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February 5, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) -- Southern Methodist University has announced plans to rebuild its Sociology Department and offer a new interdisciplinary major called "Markets and Cultures" that will be based in the new department.

A proposal for both the new department and the new major was approved by the SMU Board of Trustees at its December 2000 meeting.

The search for a new Sociology Department chair will begin this fall, and the university hopes to have a new chair in place by the spring of 2002. Kathy Hayes, associate dean for academic affairs in Dedman College, is chairing the search committee for the new department chair. Hayes said the new department chair will be a specialist in "economic sociology," which she describes as a growing field within sociology.

After a new department chair is hired, SMU also will hire an additional assistant professor of sociology. This will give the Sociology Department four tenured or tenure-track faculty members, which is the minimum required for a department by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

SMU disbanded its original Department of Sociology in 1993 and moved the sociology program under the Department of Anthropology. Even without departmental status, sociology has remained a popular major at SMU. The university currently has about 50 sociology majors.

The new undergraduate degree in markets and culture is expected to be available to students beginning in the fall of 2002. In addition to sociology, the new multidisciplinary major will draw upon courses in accounting, anthropology, computer science, economics, foreign languages, history, literature, philosophy, political science, psychology and statistics.

Four new courses are expected to be added to the Sociology Department as part of the new major: "Markets and Culture," "Organizations and Their Environments," "Contemporary Markets and Culture," and a Markets and Culture Internship.

"This major should give students a broad understanding of the history of business and the way consumer culture has developed historically and operates now," said Jasper Neel, dean of Dedman College. "As far as we know there is no other undergraduate degree program like this anywhere."

Neel said he expects the new major to attract about 40 students. He said it should be a popular double major, particularly for students majoring in subjects such as English, history, foreign languages and business.

English Department Chair Dennis Foster was among the faculty members who served on the committee that developed the new major.

"The kind of knowledge one gains from studying history, anthropology, literature, sociology, political science and economics can be very useful to the kind of thinking one has to do in the business world," Foster said. "I think this major will be valuable to students as well as employers."

Jerry Alexander, director of the SMU Career Center, agreed that the new major could provide an advantage to liberal arts majors when it comes time to begin their job searches.

"Many liberal arts students go into business after graduation," Alexander said. "This is a step they could take to get a liberal arts education and still prepare for a career in business."