About Introduction to Sociology

As part of the Coordinated Arts Program (CAP) Global Stream students take a year-long Introduction to Sociology course taught by me, Kerry Greer. Introduction to Sociology or “Intro” is my favourite, as I have the opportunity to share with students the discipline that I love and show them how society works. It is especially fun teaching a class of all first-years!

This site will introduce you to the course and help you understand how this course is designed to help you engage with your community — both on and off campus — during your first year at UBC. This fall (2018) will be my third iteration of this course — the first two years I gave students the option of participating in the Trek Program in lieu of a weekly discussion section where students conducted a small research project and wrote up their findings in a long research report. This year I am changing things a bit — all students will be engaging, but students will have some choice in how they do this. Read on to learn what to expect!

Course Structure

Most students who come to UBC have only a vague sense of what Sociology is and that is fine. I promise, everyone who takes this course will have a really clear idea of what the discipline is, and how the “sociological imagination” can help you understand the world we live in. I don’t use a textbook, although there are several available (here is an open source one that you can download for free!).  But before you download, please know that I will not be covering all of this material — instead I like to teach students how to think sociologically, and to accomplish this I assign readings written by social theorists and research published by sociologists. I also ask students to watch videos and listen to podcasts. Information is all around us, and I spend a good part of my summer finding great material that will help students learn about sociology.

Besides teaching students what sociology is and how it matters to their lives, I also think that this course and the CAP program more generally is a great way to help students develop connections with their communities — it is after all, the Global Citizen Stream*. Some students arrive on campus with a lot of knowledge about Vancouver, while others have only just read about it online. Regardless of your initial relationship, this course will offer you many opportunities to engage more deeply and to learn about sociological concepts and principles by engaging with the broader community. We do this in several ways:

  1. Students who elect to participate in the Trek Program, in lieu of attending a weekly discussion section, engage throughout the year with community groups. Hosted by the Centre for Community Engaged Learning, Trek connects students with community groups where the student spends about two hours a week assisting with some aspect of their programs. Students learn first hand how things like government cutbacks in education result in increased demand for nonprofits to run after school programs. Or how working families depend on food assistance in a city where housing prices have skyrocketed.
  2. Students who elect to attend the weekly discussion section will engage in  Problem Based Learning exercises. These students will typically stay on campus although will be expected to seek opportunities to listen to and learn from community groups that will help them understand and analyze the extent  of a particular social problem. Students will spend time working in small groups to map out and identify root causes of problems and conduct the necessary research to identify possible solutions. Emphasis will be placed on research skills (particularly identifying resources in libraries, archives, online) and learning how to share information with a diverse audience.
  3. All students will also be invited to spend Reading Week (in February) completing a project with a community partner. This option will be especially encouraged among students who opt for the discussion section. Projects will help students connect what they are learning in the classroom to our local community.
  4. Throughout the year guests will be invited to come share their experiences and knowledge with the class. These learning opportunities help students understand the institutional and political context of their education and the course material, while also introducing students to professionals from a variety of different sectors.

Regardless of whether students opt to participate in the Trek Program or the weekly discussion section, students can expect to learn a great deal about social problems and local responses to these problems. Students will spend time learning from community partners, reflecting and writing about what they are learning, and identifying ways of sharing what they have learned with diverse audiences. Both options have similar requirements in terms of time and writing expectations — students should decide which option is best suited to their needs and expectations. Once students have chosen between Trek and the weekly discussion section (at the end of the second week), they cannot switch between the two options.

Discussion Section or Trek? You Decide!

Students in Intro have a CHOICE regarding how they learn the course material. In addition to three lectures each week (mandatory for all) students choose whether to attend a weekly discussion section with a Teaching Assistant (TA) where they learn how to “do” sociology by researching and writing about specific social problems and proposing solutions OR they can opt to participate in the Trek Program.


Through a partnership with the Centre for Community Engaged Learning students who opt for the Trek Program spend about 2-hours per week at a community organization in lieu of their weekly discussion section meeting.  Through engagement with a community partner, students gain a first-hand understanding of many of the concepts they are learning about in the classroom. In addition to participating in the Trek Program (which has its own set of activities) students produce a series of short descriptive writing exercises and meet as a group once a month. During these meetings, students discuss their placements, share stories,  and provide peer support as students navigate their first year of university and their community service project. Want to learn more? Students from the past two years shared their experiences with you through a series of blog posts — click on the links above and see for yourself how much they gained from their experience.

Discussion Section

Students who prefer to stay on campus will meet weekly with their discussion leader and additionally arrange to meet for another hour with their small group. Each group will work to identify and map out social problems (we will do a series of these), research different strategies that have been proposed to address the problem, and develop a set of recommendations or solutions. Students will learn from community groups about the kinds of problems that they are encountering, and use library resources, community publications, and other resources to identify the extent of the problem and its origin. Students will hone their research skills, academic writing skills, and develop skills presenting information to a diverse audience.

Final Thoughts

Both options require a similar amount of work,  contribute similarly to your understanding of course material, and develop and strengthen your academic skills. Students have the first two weeks of the term to decide and will learn more about each option in class. An email will be sent to students in early August encouraging them to apply for a criminal background check–regardless of what you are thinking you want to do, I hope everyone will complete this. Background checks are good for five years and it is likely that at some point you will need it!

A note on the timetable: Students who participate in the Trek Program should plan on registering for the D6B (Tues 15:30-16:30) discussion section. Only Trek enrolled students will be allowed to be in this section.

*What does it mean to be a Global Citizen? I liked this explanation. I applaud you for choosing (or even considering) the CAP program and for challenging yourself to think broadly about the world and your place in it, and look forward to meeting you in the fall!