Sociology PhD program

From climate change to resource depletion to an epidemic of health problems relating to toxic chemicals, meeting the ecological challenge requires a critical understanding of the power structures and social, political-economic, and cultural processes responsible for the global ecological crisis. Whether analyzing the role of class, gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as urbanization, globalization, or neo-liberal capitalist development, environmental sociology provides a comprehensive account of the social forces that are altering the ecology of the planet. Along these lines, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University is excited to announce an expanded environmental focus within our Ph.D. program.

An Exciting New Hub for Environmental Research in the Social Sciences

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University is home to a distinguished graduate program that leads to the Ph.D. in Sociology. Concentrated studies are offered in globalization, urban sociology, the sociology of gender, and inequality. In addition, our graduate program now offers rigorous doctoral training in environmental sociology, an area in which the department enjoys unparalleled strengths.

Our faculty and graduate students work together in a number of interdisciplinary research projects, programs, and centers relating to environmental sociology, the most important of which are the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative (NEJRC) and the newly established Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI). Other programs that are closely connected to environmental sociology include the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy; the Institute for Urban Health Research; the Urban Sustainability Initiative in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs; and the Institute on Race and Justice. Many of the faculty in the Sociology Department have additional interests and are affiliated with other departments on campus, including Environmental Studies; Law and Public Policy; and the Bouve College of Health Sciences.

In combination these institutions provide an exciting hub for graduate research in environmental sociology, especially in the areas of environmental health, justice, policy, movements, and law. Having established distinguished national and international reputations in the field, Northeastern faculty frequently work with community groups, environmental organizations, policy institutes, government agencies, research centers, scientific associations, and foundations. As a result, the scholarly work undertaken at Northeastern often has a direct and profound impact on contemporary environmental policy debates.

An Education Focused on Socially Relevant Research

Students studying environmental sociology will receive a critical perspective in the classroom, with a special emphasis on the role of class, race, and gender inequality and undemocratic power structures in the formation of environmental problems. As such, our program emphasizes an environmental justice perspective and the role of social movements in bringing about positive socio-ecological transformation. Students often combine their interest in environmental sociology with the strengths provided by our concentrations in gender, globalization, urban sociology, and inequality. As a result, our students have produced dissertations on topics ranging from the movement to reform U.S. and European chemicals policy, ecological unequal exchange and world trade relations, urban green space and environmental justice, community resistance to hydroelectric and gold mining projects in Turkey, to the politics of environmental justice philanthropy. In most cases, graduate research is directly relevant to ongoing policy debates and issues.

In addition, the Ph.D. program in Sociology strives to produce graduate students that are well-rounded and effective policy planners, teachers, researchers, and writers. The program admits a relatively small number of graduate students each year. This affords students the opportunity to forge close working relationships with the faculty. Many graduate students receive funding assistance by serving as a teaching assistant, or as a research assistant with SSEHRI. Upon completing their course work, many students also serve as a teaching fellow. In exchange for a stipend and tuition, the teaching fellows offer courses in both general sociology and their own area of specialization (including environmental sociology) over the academic year. The program also offers training on how to become an effective instructor. Environmental Sociology graduate research at Northeastern is supported by a number of National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Health (NIH) grants, as well as by the SSEHRI, offering many opportunities for research assistantships and summer stipends. The new NSF-funded Research Training Program “New Directions in Environmental Ethics: Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Technologies, and Beyond” offers additional support for graduate students.

Through Real World Experience and Results

A unique strength of our graduate program is its focus on sustained focus on environmental health, justice, and the law. Students will be provided with the opportunity to work with residents concerned about toxic waste sites and other problems, to develop and test tools for environmental health research in the field, and to network with international communities facing shared challenges. Through such community-based experiences, we aim to develop a sense of social engagement with the research subjects. This program aims to develop students whose work and research can offer not only important critiques of current environmental issues, but also support the growth and realization of meaningful alternatives in the form of a more transformative environmental politics.

To assist with this endeavor, the program provides numerous funded environmental research opportunities that enable students to work closely with individual faculty members. Many of our past and current graduate students are working with faculty around projects of special importance as part of their own dissertation. Our students frequently present papers at professional conferences and publish articles during the course of their graduate studies. In addition, the Sociology Department and affiliated centers often host national and international conferences, furthering enhancing educational opportunities for our graduate students.

The program is primarily interested in accepting students who would like to obtain their Ph.D. in Sociology at Northeastern University. Students with an M.A., J.D. or other post-graduate degree may apply to enter the Ph.D. program. Students entering the program without a post-graduate degree will obtain the M.A. degree en route to the Ph.D. Our graduate alumni have been highly successful in both the academic and non-academic worlds.

Graduate Director: Professor Matthew Hunt at, 617.373.2686
Administrative Coordinator: Joan Collins at, 617.373.2686