Social & Global Change

Social Change

Sara Ortega Roliz (BA, Sociology '03) has used her sociological imagination to create Mira, an online social benefit organization designed to make international aid a simple click away. Mira's mission is to provide educational opportunities to underserved and exploited children around the world by funding education-related projects. As the organization's founder, Sara's vision has been to empower children to reach their academic potential while inspiring the online community to reach its philanthropic potential. Mira recently funded the construction of a village learning center, plus a water tower to provide plumbing and enough water pressure for the classrooms, lavatories, hand-wash basins, kitchen, and laundry areas in the Kran Jake District in Cambodia. Congratulations Sara!

What's for Lunch

In Ivy Ken's Dean's Seminar on the Sociology of Food, students completed a semester-long service-learning project at a local elementary school where they spent lunchtime, recess, and aftercare time with the students. 



The Department of Sociology provides students with an opportunity to develop substantive sociological knowledge in a variety of subjects, and to apply newfound skills in theory, quantitative and qualitative methods, service learning, and critical thinking to a wide range of social phenomena.

Undergraduate students can take a variety of courses including:

  • Deviant Behavior
  • Sociology of Sex and Gender
  • Urban Sociology
  • Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • Program Planning and Development
  • Criminology
  • Techniques of Data Analysis
  • Sociology of Race and Ethnic Relations
  • Empowerment for Social Change
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Special Topics courses that focus on related issues

Graduate students gain a distinctive set of experiences, skills, and opportunities. The department has focused its graduate program on three substantive areas:

  • Criminology
  • Social Inequality
  • Urban Sociology

Faculty members are actively engaged with other units on campus and many organizations in Washington, D.C. and around the nation, addressing issues related to these topics. In 2006, the Department earned one of the highly-competitive Selective Excellence Initiatives awarded by the university for our three-year project "Urban Inequality: Costs, Consequences, and Policy Responses." The sound training provided by a talented and experienced faculty serves as excellent preparation for further graduate work or immediate employment in social research, community service, and related endeavors.

The Department of Sociology occupies Suite 409 in Phillips Hall, which is at the core of the GW campus and right across the street from Gelman Library. This space includes faculty offices, administrative and student services offices, and office space for graduate students and teaching and research assistants. A large University Computing Center is also located in Phillips Hall and offers access to computing services, including consultation on computing problems. Sociology classes are not concentrated entirely in Phillips Hall but spread into nearby buildings. This has been necessary because of the great number of students registered in Sociology, Human Services, and Criminal Justice classes each year.

The Department of Sociology is directly affiliated with the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Africana Studies Program, the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Department of Forensic Sciences and the University Honors Program.

Meet Our Chair: Hilary Silver


I would like to introduce myself as the new chair of the Department of Sociology at GW since January, 2017. I earned my PhD in Sociology at Columbia University and then rose through the ranks in Sociology and the interdisciplinary programs in urban studies and public policy at Brown University. As a longstanding affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, I have worked on and off as a consultant for a range of international agencies, mainly on the topic of "social exclusion". My interests in urban poverty and exclusion led me to serve as editor of the ASA journal, City & Community, and to make two feature-length documentaries that aired on Rhode Island Public Television. I have received many fellowships and grants, including four Fulbrights to France, Germany and Israel, and have been a visitor at many universities abroad, including Oxford, EHESS, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Korea Universities.

It has been exciting to move to our nation's capital after a lifetime in Little Rhody. I have high hopes for our department. The faculty are productive scholars who devote much energy to the classroom and the community, and our students are passionate about the city and society we live in. Our course offerings in Sociology, Criminology and Human Services and Social Justice are diverse but build upon one another, providing a superb grounding for careers in social research, criminal justice, nonprofit endeavors and civic activism. We are always looking for opportunities for departmental community building, so you are warmly invited to propose new ideas for programming. Alumni will always be welcome at our events. Please "like" our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, visit our website and send your news to [email protected]. I look forward to getting to know each and every one of you!