Sociology and the City

New NYC-based summer program offers experiential learning in sociology

The Spectrum

Carolyn Miller, a junior sociology major, grew up in Rochester but has always longed to move further from home. She applied to Hunter College in New York City but had to decline her acceptance after failing to secure her accommodations and finances on time.

This summer, the UB student is getting a second chance with her favorite city.

Miller is participating in UB's new Global Sociology New York City Program, which runs from July 7 to Aug. 1. It is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors of all majors.

The program offers students two three-credit sociology course options with a focus in experiential learning through field visits and lectures. It focuses on ethnic, religious, cultural and racial diversity within NYC, using the different boroughs as a basis for study, said Christopher Mele, the program's director and an associate professor.

Students will have a combination of classroom time and outings to the various boroughs to "get a sense of what the dominant issues" of those communities are, Mele said.

"The university is very interested in experiential learning in an effort to get students to engage with various aspects of society and economy and culture outside of the classroom," Mele said. "I chose New York because of proximity and ... it's also easier geographically."

He wants to make certain that students have accessibility and he sees the transportation grid in NYC as an important aspect of the program. Students can stay in New York University's Goddard Hall or seek their own accommodations. In addition to tuition, students will have to pay a $900 mandatory fee, which covers outings to museums, galleries and theaters. If students choose to live at NYU, the total program fee is $2,495.

Emma Frieh, a junior sociology major, is excited to experience the city through this program.

"Being able to explore [NYC] and understand its vast social diversity ... from a first-hand point of view will allow me to expand my way of viewing the city and society as a whole," Frieh said in an email.

Miller finds the opportunity to take advantage of the city's vast resources and immerse herself in cultural and educational opportunities appealing. She believes students from NYC would also benefit from applying for the summer program.

"It's really an experience unmatched by a classroom," Miller said. "It's an opportunity to really bring sociology alive in a locale that has so much relevance ... in the field of sociology and social sciences in general."

Mele expects students to be very "well-versed in all things New York" by the end of the program. He said students will participate in walking tours of particular neighborhoods that experts, historians and researchers currently working there will lead.

The program will not specialize in any particular kind of sociological content, but it will revolve around economical, cultural and political topics, according to Mele.

"I'm hoping people want to take this program even if they're not sociology majors," Miller said. "No matter what you are or where you plan on living, it will benefit everyone in terms of how to function and how to relate to globalization."

Frieh thinks students who are not from NYC have a "fascination" with the city because of its size, diversity and infinite possibilities.

Mele wants prospective applicants - who must apply by March 17 - to realize that although they only have a limited time to spend in the city, they will get to make the most of the experience. Additionally, he believes participating in this program "in an increasingly competitive labor market" creates an employment benefit.

Miller said she is determined to use the summer program to figure out her career goals and aid her personal and professional development.