Sociology and criminal justice faculty

Scott A. Monsma, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology
Department Chair

Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
M.A., University of Pittsburgh
B.A., Geneva College

VPH 311


A champion of social justice, Dr. Monsma is a frequent presenter at Association of Christians Teaching in Sociology conferences and has served as the organization’s president. He also has led students on study abroad trips to Taiwan and three times to the Sultanate of Oman. He was awarded Northwestern's Teaching Excellence Award in 2014.


  • Social Problems

    Social Problems

    (4 credits) This course is about learning to critically think about society and various problems in society. This course will examine a number of social issues as we wrestle with how we can decide if an issue is a social problem, decide which social problems might be more significant than others, and evaluate potential solutions for social problems. We are going to wrestle with some challenging questions with the goal of helping us to think deeply about how we might seek justice on an individual level and within society.
  • Sociological Theory

    Sociological Theory

    (4 credits, alternate years, consult department) In this course, we are going to consider a number of sociological theorists and ideas. We will not attempt a comprehensive examination of theory, either classic or contemporary. Rather, we will dive deeply into a number of texts to explore how theory can give us unique insights into the social world and the ways in which the social world shapes the lives of individuals. And we will contemplate if, instead of just interpreting the world in various ways, these theories suggest ways in which to change it. Prerequisites: SOC101, sociology major or permission of instructor.
  • Sociology of Gender

    Sociology of Gender

    (4 credits, alternate years, consult department) An examination of the topic of gender, predominately using a sociological perspective. The study of gender from a sociological perspective develops an appreciation for how social structure, institutions and culture shape gender roles and the lives of those who play these roles - at the same time that gender roles shape culture, institutions and social structure. Attention will also be given to the "inherent or constructed" debate about gender roles, the role of the media in shaping gender, and the intertwining of gender and family, politics, work and religion.
  • Contemporary Marriage and Family Living

    Contemporary Marriage and Family Living

    (4 credits) A study of the basic sociological theories of the family from a Christian perspective. Topics include: the structure and functions of families, historical and social changes, cross-cultural analysis, institutional and functional aspects of dating, courtsh ip, marriage adjustment, gender roles, parenthood and child rearing.(4 credits)
  • Topics in Cross-Cultural Studies

    Topics in Cross-Cultural Studies

    (2-6 credits; summer; may be repeated) Northwestern College offers a variety of off-campus opportunities with Northwestern faculty in various countries around the world. These courses offer a unique opportunity for students to make the world their classroom, going beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. Topics covered may include, but are not limited to, language, politics, religion, business, education, music, history, and literature. Students are given an opportunity to examine a particular culture through various experiences, such as home stays, ethnographic observation/research, and placement in various social institutions. Past programs have taken students to China, the Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Ecuador, Germany, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Oman, Romania, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan.
  • Deviance and Social Control

    Deviance and Social Control

    (4 credits) In this course, we are going to explore a number of questions about the boundaries of acceptability within societies. Instead of just taking such boundaries for granted, we will look at how the creation of normality and deviance is a process of social construction. We will examine how society can influence or constrain people to live within or outside of the socially constructed boundaries. As we explore this subject, we will be challenged to reexamine our own understanding of what is deviant and what is normal, to reflect on how definitions of deviance shape our identities and values, and to wrestle with how definitions of deviance and attempts at social control affect others.
  • Cultural Anthropology

    Cultural Anthropology

    (4 credits) (IGE option under Self and Society or Cross-Cultural Engagement. Cannot count toward meeting both requirements) This course is about learning a way of seeing and understanding other cultures and our own culture(s) - introducing and drawing on ideas and insights from the field of Cultural Anthropology. In a globalizing and increasingly interconnected world these ideas and insights can serve a critical need in helping us understand and learn how to live in with cultural diversity and complexity. Thus the value of this course is in learning a new way of seeing and understanding, a way that helps us think about what it means to be human, a way that helps us understand and live with our neighbors - locally and globally.
  • The Criminal Justice System

    The Criminal Justice System

    (4 credits, alternate years, consult department) A study of the development of, issues in, and new directions for, the American criminal justice system. Each step of the system is critiqued in terms of intended and unintended consequences as well as official and operative goals, and is related to a deta iled discussion of various correctional treatment programs: prisons, halfway houses, group homes, community-based treatment programs, probation, parole and others. Those in the criminal justice career concentration should take SOC218 first. Prerequisite: recommend general education writing requirement.
  • Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar

    Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar

    (2 credits) A seminar designed to expose Honors Program students to significant issues by means of interdisciplinary study of selected topics chose on a year-to-year basis. Prerequisite: membership in the Honors Program or special permission from Honors Program directors.

Publications and presentations

  • 2012: Bulletin Boards and Focused Reading Groups (a presentation on pedagogy) . Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, annual summer conference, Covenant College, Lookout Mountain GA, June 9, 2012.
  • 2011: (Re)reading the text: (Re)telling the fragmented story of Michal. Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, annual summer conference, St. Olaf College, June 11, 2011.
  • 2011: Dialog with people of other faiths, Moberg Conference on sociological perspectives on reconciliation: Experiential learning and strategic approaches to reconciliation, Bethel University, February 19, 2011
  • 2010: Interfaith dialogue: ideas drawn from experience, Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, Annual Summer Conference, Eastern University, June 4, 2010
  • 2009: Defining Marriage: Changes and Challenges. Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, Annual Summer Conference, Northwestern College. Teaching Sociology: Ideas & Resources. Panel Participant.
  • 2005: Critical Integration: Christianity and Sociology. Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, Annual Summer Conference, Wheaton College, Wheaton IL.
  • 2004: Fragmented Women, Destined for Equality. Fern Cliff Gathering, Geneva College (November 16), Guest lectures at Geneva College (November 16 & 17): Max Weber and Islam; Critical Integration: Faith and Sociology; Wealth and Poverty
  • 2003: Teaching with my mouth half shut. Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, Annual Summer Conference, Dallas, TX


  • American Sociological Association
  • Association of Christians Teaching Sociology
  • Society for the Study of Linguistic Subversion


  • Teaching Excellence Award, Northwestern College, 2014
  • Finalist for Teaching Excellence Award, Northwestern College, 2004, 2008, 2009