The Ph.D. Program
Every major sociology department can and does make many of the same claims: a quality faculty, a range of stimulating courses, an on-going program of research and publication, a set of other graduate students interested in and excited by the learning opportunities, financial support, and future career opportunities. Besides being ranked fifth out of forty-four in a recent survey of graduate students, there are many other reasons why you should take a special interest in UMass Amherst.
The “Five College” factor: within ten miles of UMass Amherst are Smith, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Amherst colleges. This doubles the effective size of our faculty. Since none of the other colleges has graduate programs in sociology, many of their faculty are eager to work with our students. Students at UMass Amherst can use the libraries and facilities of all other colleges. A free bus system connects the Five Colleges with the Amherst-Northampton bus running every 20 minutes during peak periods.
In our department, we have a weekly colloquium series in which faculty and graduate students present their work. Faculty and graduate students present research in various stages ranging from works in progress to finished products. In addition to members of our own department we also invite scholars from across the country to present their research.
Faculty within our department organize small reading groups based on interest in a topic area. Faculty and graduate students meet periodically throughout a semester to discuss a set of readings. Prior reading groups have been organized around the sociology of culture and social inequality.
Individualized instruction and exams: The UMass Amherst sociology department has a program of individual and small group tutorials and you even shape your own comprehensive exam.
Interesting and friendly students and faculty: Everyone is on a first name basis; faculty are in residence and available. We encourage you to visit, and if you do we’ll see that you meet both students and faculty; we’ll also arrange for you to spend the night at someone’s house or apartment.
Our students come from a wide range of countries: India, People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, South Africa, Nigeria, Russia, Pakistan, Syria, Argentina, Japan, Greece, Germany, and Korea, as well as many regions within the U.S.
A great place to live: The Amherst area provides all the advantages of rural and urban living. The area provides a lush natural setting with hills, streams, and hiking trails. Also, Amherst and nearby Northampton have bustling downtowns, including plenty of live music, cafes, foreign films, bookstores, and music shops. Boston is less than two hours away and New York is three hours.
Financial Support: For those admitted to the program, we normally provide funding, including a stipend for living expenses, a tuition waiver and health benefits. The department makes every effort to support all who enter and remain in good standing, for four or even five years. A number of our graduate students also obtain departmental, university, and external funding beyond the initial years.
The Department of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst offers graduate programs leading to the Ph.D. The graduate faculty includes 44 members—26 (Fall 2007) at UMass, 21 affiliated through the Five College consortium. All are available to advise and serve on student committees. The Department of Sociology enrolls an average of 60 graduate students and accepts between 9 and 12 new students each year.
A range of theoretical, methodological, and substantive concerns characterize faculty research and departmental course offerings. We create a culture in which students pursue their own intellectual concerns with support from professors and peers. We strongly encourage students to design individualized degree programs in consultation with faculty.
Our program prepares students for many professional careers, including teaching and research in colleges and universities; research in government, business, and non-profit organizations; administrative, applied, and social planning positions; and activist work in social change organizations. Graduates have taken jobs at large research universities and small liberal arts colleges. Some recent examples include Grinnell and Boston colleges, as well as various branches of the California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont university systems. Our students have also taken jobs with organizations like the National Opinion Research Center, Rockefeller Foundation, The World Bank, Departments of Health and Welfare, and Gallup.
All applicants are automatically considered for possible funding and we rarely admit people without some sort of funding—usually from the department but sometimes from the university or some external source. The department will make every effort to keep those entering with a B.A. funded for at least four years and those with an M.A. funded for three years. Of course students must remain in good academic standing to receive this funding. Numerous students receive funding beyond these years.
Departmental and University Funding
Departmental funding includes a tuition waiver, health benefits, and a stipend for work as a teaching, research or project assistant; these are available to U.S. citizens and foreign students. A limited number of Graduate School Fellowships, as well as Opportunity Awards and other minority fellowships, which also carry tuition waivers, are available. Students requesting assistantships or fellowships are responsible for ensuring that all application materials are on file in the Graduate School by January 15 for entrance in the Fall.
Graduate Student Grant Services (GSGS)
The GSGS is a resource for various levels of assistance regarding funding, external or internal, go to: http://www.umass.edu/gradschool/funding-support for detailed information.
Many agencies not connected to the university are potential sources of financial aid for graduate students. Some of this support is for students in their early years of graduate work; much is for students working on dissertations. The university maintains an extensive collection containing information on funding sources, private and public. We especially encourage minority students to apply for the Minority Fellowship Program sponsored by the American Sociological Association. Undergraduates apply in their senior year and funding lasts for three years. For an application, write to the Minority Fellowship Program, 1722 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20036.
Graduate students are encouraged to participate in the Sociology Graduate Student Association (SGSA), an organization representing graduate students’ interests in the department and the broader UMass Amherst community. The SGSA participates in department policy and procedural decisions for graduate and undergraduate study, assists in the development of graduate student and professional colloquia, and organizes a variety of social events. SGSA also has representatives in the graduate student union and the Graduate Student Senate.
Graduate students at UMass Amherst are unionized and are members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), affiliated with the United Auto Workers. GEO and the campus administration collectively bargain agreements, negotiating issues such as salaries, health benefits, and working conditions.
Graduate students have the opportunity to present their research in a number of workshops and colloquium series. At the RIP (Research in Progress) Series, advanced graduate students, former graduate students, and faculty alike give formal presentations. In student-organized workshops, students discuss their research with other graduate students and faculty in a less formal setting.
RESEARCH, COMPUTING AND LIBRARY FACILITIES
The Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) supported by UMass Amherst and by grants to faculty members from both public and private sources such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations, provides a number of research opportunities for graduate students including Research Assistantships and consulting work. Part of the Sociology Department, ISSR contains many of the department’s computer facilities and maintains extensive archives of survey data.
Numerous microcomputers and printers, word processing software and statistical programs are available for students. The University Computing Center’s mainframe equipment and software provide Internet access, electronic mail, and the capacity to handle large data sets. The campus is a member of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Administered locally within the department, these important resources provide convenient access to a wide array of data sets.
The recently renovated university library provides a major research collection and is supplemented by full access to the libraries of Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges, which appreciably increases the quantity of materials available for research. The current holdings of the main library include 2.7 million books, 15,600 serials, more than a half a million government documents, an extensive law collection, two million microfilms, and numerous data sets on CD ROM. The library is also home to the nationally recognized W.E.B. Du Bois Collection and other specialized collections.
The campus is located in Amherst, a charming college town with a quiet New England ambiance and plenty of bookstores, cafes, and restaurants. Outdoor activities abound--biking, swimming, canoeing, hiking and skiing. Nearby Northampton is a mini-city with an impressive music and art scene and a wide variety of restaurants and shops. (The New York Times listed the Amherst-Northampton area as one of the nation’s ten best college towns). The majority of graduate students live off-campus in apartments and shared houses; there is on-campus graduate student housing as well. Free public transportation throughout the school year makes it easy and cheap to get around Amherst and to any of the college campuses from all of the surrounding towns.