University of Minnesota
Department of Sociology

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A Chronicle of the Department

View the 100 Year History of the Department Slide Show (PDF) prepared for the Centennial SRI.

For more information see the Sociology Research Institute Papers.

Time Index Quick Link:

Early Period

Samuel G. Smith Samuel G. Smith,
First Head of Dept.

Sociology began at the University of Minnesota when Samuel G. Smith was hired as a Lecturer in Sociology in December of 1892. Though the historical record is not entirely clear, the best available evidence points to 1901 as the founding date of the department. In 1908, the Department of Sociology became the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. In 1919 two departments were formed, splitting the fields of sociology (including social work) and anthropology. Thirty years later, in 1949, a separate School of Social Work was established, leaving the Department in its present form. Over its almost 100-year history, through the scholarship of its faculty and the products of its graduate program, the Department has made major contributions to the discipline of Sociology. It has produced over 335 Ph.D.' s. As Fine and Severance (1985) point out in their history of the department:

"The roster of distinguished sociologists who have been faculty at the University of Minnesota includes George Vincent, F. Stuart Chapin, Pitirim Sorokin, L. L. Bernard, Edwin Sutherland, Clifford Kirkpatrick, George Vold, Lowry Nelson, Theodore Caplow, Don Martindale, Arnold Rose, Caroline Rose, Richard Hall, Reuben Hill, Irving Tallman, George Bohrnstedt, Edward Gross, and Gregory Stone. They include six presidents of the American Sociological Association (three while at Minnesota: Vincent, Chapin, and Rose; three after they left: Bernard, Sutherland, and Sorokin), seven [now nine] presidents of the Midwest Sociological Society (George Vold, Elio Monachesi, Arnold Rose, Roy Francis, Ira Reiss, Caroline Rose, and Richard Hall [also John Clark and Roberta Simmons]), and one president of the International Sociological Association (Reuben Hill). The list of graduate students is as impressive: Carle C. Zimmerman, George Lundberg, Mildred Parten, William Sewell, Conrad and Irene Taueber, Jessie Bernard, Louis Guttman, Richard Emerson, Sheldon Stryker, Peter Hall, and Joan Aldous to name but a few."

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1920s to the 1940s

Stuart Chapin Stuart Chapin,
Chair, 1922-1951

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Sorokin, Bernard, Zimmerman, and Chapin achieved national and international reputations for their path-breaking work. During the three decades of Stuart Chapin's leadership (from 1923 to 1952), innovative quantitative methods and empirical research became the touchstone of Minnesota sociology. Chapin's own work in measurement achieved widespread acclaim. Schmid and Sletto produced highly comprehensive studies of the effects of the Great Depression on Twin Cities populations. Lowry Nelson's work on rural communities, Clifford Kirkpatrick's research on the family, George Vold's criminological investigations, and Elio Monachesi's studies of delinquency further contributed to the department's strong reputation. Following the end of World War II, and through the sixties, Arnold Rose, Don Martindale, Edward Gross, Gregory Stone, and Reuben Hill were among those who further enhanced the reputation of the Department for high quality scholarship.

Pitirim Sorokin Pitirim Sorokin,
Faculty, 1924-30

During this early period of development, the Department ranked at the top of sociology departments across the country. In 1925, only Chicago and Columbia were rated by 35 sociologists more highly than Minnesota, among 14 sociology programs; Minnesota was also ranked in the top five in 1934 (Fine and Severance, 1985: 122). The Department maintained its high rating for a long period of time; it ranked seventh in 1957 (Keniston, 1959).

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1949 through 1965

Don Martindale Don Martindale,
Faculty, 1948-83

From 1949 through 1965 the department was still rather small, with only 14 faculty members by the latter date. It was governed by a single person during much of this time, Professor Elio Monachesi, who served as Head. Some of the programs and specialties still found in the department, albeit in new forms, were either established or substantially developed during this period. For example, a substantial impetus to the study of the family was provided in 1957 by the establishment of the Minnesota Family Study Center and the hiring of its first Director, Reuben Hill. Further impetus was provided in 1964 when a Social Science Research Training Grant was awarded in this area. This grant remained operative through the mid-seventies. The present departmental specialization in the area of Family, Gender, and Human Sexuality, as well as work in the Life Course Center, continues this early interest in the sociology of the family. The year 1957 is important in the development of the sociology of deviance as well, since it was on that date that a Social Science Training Grant in Deviance was awarded the department, which likewise continued through the next two decades. Emphasis on the sociology of deviance is now reflected in the Department's Law and Criminology specialization.

Reuben Hill Reuben Hill,
Faculty, 1957-83

As early as 1925, research and training in rural sociology was underway on the St. Paul Campus, using Agricultural Experiment Station funds under the direction of Professor Carle Zimmerman. Sorokin was also on the staff. In the early years, rural sociologists were primarily part of the Agricultural Experiment Station conducting research under the Hatch Act and related legislation. In the late 1950's this program expanded substantially to include an extension program with primary emphasis on rural development in addition to its teaching and research programs. George Donohue, Chris Oleans, and Phil Tichener became widely acknowledged for their research on mass communication in rural areas.

In the 1950s and 1960s the department also came to be widely recognized as a leader in the fields of symbolic interaction and sociological theory through the works of Professors Arnold Rose, Caroline Rose, Gregory Stone, and Don Martindale. It also had strength in the field of aging. We participated in the Midwest Council for Social Research on Aging, a consortium of Midwest University Sociology Departments centered at Kansas City. Its federally-funded competitive fellowship program supported our graduate students (in fact, we had the largest number of graduate student fellows supported by the consortium). We also started, in cooperation with other units, the All-University Council on Aging at the University of Minnesota; Professor Donald McTavish was its first chair. By 1964, the Department ranked ninth in the country (Carter, 1966).

In the mid-sixties, the faculty began to expand rapidly in response to increasing undergraduate enrollments. This expansion occurred partly through hiring Full and Associate Professors, but most hiring took place at the junior level, primarily from universities with well-established and nationally prominent departments, such as Stanford, Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Chicago. As a result of the increase in size of the faculty (it doubled between 1964 and 1975), there was considerable broadening of the scholarly and research interests represented. Alongside the more traditional centers of strength (the family, deviance, symbolic interaction and theory), by 1975 the department was recognized for its scholarship in medical sociology, small group research, complex organizations, urban sociology, and the sociology of death. Those hired during this period included Ronald Anderson, David Cooperman, Robert Fulton, Robert Kennedy, Donald McTavish, Joel Nelson, Ira Reiss, and David Ward. Many of these individuals served the department in important administrative roles, such as Chair (David Cooperman, Donald McTavish, David Ward), Associate Chair (Robert Kennedy, Robert Fulton), Director of Graduate Studies (Joel Nelson, Robert Kennedy), Director of the Center for Death Education and Research (Robert Fulton), and Director of the Family Studies Center (Ira Reiss). For many years, Ron Anderson has been the driving force in the development of computing facilities in the Department of Sociology and on the West Bank. Both Professors Anderson and Nelson remain active members of the Department.

Others who were hired during this rapidly expanding phase, who have since left the University (moved to other universities or are now retired or deceased), include Gregory Stone, Murray Straus, Joan Aldous (the first female sociologist in the department, not including the many female professors of Social Work), Scott McNall, Irving Tallman, Theodore Anderson, Richard Hall, John Clark, George Bohrnstedt, Caroline Rose, and Roberta Simmons. As Fine and Severance (1985:124) comment,

"During the 1960s the department continued to improve in absolute terms--more good scholars were producing more good work. The number of subsequently prominent Ph.D.s continued to be impressive, particularly in symbolic interaction, deviance, and the family (e.g., Peter Hall, Ira Robinson, James McCartney, Dennis Brissett, Robert Stebbins, Robert Perinbanayagam, Andrew Weigert, Viktor Gecas)."

Faculty and Staff, 1954 Faculty and Staff, 1954

It should be noted that unlike many other departments, Minnesota had developed a breadth of methodological perspectives, and had become known for its expertise in both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The 1968 revision in the undergraduate and graduate programs in methods and statistics was accompanied by the development of the Data Center, and, in general, by greatly increased use of computers both for teaching and research. Also in 1968, the Minnesota Center for Sociological Research was established.

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By 1970, it was apparent that the traditional, highly centralized mode of departmental governance was no longer appropriate to the now much larger and more diversified departmental organization. The administration shifted from a headship to a rotating chairperson. This change had very significant implications for the operations of the department. Most obvious was the decrease in continuity of departmental leadership. From 1923 to 1970 the department had just two heads, F. Stuart Chapin, from 1923 to 1952, and Elio Monachesi, from 1952 to 1970. From 1970 to 2000, there have been ten chairs: George Bohrnstedt (1970-1973), John Clark (1973-1976), Richard Hall (1976-1977), Don McTavish (1977-1980), David Cooperman (1980-1983), John Clark (1983-1984), David Ward (who served two terms, 1984-88, and 1992-1995), Joseph Galaskiewicz (1988-1989), David Knoke (1989-1992), William Brustein (1995-1998), and Candace Kruttschnitt (1999-2002).

In 1971 the Department adopted a Constitution under which it continues to operate. One major feature of this constitution was a shift from a faculty meeting to a departmental Council (including graduate and undergraduate student representatives) as the major policy-making body, thus making the governance of the department more participatory.

Joan Aldous Joan Aldous,
Faculty, 1963-74

A major revision of the graduate program was adopted in 1970 which remained in place until 1988. The major features of that program were (1) required courses in social organization, social psychology, theory, and methodology; (2) a qualifying examination (including written and oral components) in these four areas at an early stage of graduate education; and (3) specialization in a single area of sociology followed by a written and oral preliminary examination. Language requirements were replaced by two "scholarly experiences," one in cross-cultural studies and the other in a special research methodology. The students had close contact with three faculty members who formed a Program Committee, supplementing the work of the faculty advisor. Concerns about the length of time graduate students were taking to complete the qualifying examination prompted a major revision in 1988.

A central feature of the 1988 program was a single "integrative qualifying examination" which replaced the prior four separate examinations. The most recent revision of the graduate program took place in 1993. At this time, there was a movement away from written examinations in favor of involving students in research early in their graduate programs; for example, the written qualifying examination was replaced by a written research portfolio.

By the mid-seventies, the Minnesota Center for Sociological Research had become a growing and highly effective research center, under the leadership of Michael Patton. In 1975, its name was changed to the Minnesota Center for Social Research to reflect its expanding scope. It conducted considerable research sponsored by community agencies and helped to train graduate students in survey methodologies. By the mid-eighties, this unit had expanded so rapidly, under the direction of Ronald Anderson, that it could no longer be administered effectively as a Departmental unit. In 1986, it became an all-university survey facility, moving administratively from the Department of Sociology to the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs within the Humphrey Institute (though a member of our faculty, Professor Theodore Anderson, served as Chair of MCSR's advisory board). At the same time it changed its name again to the Minnesota Center for Survey Research. MCSR still employs Sociology graduate students and provides valuable training in survey methods.

During the 1970's, faculty replacements were made mainly at the junior level. Thus, the growth of the department depended largely on internal faculty development. During this decade, Jeylan Mortimer, Joseph Galaskiewicz, Paul Reynolds and Gary Fine (the latter two have since departed) were hired at the junior level, along with ten other junior faculty who subsequently left the University of Minnesota (most because of failure to receive tenure after the probationary period). Robert Leik was the only faculty member hired at the full professor level during this decade. Carl Malmquist and Candace Kruttschnitt transferred from Criminal Justice Studies (following the dismantling of that program) and Russell Thornton (who left subsequently) moved into the Department full-time from American Indian Studies.

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David Cooperman David Cooperman,
Chair, 1980-83

In the early 1980's, in recognition of the losses of three highly prominent senior faculty members (Gregory Stone in 1981 and Reuben Hill and Don Martindale in 1983), the administration supported the department's requests to hire at the senior level. In view of the department's already clear strength in certain specialties (e.g., deviance, aging, symbolic interaction, the family), an attempt was made through strategic replacements to develop the "core areas" of sociology. Four senior faculty replacements were made in the decade of the 80's: Professors Guillermina Jasso from the University of Michigan (who has since left the University), Barbara Laslett, from the University of Southern California; David Knoke and Larry Griffin, both from Indiana University [the latter subsequently returned to Indiana]). Also during this decade, six new faculty were hired at the junior level: Professors Ronald Aminzade, Rose Brewer, Jeffrey Broadbent, William Brustein, Jane McLeod, and Joachim Savelsberg (along with two other junior faculty who have left the University). These additions enhanced the "core areas" of sociology, while at the same time contributing to the diversity of the department.

According to national reputational ratings (Conference Board of Associated Research Councils) published in 1983, the Department still ranked high. It was among the top fifth of departments of sociology across the country; it was then tied for 19th place with four other schools. It should be noted, however, that this report provided 18 different scores. On only one of them, the reputation score, considered the least reliable by the authors, were we at the 19th position. With respect to several other indicators, for example, the publications-per-faculty measure, we were much higher (third among Big Ten Departments).

Roberta Simmons Roberta Simmons,
Faculty, 1969-1990

In the Spring of 1987, the Department of Sociology had an external review. The External Review Committee (consisting of Professors Rita Simon, Chair; Michael Aiken; Glen Elder; and Morris Rosenberg) concluded that the Department had considerable potential to move higher in the ranks of the most highly rated departments of sociology. However, to do this, it emphasized that we needed to recruit additional faculty. It strongly recommended that senior appointments, including one or two "stars," be made in Sociology to further strengthen those areas that had already become highly visible: namely, life course and family; comparative historical sociology; organizations/occupations; and the sociology of law, criminology and deviance. Professor Margaret Marini, whose research primarily lies in the areas of the life course, social stratification, and family, was hired the following year at the senior level.

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The decade of the 1990s was one of tremendous change for the Department. In the early years of this decade, the College of Liberal Arts urged the Department to consolidate its strengths in a small number of key areas rather than attempt to represent the entire discipline of sociology. Additions to the faculty during this period clearly addressed departmental needs and built upon areas of existing prominence. Prior to 1995 we hired Yanjie Bian, in comparative stratification, Jennifer Pierce in the sociology of gender, and Rosemary Gartner in criminology. The number of assistant professors expanded tremendously beginning with Christopher Uggen, who was hired in 1995 and specializes in law/criminology/deviance and quantitative criminology; Elizabeth Heger Boyle was hired in 1996 and focuses on law and human rights; Douglas Hartmann joined the Department in 1997, and studying race, ethnicity, and popular culture; Ross Macmillan, who works in the area of victimology; and Joe Gerteis, who studies social movements, joined us in 1998 and 1999, respectively. The culmination of this decade occurred in the Fall of 1999 when the Department engaged in its largest recruiting effort that resulted in hiring four new assistant professors. Joining the faculty in Fall 2000 are: Ann Hironaka, Stanford Ph.D.; Erin Kelly, Princeton Ph.D.; Karen Lutfey, Indiana Ph.D.; and Evan Schofer, Stanford Ph.D. Collectively, they will build on existing strengths (e.g., gender, organizations, life course, and political sociology) as well as contribute to new areas of growth (e.g. medical sociology and globalization). Scott Eliason, associate professor, Pennsylvania State University Ph.D. and Robin Stryker, full professor, University of Wisconsin Ph.D. were both at the University of Iowa and will provide a tremendous contribution to our department in the areas of quantitative methods and legal and political sociology, respectively.

There are many informal indications that changes in the composition of the faculty during the past decade have enhanced our visibility and reputation in the discipline. We have hosted three internationally recognized journals: Contemporary Sociology, Signs, and Social Science History. We are becoming increasingly well known in the areas of comparative-historical sociology and the life course (supported by the Life Course Center, established in 1986). Our faculty have a wide scope of methodological expertise; including quantitative analysis of survey data, network analysis, documentary and archival research, in-depth interviewing, ethnography and feminist methods.

In closing this brief summary of the historical development of the Department, it should be noted that this unit has been an active participant in the diffusion of the sociological perspective into other departments at the University of Minnesota throughout its history. At its inception the Department was combined with anthropology and social work. It has assertively helped to establish academic units at the University of Minnesota whose scholarship focuses on topics that had heretofore been included within the domain of sociology. The ethnic studies units, the Industrial Relations Department, the School of Management, Urban Studies, American Studies, Women's Studies, the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies, East Asian Studies, the MacArthur Program, the Humphrey Institute, the Department of Family Social Science, sociology in the medical/pharmacy/public health departments, and others continue to benefit from the support and input from the Department of Sociology. Today its members' scholarly work extends to several areas outside sociology, including anthropology, history, public health, psychiatry, and management.

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Faculty, 1995 Faculty, 1995


  1. This brief history relies extensively on Fine and Severance's (1985) more lengthy exposition. It also draws on the Department's previous Self-Survey reports, prepared in 1975 (by Theodore Anderson, et al.) and 1987 (by Jeylan Mortimer, et al.), as well as on prior departmental planning documents.
  2. There is some controversy in the record surrounding the founding date of the department. While in the Informational Manual, University of Minnesota, compiled by the Department of Alumni Relations (Second edition, January 1962), it is said that the Department of Sociology was founded as a separate department in 1890, with Samuel G. Smith as its Chair (1890-1914), other more scholarly sources (Martindale, 1976:17; Fine and Severance, 1985) identify 1910 as the date of departmental establishment. However, the Regents minutes of June 4, 1901 establish a "Chair of Sociology." In the Fall of the next academic year (1901), Sociology first appeared in the College of Science, Literature and Arts Bulletin with three courses listed. Further corroborating evidence supporting the 1901 date is provided by the fact that the first Ph.D. in Sociology was conferred on George Frederick Wilson in 1902 (The Bulletin of the University of Minnesota, Register of Ph.D. Degrees, 1958-1938, Vol. XLII, #31, May 22, 1939) whose major was Sociology; his minor was Philosophy and History. His dissertation title was "Control in Evolution." Budget records for the Department go back to 1904, and minutes of the Regents Meeting (December 13, 1904) also make reference to the "Department of Sociology."


Anderson, Theodore R., 1975. Self-survey: Department of Sociology 1974-1975. University of Minnesota.

Fine, Gary Alan and Janet S. Severance. 1985. "Great Men and Hard Times: Sociology at the University of Minnesota." The Sociological Quarterly 26(1):117-134.

Mortimer, Jeylan T., et al. 1987. Department of Sociology Program Review. University of Minnesota.


Photographs of "Stuart Chapin" and "Faculty and Staff 1954" appear courtesy of University of Minnesota Archives. All other photographs appear courtesy of the Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota.

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Moen with Bruininks, Prof. Ron Aminzade, Former CLA Dean Steven Rosenstone

McKnight Presidential Chair Award ceremony: Former CLA Dean Steven Rosenstone, Profs. Phyllis Moen (awardee), Ron Aminzade, and University President Robert Bruininks