Baylor's Sociology Program Debuts Strongly in Rankings by National Research Council

Nov. 23, 2010

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When the National Research Council (NRC) last ranked doctoral programs in 1995, Baylor University's sociology program had just been approved by the Board of Regents. Much has happened in a relatively short amount of time.

The newly released 2006 NRC rankings show the program ranked as high as the top 18 percent of the nation's 118 sociology doctoral programs. These NRC data affirm similar figures produced by the private firm, Academic Analytics, whose FSP 2008 Database places the Sociology Ph.D. program at Baylor in the upper quartile (top 25 percent) of all doctoral sociology programs and ranks the department among the top 10 in books, articles and citations per faculty.

Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the Baylor Graduate School, sees the high NRC and Academic Analytics ratings for sociology as part of a larger trend for Baylor--a movement toward increasingly strong doctoral programs.

"In many ways, the success of sociology can serve as a model for other programs at Baylor," Lyon said. "They developed important, specific areas of study, hired to those areas and then supported faculty research. That their model worked and worked well is not surprising, but it is a bit surprising and extremely affirming for Baylor that it worked so quickly."

Looking to future

Dr. Charles Tolbert II, chair of the sociology department in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences, welcomed the good NRC news, but expects his program to show even better results in years to come.

"The NRC data were collected in 2005-2006, as we were just beginning to expand our program and recruit faculty and students vigorously," Tolbert said. "The rankings don't take account of the benefits we have derived from the Baylor Surveys of Religion conducted by Baylor sociologists. They also don't include several large, highly competitive federal grants that have since by won by our faculty."

The doctoral program in sociology began with a focus on applied sociology and recently added a second emphasis in sociology of religion, which quickly allowed Baylor to develop a strong national presence.

"The NRC ranking explains in part the recent growth in interest in our graduate program," said Dr. Robyn Driskell, professor of sociology and graduate program director. "We already were not able to accept all the worthy applicants. There have even been cases when students have waited a year for slots to open up. Baylor sociology is not such a well-kept secret anymore."

Baylor sociology is a relatively small program, yet it ranks above many of regional graduate program competitors. The individualized mentoring that graduate students receive at Baylor is evident in the results of the NRC rankings.

High faculty productivity

"We do best on the productivity measures, both the NRC and Academic Analytics show that," Tolbert observed as he reviewed the ranking results. "We continue to have one of the smaller faculties among doctoral-granting sociology departments, but on a per-faculty basis, we out-produce three-fourths of other departments."

"The faculty publications and grants that give us high marks on productivity almost always include our doctoral students," Driskell added. "They are participants, collaborators and co-authors most all of our projects. Their names are on journal articles and, in a few cases, even on books."

Looking back on a decade of program development, Tolbert is pleased with the programmatic progress, but very positive about the future. "I will be very interested in our ranking 10 years from now. The momentum is in place for much success in the coming years."

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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