The Sociology department was founded in 1915 by Emory S. Bogardus, the first of 15 who have served as chairs of the USC Sociology department. USC Sociology played an important role in the history of the discipline: it was the first sociology department west of the Mississippi to offer the Ph.D. degree in 1928; it founded Alpha Kappa Delta, the national sociological honorary society in 1920; it organized the Pacific Sociological Association in 1929; and it founded three major sociological journals — Sociology and Social Research, Sociological Inquiry, and Sociological Perspectives (formerly the Pacific Sociological Review).
USC Sociology achieved its early growth under the leadership of Emory Bogardus, who served as the department's founding chair for 31 years. In these early decades, the department housed a Division of Social Work, started in 1920, which became the separate USC School of Social Work in 1937. In American sociology, women sociologists — very few in number — were typically housed in social work programs. This tendency was reflected at USC. Dr. Bessie McClenahan, the first woman to earn a USC Sociology Ph.D. in 1928, became a half-time faculty member in Sociology, half time in the department's Division of Social Work. McClenahan's 1922 book, Organizing the Community, was influential among social workers.
Though interrupted by the Great Depression and World War II in the 1930s and early 1940s, growth and momentum in the Sociology department recommenced in the late 1940s. The early decades of USC Sociology laid the groundwork for research on race relations and immigration, and for community studies of civic engagement that remain central aspects of our department's strengths and focus today. Much of the department's growth during the middle decades of the 20th century occurred through the development of research centers, some of which continue to thrive today.
- A Population Studies Laboratory was developed in the Sociology department, and thrived in its early years through the leadership of Georges Sabagh. The Population Lab produced research on international population growth, demography, immigration, and ecology well into the 1990s, under the leadership of Maurice Van Arsdol and David Heer. Today's Sociology faculty, partnered with demographers in other parts of the university, are re-building a Population Research Center that will provide cutting-edge research on immigration, race relations, and family studies well into the 21st century.
- The Sociology department also launched in the 1960s a Youth Studies Center, later incorporated into the Public Systems Research Institute, under the leadership of LaMar T. Empey, Malcolm Klein, and Solomon Kobrin. These three pre-eminent scholars made USC a center for the study of crime and delinquency, through the time of Klein's retirement in 1998.
- A third center of importance during this time period was the Family Marriage and Counseling Center. Under the leadership of James Peterson, Carlfred Broderick, and Constance Ahrons, scores of students simultaneously completed a Ph.D. in Sociology and a license in Marriage and Family Counseling that uniquely prepared them to develop careers that straddled academia and counseling practice. Though the Sociology department phased out the family therapy program during the late 1990s, the scholarly studies of families remains one of our major departmental strengths.
- A final area of mid-century growth came from the Sociology department's development of the Gerontology Center, developed for research in problems associated with the life course and aging. Launched by LaMar Empey, James Peterson, and Vern Bengtson (who continues his research on aging and the life course today), the center developed eventually into the Andrus Gerontology Center. The Sociology department continues a fruitful relationship with this interdisciplinary center today.
- In the 1990s through today, new areas of emphasis and strength have emerged alongside these traditional strengths of the Sociology department. Barry Glassner's arrival as department chair in 1991 facilitated the growth of qualitative sociology that now stands alongside our quantitative approaches as a unique area of strength for USC Sociology. Since the late 1980s, USC Sociology has consistently been seen as a center for research in the area of sociology of sex and gender. Our emergence as a national leader in this field is due in part to our productive relationship with USC's interdisciplinary Gender Studies Program. The mid-1990s also saw a revival of a longtime departmental strength in the study of race/ethnicity, fueled partly by the department's thriving relationship with USC's interdisciplinary Department of American Studies in Ethnicity. Since the turn of the new millennium, the Sociology department has developed a new and fruitful relationship with a vibrant center for research, the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Since 2001, and largely fueled by USC College's Senior Hiring Initiative, the Department of Sociology has enjoyed a growth phase that stimulates our optimism that we will enjoy continued prominence in these and other sociological and interdisciplinary fields of research and graduate study.
Emory S. Bogardus, 1962. Much Have I Learned: An Autobiography (Los Angeles: University of Southern California)
Emory S. Bogardus, 1970. A History of Alpha Kappa Delta (Los Angeles: University of Southern California)
Emory S. Bogardus, 1971. History of Sociology at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles: University of Southern California)