New sociology doctorate to begin fall 2008

After many years of careful planning and deliberation, the sociology department at Portland State received state approval for a doctorate program, to begin next fall.

After many years of careful planning and deliberation, the sociology department at Portland State received state approval for a doctorate program, to begin next fall. The doctorate will focus on the ways health and social inequality benefit some social groups at the expense of others. Dalton Miller-Jones, chair of Portland State’s Black Studies Department and member of the Oregon University System’s (OUS) State Board of Higher Education, said the degree is the first of its kind among colleges in the Pacific Northwest. Miller-Jones said the degree had to be unique in its title, because OUS budget constraints do not allow for duplicate doctorates in Oregon, and other state universities already offer similar sociology doctorates. He said he feels a health and social inequality doctorate will benefit PSU by bringing the university more national attention as well a greater number of research grants and awards. Health care is an issue Miller-Jones said he feels is not being addressed appropriately at the national level by sociologists. The new doctorate has the potential to effect change to health care policy, especially among social groups that do not have equitable access to decent health care, he said. “I don’t like to say minorities, but members of Latino, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Native American, Chicano and Asian communities are struggling to obtain-and more importantly, retain-sufficient health care,” Miller-Jones said. “The new doctorate feels like something that can address this quagmire.” PSU Sociology Chair Veronica Dujon said the sociology department has spent the last decade assembling a faculty that focuses on health and social inequality, and that the master’s program during the past four years has been strong enough to assert the need for a higher degree. She said top doctoral colleges in the field regularly recruit and offer fully funded scholarships to PSU sociology students with master’s degrees. “After years of seeing our students go on to prestigious institutions for further study, I’m looking forward to the implementation of a doctorate at our own school,” Dujon said. “The department has been working towards this for years, and I am excited for the new program.” Matt Carlson, sociology professor and head of the doctorate committee, said the initial class will comprise between five and eight doctorate students. About 35 inquiries for enrollment have been submitted thus far, many of which have come from nationwide and international students. The average master’s degree class at PSU is between 10 and 15 students, and a new doctorate program with about half that amount is very positive, said Randy Blazak, criminology professor and interim director of graduate sociology. He said that while criminology will not have a large presence among the doctorate syllabus, he is still excited to participate in the new program. “The focus of the new program is considerably broad, and I’m pretty certain I’ll be plenty involved,” Blazak said. “It’s been a lot of hard work to prepare for, and I’m just as excited as the rest of the staff to make this program into a functional asset at PSU.” Aside from criminology, the field of sociology encompasses various studies of social change, anything from population migration to social-class studies and globalization, or the impact of global marketplaces on societies and cultures, Blazak said. Carlson said that the broad nature of the program will include all of the sociology staff, and that in addition to health care, immigration and social education will be emphasized. The program will include 51 doctoral credit hours, including two new courses on social inequality and research methods, respectively. Blazak said that a further 16 credit hours of electives, eight of which must be in sociology, are required alongside 27 dissertation credit hours. Dujon said that the program was initially going to focus just on social health, but sociology faculty felt health alone was too narrow of a subject for a doctorate program. Rather than limit their options, Dujon said, the sociology department decided to broaden the doctorate degree’s horizons to include the study of social inequality before approaching the State Board of Higher Education for approval. Dujon said that community inclusion of the doctorate will also be very important. Oregon Health and Sciences University and the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research have been integral to the preparation of the program, and those communal ties are going to be essential for both long-term research and hands-on doctoral instruction, she said. “The program really lives up to the PSU motto of ‘Let knowledge serve the city,'” Blazak said. “We’re going to be very involved at the community level, and that’s great for any sociology department.” For further information, visit Applications for the program must be received by Jan. 15, and can be picked up from the sociology department’s office in room 217 of Cramer Hall.