We study social processes and give people the tools they need to remake society, enabling us to create a more just and equitable world.

Department of Sociology, Criminology, and Justice Studies

Sociology helps us see social forces that transcend the individual. With that critical perspective, sociology empowers those who work to make the world a better place. At Otterbein’s Department of Sociology, Criminology, and Justice Studies you will learn how to be a positive catalyst for effective social change. We prepare students to engage complex challenges that affect our communities and social institutions.

Our courses consider questions such as:

  • Who is empowered and whose voices are missing?
  • Is an institution fair?
  • What alternatives can we imagine; and importantly?
  • What resources are required to create social change?

If you have a passion for understanding society and the social forces that shape behavior, we invite you to help answer these vital questions using sociological research methods and critical justice perspectives.

Student, Faculty, and Alumni Spotlights


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Shay Locke presented her research, titled “Criminal Justice Reform: Rethinking Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments” at the Ohio Council of Criminal Justice Education (OCCJE’s) 20th Annual Research Conference and Awards Ceremony held at Bluffton University.

Shay Locke ’22

Sociology Major with Minors in Criminology and Justice Studies


Paige’s research paper on U.S. government-led forced sterilization in Puerto Rico was selected for presentation at the 2021 Latin American and Latinx Studies Symposium and for publication by The Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Studies.

Paige Skaff ’22

Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with minors in Political Science and Race and Ethnic Studies


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Majoring in sociology will give you many resources to develop new and vital perspectives. These, when combined with Otterbein’s Integrative Studies general education curriculum, provide a well-rounded education which will prepare you for nearly any situation, both professionally and personally.

Anna Stamper ’22

Sociology Major with a History Minor

John Kasich
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich visits Criminology and Justice Studies classes to talk about a governor’s role in clemencies, sentence commutations for death row inmates, and private prisons.

Mitch Gitelman, video game developer with Harebrained Schemes, talked with students in our Video Games and Society class about designing socially responsive games and changing gaming culture.



During their term as president and vice president of Otterbein University Student Government (OUSG), Frandie and Angel directed sustained attention to the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. OUSG hosted a campus-wide town hall that allowed students to share experiences they have had, and as a result, conversations among staff, administration, and faculty have focused on how to support and enhance the campus experiences for every student.

Frandie Francique ’21, Sociology and Psychology double major, and Angel Banks ’21, Criminology & Justice Studies and Psychology double major

Learn more >


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The courses and experiences I had in the Department of Sociology, Criminology and Justice Studies helped me realize my full potential as a student, scholar, and community organizer.

Mina Zaky ’20

Sociology and Criminology & Justice Studies double major
Mina is a law student at The Ohio State University and judicial extern to Federal Magistrate Judge Chelsey Vascura in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.


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The skills I learned at my internship as a Government Relations Intern, coupled with my classes in Sociology, Criminology, and Justice Studies set me up to be not only employable in the field of my choice, but a competitive applicant to law school.

Selena LaBair ’20

Sociology and Criminology & Justice Studies double major, minors in Philosophy and Psychology
Selena will be attending Law School at the University of Michigan.

Deputy Matthew Wetzel
Deputy Matthew Wetzel visits Criminology and Justice Studies classes to talk about career opportunities at the Franklin County Sherriff’s Department.

The department’s capstone internship experience gives seniors a culminating immersive experience that allows them to apply their knowledge in a wide range of professional settings.​ Ronni Royer is pictured here during her internship with the Columbus Police Department.​



Dr. Heidi Renate Ballard, Ph.D., M.P.H., draws on her specialties in global sociology and global health to conduct practical field research projects that advance community wellness and sustainable development in alignment with UN Sustainable Development goals. Since 2016, Dr. Ballard in tandem with Dr. Diane Ross (Education) has engaged in practical field work in rural Uganda.

Dr. Heidi Renate Ballard

Associate Professor

Learn more about Dr. Ballard >


Dr. Carla Corroto conducts research on architecture and the politics of space, building, and urban design. Her most recent works investigate feminist city planning and questions our relationships with shopping malls.

Dr. Carla Corroto


Learn more about Dr. Corroto >


Dr. Leesa Kern is researching the way people look to make meaning in their lives; and if they choose paths that are not normative, why they persist. She is especially interested in the socialization of new members to so-called outsider communities. By studying these groups, we can learn a lot about how a society treats and responds to people who are considered “different”.

Dr. Leesa Kern​

Associate Professor

Learn more about Dr. Kern >

Department Features and Student Opportunities

012 Books

Scholarships and Honors

SCJS majors can receive several departmental scholarships in addition to institutional financial aid. These awards support student success, academic achievement, and engagement in scholarly research.​


Alpha Kappa Delta

Otterbein is proud to host a chapter of AKD. Alpha Kappa Delta seeks to acknowledge and promote excellence in scholarship in the study of social problems, sociology, and intellectual activities that lead to the improvement in the human condition.​

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Teaching and Mentoring

SCJS Students learn about social movement organizations, not-for-profit management, and social justice advocacy and will be able to collaborate with faculty on research projects involving community organizations and criminal justice systems.​

B.A. in Criminology & Justice Studies

Theory and Practice

We offer a combined scholarly and applied course of study that lets our majors pursue their interests in academic or applied careers in criminal justice research and work at the community, national, or global level.

Deputy Matthew Wetzel

Double Majors

A degree in sociology pairs productively as a double major with public health education. Graduates work as health educators, conducting research in their communities to advocate for health services and environmental justice.

Corinne Saul      19

Student Research

We encourage our students to engage in scholarly research and support their efforts. One example is Corinne Saul ’19, who presented her research on Feminist Trauma Theory at the (2019) Northeast Undergraduate Sociological Symposium.​

Senior Spotlight: Otterbein Sociology Major Turns Internship into Dream Job Helping Immigrants

News - April 26, 2022
By Riley Hysell ’22 When senior sociology major Asool Sarameh began her internship with US Together, she did not necessarily intend for it to play a large role in her plans after graduation. Now, with a full-time job at the non-profit agency waiting for her after graduation day, Sarameh does not know if her passion for the work there will ever fade. An interest in the refugee resettlement process led Sarameh to apply for an internship with US Together, which…

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Paige Skaff '22

National Symposium Presentation Fostered by Otterbein Support

News - May 13, 2021
By Paige Skaff ’22  Paige Skaff is a junior majoring in sociology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies with minors in political science and race and ethnic studies. Her research paper on U.S. government-led forced sterilization in Puerto Rico was selected for presentation at the 2021 Latin American and Latinx Studies Symposium and for publication by The Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Studies.   Paige Skaff '22 The writing, publication, and presentation journey of No Más Bebés began in a political science course, Latin American Politics, taught by Professor Rachel Schwartz. For our final course project, I…

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Towers Hall Behind Spring Leaves

Otterbein Student in Cancer Remission Felt Supported by Otterbein from the Start

News - November 10, 2020
During her junior year of high school, Jasmine Konneker received news that would change the course of her academic future.  “When I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, I had to immediately stop going to school and make my health my main priority,” she said. “My grades were frozen for that year so I could focus on treatment.”  Jasmine Konneker '23 Battling cancer for the remainder of her junior semester and then into her senior year, Konneker was determined to graduate on time with her classmates. While in the hospital, she completed…

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Programs of Study in Sociology, Criminology, and Justice Studies

B.A. in Sociology



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Criminology and Justice Studies




B.A. in Global Studies


Justice Studies




Our Institutional Partners

Alpha Kappa Delta

Contact Us

Department of Sociology, Criminology, and Justice Studies
Towers Faculty Suite
1 S. Grove St
Westerville, OH 43081

Administrative Assistant

Patti Welch

“I have had a transformative experience thanks to the amazing faculty at Otterbein who have all had a tremendous impact on my academic performance.”

Camy Ladjadj '21, double major in Sociology, Criminology, & Justice Studies and Psychology