Graduate Study

The Sociology/Anthropology Program at UIS does not offer a graduate degree in sociology or anthropology.

Students considering continuing their educations after the B.A. in sociology/anthropology should consult with their advisor concerning course selection.

In general, students planning to pursue graduate education in the social sciences or related professional fields (social work, public health, public administration, etc.) should complete an undergraduate course in statistics and should choose elective courses that will provide a solid background in their field of graduate study.

Ashundria Oliver (SOA ’13) talks about graduate school

AshundriaOliver I was certain that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree. However, I was not sure of my course of study. During my senior year at UIS, I met with a career counselor at the career center in order to narrow my focus. After meeting with the career counselor regularly and talking with some of my professors, I decided to apply to sociology graduate programs. I thought that sociology would provide me with tools to analyze people in relation to society, while creating solutions to help them. I also thought that I would learn more about sociology—because I felt as though I did not know enough. After I completed the GRE–I applied to a variety of graduate programs, all out of state. The process is very rigorous and it is not always easy. I was offered admission to Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and I decided to accept the offer. Columbia University was my first choice graduate school.

The program that I applied for and the one that I ended up being a part of were different. Originally, the program was supposed to be a one year free standing Master’s degree program and at the end of each semester students were required to write papers of ‘publishable quality’. However, the department decided to revamp the MA program—and this overhaul occurred while I was applying for schools. MA students would now be required to write a thesis in order to receive their degree. The program was still one-year, though. We had an MA advisor and students were also paired with faculty advisors for their thesis. The course of study for the fall semester included classical theory, qualitative methods, thesis seminar, field work, an elective (one or two) and pro-seminar. During the spring semester, the course of study included methods workshop, thesis seminar, field work, an elective course (one or two) and pro-seminar. At the end of the first semester, students had to submit their research proposal and at the end of the spring semester students had to submit the final draft of their thesis.

Graduate school can be difficult. There are days when you may want to quit completely and there are times when you feel triumphant. I had a difficult time coming up with a research question that was both sociological in nature and testable. I did not want to write a thesis, but I did not have a choice—I wanted my degree and had embarked on a long journey to get there. I decided to go back to my independent study work at UIS and branch off of that for ideas. I had been studying gun violence in Chicago, fear mongering, and gun violence in general. As a graduate student, I decided to focus on Chicago, and at one point I attempted to complete a comparative analysis between Chicago (one neighborhood) and New York (just one area within one borough). After weeks of coming up with questions that did not work, I had finally come up with something that I could test and it was sociological, so I was happy. I would experience more difficulty along the way because I did not receive a great deal of response from the area that I had decided to focus on in NY. In Chicago, things were completely different. I had more luck there. I had decided to create a survey and distribute it to willing participants for completion. My thesis is titled “Resident Perception of Crime: An Analysis of Perceived disorder in Englewood”. I wanted to know if residents of neighborhoods or areas that had been categorized as high crime areas, felt ‘shame’. I did not focus on all crime, but looked specifically at gun violence because Chicago had been labeled the ‘murder capital’ and the city has had issues with gun violence. Englewood is an area on Chicago’s south-side that is seen as a high crime area. Initially, I was going to compare the data that I gathered from Chicagoans (survey participants) and New Yorkers (survey participants). I ended up dropping NY from my study completely because I did not get as much data and there were time constraints. Overall, I gathered my data, I analyzed it and I submitted my thesis.

I had help in the data collection process in Chicago and a PhD student at Columbia helped me with the software program for my data. I also had an extremely helpful thesis advisor. The thing that I enjoyed the most about the graduate school was my elective course that dealt with the juvenile justice system. My feelings about the program in general are mixed. There are many things that I did not like and there are some things that I did. I would say to anyone considering graduate school: you must be sure of what it is you want to study (the particular program anyway—your actual focus or research in grad school can change and it often does). Graduate school is more application of the tools that you have learned—and I wanted to learn more about sociology. I learned, but not in the way that I initially thought I would have. Decide if you are ready to pursue a PhD versus a Master’s. There are some PhD programs that award terminal Master’s degrees to students. For example, if a student enters a PhD program and after a year or perhaps two they decide that they want to stop, then depending on the amount of coursework completed and the program requirements, they may be awarded a Master’s degree in their field of study. However, this is not always the case. Most Master’s programs are not funded and PhD programs are funded. Students can receive outside funding such as fellowships or assistantships, but most of the time these are for PhD students. You can take out student loans, but there are differences between graduate loans and undergraduate loans.

Also, if you want to purse graduate/ professional schooling be aware of any exams that those schools may require. There is the GRE (Graduate Records Examination), the DAT, PCAT, MCAT, LSAT etc. that schools use when reviewing applications for admission. You can purchase GRE review guides. The career center at UIS also has some. You may also enroll in a preparation course to help with studying (they often cost). Schools also look at letters of recommendation, grades and other personal/ academic accomplishments of applicants. The personal statement for graduate schools is also extremely important. You can have a general personal statement that states everything about you, your goals, and why you want to attend a school. However, you have to tailor each letter to every program that you apply for. Generally, they ask the same things, but there may be a few differences. You can purchase GRE review guides. The career center at UIS also has some. You may also enroll in a preparation course to help with studying. Furthermore, if you are interested in graduate school you can complete an independent study, work as a research assistant if possible, or talk with an instructor about their research—it may help. Giving a presentation at the UIS Student Arts and Research Symposium (StARS) may also help. Contact students and faculty at different schools to learn more about particular programs. It may also be possible for you to visit the school and sit in on a class session or two.

In closing, I graduated from Columbia in May of 2014 with a Master of Arts. I decided to take a break from the academic world. After I graduated from UIS in May of 2013, I started grad school in September 2013. Now I am working for a non-profit/ community organization in NY. I want to pursue a PhD in criminology in a few years.

Searching for Graduate Programs?

Dr. Lynn Fisher shares her tips for thinking about graduate school:

  • Consult the UIS Career Development Center — they can help you formulate goals and gather information about grad schools.
  • University of Wisconsin Milwaukee has an excellent web page on finding a graduate program, with links to many useful resources. (You’ll find that some of the links are broken, but do not be discouraged; I have found many useful sources and ideas through this thoughtful web page.)
  • is a comprehensive listing of graduate programs in the United States, with some coverage of programs in other countries. Explore links to the programs. I recommend going to the UWM page above first, to formulate a list of questions that are important to you in evaluating graduate programs.
  • is an interesting resource, intended mostly for Ph.D. students in the sciences, but broadly relevant for anyone considering graduate school. For example, explore their pages on grad school rankings.
  • Here is some useful advice for undergraduates thinking of applying to Ph.D. programs.
  • Be aware of licensing or accreditation requirements in the field that interests you. Look for national organizations relating to the profession or field you want training in. For example: National Association of Social Workers offers a lot of information about the profession, training, etc., and the Council on Social Work Education provides a list of accredited MSW programs.

Give yourself plenty of time to learn about graduate programs that will work for you!