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Rigorous Academics

In conjunction with the University of Notre Dame's Department of Sociology, CREO offers a menu of courses that provide graduate and undergraduate students with a strong foundation in social theory and research methods.

CREO Academics

Sociology is the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings. As such, it analyzes processes through which people express their social beings, while also considering the structures that emerge from these processes, which include educational institutions.  

The sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes. It is mostly concerned with the public schooling systems of modern industrial societies, including the expansion of higher, further, adult, and continuing education.

Students can choose from a number of courses taught by CREO faculty who are skilled researchers and devoted teachers. For information on the specific offerings, please see below.

Undergraduate Courses

13181 Contemporary Educational Issues

The major goal of this course is to develop an understanding of the interaction among society, schools, and teachers--with a particular focus on educational opportunity. The content of the course is grounded in current controversies in the field of education as presented through research and media. Throughout the semester, students will examine cases that address challenges of equity in education. Students' experiences in the course will link academic scholarship with field practice. There will be several debates during the semester in which students participate and then write a position paper. Each of the debates will begin with a formal presentation of a case supported by class readings, video, debate, and lecture. Students will be required to prepare reflective writings, engage in class discussions, and thoughtfully defend their opinions.

Other desired goals of this course include fostering students' (1) awareness of the complexity of learning and schooling; (2) recognition of the broad array of opportunities to participate in the field of education; and (3) understanding the interconnections among society, schools, families, teachers, students, curriculum, instruction, and educational policies.

20228 Social Inequality & American Education

Many have claimed that the American educational system is the “great equalizer among men.” In other words, the educational system gives everyone a chance to prosper in American society regardless of their social origins. In this course, we will explore the validity of this claim. Do schools help make American society more equal by reducing the importance of class, race, and gender as sources of inequality, or do schools simply reinforce existing inequalities and reproduce pre-existing social relations? Topics covered in the course include: unequal resources among schools, sorting practices of students within schools, parents’ role in determining student outcomes, the role of schooling in determining labor market outcomes for individuals, and the use of educational programs as a remedy for poverty.


33201 Race, Ethnicity & Inequality in Public Education

This course explores the link between racial and ethnic relations in the U.S. and the American education system. We will discuss sociological understandings of racial and ethnic inequality in education over the past several decades. Moving beyond black-white inequality, this course will examine the political, cultural, and historical perspectives of racial and ethnic inequality among and between racialized groups in the U.S. Students will be introduced to central sociological debates within the fields of race/ethnicity and education. We will also pay some attention to the changing nature of racial and ethnic inequality in education over the latter part of the twentieth century and the future of racial and ethnic inequality in education during the 21st century.


43839 Unequal America

Although America is world’s richest nation, it has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in the industrialized world. In this course, we will examine why this is so. In particular, we will examine the following questions: What social forces create inequality in society? Is inequality inevitable? How much social mobility is there in American society, and what explains who gets ahead? What explains why is there so much wage inequality in the workplace? Is there such a thing as “social class” and does it matter for life outcomes? Why are race/ethnicity and gender still related to social status, wealth, and income? Who are “the poor” and what explains their poverty? Are there social policies that can create more equality in American society – and is that what Americans really want?


Graduate Courses

SOC 63239 Sociology of Education: Ascriptive Sources of Inequality

Sociologists of education espouse the ideal of meritocracy: ascribed characteristics should have little to no relationship with either educational opportunities or outcomes.  In this course, we will examine two main ascriptive characteristics that affect both educational opportunities and outcomes: social class and race-ethnicity.  In particular, we will focus primarily on the importance of families and peers in creating class and race-ethnic inequality.


SOC 63281 Sociology of Higher Education

This graduate seminar provides an overview of key topics in the contemporary study of the sociology of higher education. We will begin by examining the purposes of higher education and its basic institutional and demographic contours over time. In the remainder of the course, we will focus our attention on understanding a number of aspects of this system given its purposes and broad characteristics. Topics will include perspectives on decision‐making in higher education; the college career and its linkages before and during post‐secondary school; race, class, immigration, and gender in higher education including affirmative action policies and the female college completion advantage; intergenerational mobility in higher education; and labor market‐education linkages. The course will mainly draw from research on the U.S. but will use international examples when applicable.


SOC 63242 Sociology of Education II: School and Classroom Effects

A primary focus of this course will be on school and classroom effects on educational outcomes. We will cover topics in the sociology of education related to school effects, sector effects, tracking and ability grouping, and classroom and teacher effects. We will look at the structure, practices, content, and outcomes of schooling, primarily in the light of their relationships to the wider society in which schools are situated. As part of the course, we will also consider the social and organizational context of contemporary education reforms in the United States—particularly test-based accountability for schools, teachers, and students.