Sociology | Work and Occupations
S315 | 3668 | Robert Althauser


This is a liberal arts course for students who desire to be
thoughtfully and knowledgeably prepared for the work world.  This
course is not particularly targeted for sociology majors--the only
prerequisite is an introductory sociology course.  But this IS a
sociology course--sociologists have a distinctive approach to this
topic that differs in many important aspects from those taken by
faculty in professional schools (business, education) or by psychology
and economics faculty generally.

For this course, "work" is part of a large >big picture=, many of
whose elements you may be unfamiliar or even uncomfortable with.  Each
of us tend to view and know only the >little picture= that comprises
our own workplace or examples of work experiences we pick up from
others.  This course utilizes examples from student experiences, the
readings, video and other media, to build a new and I hope, heavily
trafficked pathway between these >big= and >little= pictures of work.

Part of the >big= picture is historic.  I seek to develop from
historical examples a sense of the evolution and change of the work
place and a recognition of the recurring issues which drive this
change, including who "controls" work and by what means; opposing
interest among groups of co-workers, high and low skill workers,
workers and managers.  Part of this >big= picture includes changing
technical, economic and political conditions that increasingly
influence your future experiences in a specific job.  The way work is
organized wherever you look -- business, education, health care -- is
changing.  The labor markets our jobs are located in, some specific to
firms or occupations, are changing.  The never-ending collision of new
technology with old ways of organizing takes us in new and uncertain
directions.

The course has two requirements, both of which are engaging and very
rewarding.  The first is an out-of class electronic conference, using
Site Scape on the Campus Network.  Discussion questions will be posted
for your response, and you will be viewing and commenting on other
students= responses.  The second is a project which expects students
to conduct a site-visit and one or more interviews in a workplace more
or less of their choice.  Detailed specifications for the project
write-up lay out the necessary pieces of the report and include
appended interview notes, and short essay portions of the report.  The
project is the culmination of a semester=s work and serves to
demonstrate and apply knowledge gained from the course.  Despite
concerns you may have about undertaking such a project, former
students of mine will tell you it was a valuable experience,
especially when used to check out the attractions of specific lines of
future employment or even specific employers.  You should be thinking
of several alternative sites for this project; exclude any that
involve members of your family or your immediate boss in a present
workplace.