Department of Sociology

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Mission Statement

The University of Nevada at Las Vegas defines itself as a "student-friendly university" whose members are "enhancing the quality of life of the residents of the state" through their research and are forging "collaborative relationships" with the host community through outreach and service. The department of sociology (DOS) aligns its mission with these goals articulated by the UNLV strategic plan.

The DOS teaching philosophy calls for integrating students’ learning experience with civic engagement and scholarly pursuits. The DOS Undergraduate and Graduate Internship Program encourages students to explore our region and prepares our graduates to work as well-trained, publicly engaged professionals whose activities benefit the region and the country. With this goal in mind we incorporate into class assignments data from the survey of The Leading Indicators in Nevada, involve our students in the ongoing Desert Southwest Study, and give our graduates hands-on experience in research and grant development in the NevadaTest Site Project, Sex Industry Studies, UrbanDevelopment Initiative, Agingand Death Studies, Nevada Problem Gamblers Research, Sociology of Architecture Group, Nevada E-health Project, Community Action Research, and other areas affecting the quality of life in the Southwest. The DOS graduate program offers a full range of quantitative and qualitative methods, with an emphasis on ethnographic research and extensive training in interpretive and critical sociology. UNLV sociologists have demonstrated their commitment to teaching by winning UNLV Foundation Distinguished Teaching Awards, Boyd Awards for Teaching, Alex G. and Faye Spanos Distinguished Teaching Awards, Alumni Association Student Focused Faculty Awards, and College of Liberal Arts William Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching. The sociology department has accumulated a strong record of graduate student placement in academic, research, and civil service institutions.

Our faculty members have pioneered several studies that bring cutting-edge scholarship to bear on issues confronting our community, nation, and the world. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Areas Social Survey 2010 has tracked Las Vegans’ attitude toward natural environment, community, and economy. Funded by grants in the amount of $62,598, this project is cosponsored by the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, the city of Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, the Urban Sustainability Initiative and the UNLV Presidential Research Award. The survey’s goal is to evaluate the sustainability outlook in areas crucial to the wellbeing of Southern Nevada. DOS faculty initiated and worked closely with the history department members on The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project that explores Nevada’s historical role as a nuclear weapon testing site. Funded by an $830,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Education, this undertaking documents and preserves the lived past of the state residents associated with and affected by nuclear weapon testing in Nevada. Sociology faculty and students are involved in a collaborative research with Harvard Medical School on The Nevada Problem Gambling Project and Nevada E-health Project. These gambling-related investigations are managed by DOS faculty with joint appointment at the Harrah Hotel College [unlv.edu/hotel] and the UNLV International Gaming Institute [http://igi.unlv.edu/] and are supported by $1,099,880 in state of Nevada and Harvard University grants. Along with their colleagues at other departments, UNLV sociologists conducted 2009 Adult Entertainment Expo Survey that examined the attitudes of convention-goers towards Las Vegas, sexual entertainment, and spending priorities.

Among the books recently published by UNLV sociologists or currently in production are policy-oriented studies Las Vegas: The Social Production of an All-American City; Death and Dying in America; American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate; The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland; Faithful to Fenway: Believing in Boston, Baseball, and America’s most Beloved Ballpark, and Pragmatism and Democracy: Studies in History, Social Theory and Progressive Politics. DOS faculty interests extend beyond our country’s borders as evidenced by a series of international conferences and publications on Reform in fledgling democracies and the role of Intelligentsia in post-communist societies. DOS members’ works on symbolic interaction, female sexuality, communication intelligence, Postmodernism and Social Inquiry, Phenomenological foundations of theoretical practice, and related subjects have been translated into several languages.

In the last few years, UNLV sociologists published their research on spousal bereavement, family income trends, gender differences in small business ventures, labor and consumer culture, welfare-to-work policies, race and market dynamics, recidivism and private prisons, second-hand tobacco policies, emerging trends in the gaming industry, the politics of baseball business, the role of religion in culture wars, the transformation of self-identity in postmodern society, advertisement strategies in hypermodern era, white power movement, poverty patterns in heterosexual and same-sex couples, current trends in the interviewing process, interactions and identity-construction in virtual spaces, and biographical methods of research. Further details about these studies can be found on the DOS publications page, sociology department CV, and on personal pages maintained by sociology faculty members.

We take local community problems as our own and strive to improve the quality of life in our state. The Social Health of Nevada Report is a prime example of the sociology faculty’s commitment to service and community outreach. In collaboration with the Nevada governor’s office, Clark County agencies, and faculty across the university, UNLV sociologists spearheaded this pioneering study of leading indicators that established a baseline for comparing the quality of life in the Silver State with progress made in other regions. In his keynote address to a UNLV forum, Gov. Kenny Guinn stressed that "The Social Health of Nevada report, the first of its kind in our state, ... will allow those in elected offices to better prioritize and budget in areas such as health and human services, education and the environment, [and] bring a new quality of life to those less fortunate than we are."

DOS faculty members are stakeholders in the UNLV Climate Change Research Group funded by a $15 million EPSCoR National Science Foundation Grant, the NSHE Student Climate Change Survey assessing NSHH students’ knowledge and attitudes toward climate change, and The Nevada Problem Gambling Project tracking the long-term health problems in Nevada, Arizona, and Nebraska. UNLV sociologists have played a key role in establishing and directing the UNLV Brookings Mountain West, Urban Sustainability Initiative, International Gaming Institute, Lincy Institute, Center for Democratic Culture, Urban Action Research Collective, and other university and Liberal Arts College institutions.

In line with the UNLV strategic goal to promote cross-disciplinary research and community involvement, DOS faculty conducts the Justice & Democracy forum series that brings together politicians, business representatives, and community activists to discuss issues facing our community; cosponsors programs with the Hon. Judge Lloyd George, Boyd School of Law, and Center for Democratic Culture; and oversees the Emotional Intelligence Initiative’s MoodCounts survey and workshops for local businesses on the role of emotions in the workplace. The International Festival of Russian Art and Culture shows how the DOS faculty’s creative endeavors can bring to the UNLV campus and Southern Nevada the best of world culture.

DOS faculty takes active part in national and international professional organizations. Its members have been elected presidents of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, edited and served on editorial boards of Contemporary Pragmatism, Symbolic Interaction, Gaming Research and Review, Russian Journal of Communications, and other professional periodicals. UNLV sociologists manage Intercyberlibrary and Pragmacyberlibrary, which aid scholars working in the tradition of American pragmatism, and co-direct the International Biography Initiative, Erving Goffman Archives, and Yuri Levada Archives that compile large databases serving as a clearing house for students interested in biographical methods of research and the dramaturgical perspective in sociology.

Sociology department projects have received ample coverage in the news. DOS faculty has given interviews to local and national media about their research on Population Trends in Nevada, MetropolitanArea Social Survey, Women's Burden in Current Recession, Sex Industry, Nevada Brothels, White Power Movement, Vegas Tourism, and other topics related to DOS faculty research and community outreach efforts. UNLV sociologists write occasional newspaper columns and publish in nonprofessional outlets on Sex trafficking in Nevada, Women and sex trade, Political extremism in cyberspace, Mountain West economic development, fledgling democracies and Russia’s KGB capitalism. We invite visitors to explore UNLV sociology, encourage students to sign up for sociology classes, and urge scholars interested in collaborative research to contact DOS faculty.