N.C. State Department of Sociology and Anthropology conducts an innovative program of teaching, research and extension that focuses on solving real-world problems.
“The founding of sociology here [at N.C. State] had great impact on what was happening in sociology in the South and on a national level,” said Dr. Ron Wimberley, William Neal Reynolds professor of sociology and unofficial department historian. “Today, our rural sociology program ranks in the top handful of programs across the country, and many of the department's faculty are nationally recognized experts in their fields.”
In the 1930s and 1940s, the burgeoning rural sociology program conducted a number of studies in “diffusion of innovations,” also known as “technology transfer,” that helped farmers understand how to use new practices and technologies to improve their crops. Some of the program's early models continue to help shape modern-day diffusion of innovations work throughout the U.S., Wimberley said. The program also was an early leader in environmental sociology, conducting significant research in areas such as soil conservation and soil fertility, he said.
However, he added, the department's strong suit has been community sociology. From the 1930s to the 1970s, the rural sociology program established demographic and community development research and extension to improve the quality of life of rural communities throughout North Carolina. Researchers developed ways to enhance democratic practices and get citizens involved in their communities, in areas such as education, health and business. This work continues today.
“This research was critical because economic development means much more than bringing in new businesses,” Wimberley said. “The sociological community as a whole has to function in order for the businesses to stay and for its residents to prosper.”
In 1963, the rural sociology, general sociology and anthropology programs merged to form one Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
While the department's early programs in technology transfer, community, demographics and environmental sociology continue to flourish, its scope of work has broadened to envelop a number of different areas of focus.
Today, these include poverty and inequality, archaeometry, forensics, cardiovascular mortality, child abuse, family issues, biotechnology and food safety, as well as programs involving leadership development, industry needs assessment, conflict management and dispute resolution, and recycling and waste management, among many others.
“To say that our work is diverse is an understatement,” Wimberley said. “All of our efforts in teaching, research and extension are driven by our mission to make a real difference in people's lives, here in North Carolina and throughout the world.”
“Shared” today by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the department comprises nearly 700 undergraduate and graduate students, more than 30 full-time faculty and a dozen staff. The department's student load is among the highest at N.C. State.
The department has awarded 314 sociology master's degrees and 132 sociology and rural sociology Ph.D. degrees. It also offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in seven majors. A master's degree program in anthropology is under development, with anticipated launch in fall 2007.
Since its founding 85 years ago, the N.C. State Department of Sociology and Anthropology has enjoyed a rich history and a tremendous record of achievement, Wimberley said. But, he added quickly, there's no looking back.
“This is a department on the make,” he said. “We're trying to be the best sociology and anthropology department we can be, focusing not on where we've been, but where we're going.”
--Suzanne Stanard, 919-513-3126 or email@example.com--
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