Harvard has a tradition that students can spent the early days of the semester “shopping” among classes before settling on what they will take throughout the semester. A sociology class, Sociology 109: Leadership and Organization, was apparently quite popular during this shopping period:
Peter Chen ’13 had shopped the perennially popular Sociology 109: “Leadership and Organizations” last fall, so he expected the course to be somewhat crowded when he visited it again Wednesday on the first day of shopping period.
But when he arrived at the start of the class, student shoppers were already overflowing out the door, blocking Chen’s entrance into the lecture hall.
“I tried to push in a little bit and funnel into the room,” said Chen, who was forced to stand outside the lecture hall for about 10 minutes before wiggling his way into a newly empty chair.
Another Sociology 109 shopper, Stephanie L. Grayson ’14, said she showed up a full 20 minutes early to ensure a seat in the class, which she suspected would be crowded because it was taught by popular sociology lecturer David L. Ager. The course—which will be lotteried down to 80 students by the end of shopping period—drew about 180 shoppers, according to Ager.
What I am interested in is this: why is this particular class so popular? The article hints at a few reasons that certain classes are overflowing in the shopping period: they fulfill certain general education requirements or, as indicated regarding Sociology 109, has a popular lecturer. These are not unusual reasons.
But looking at the title of the course, I wonder if another factor is at work: this sociology class has direct implications for business. The professor has “a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, a joint degree granted by Harvard Business School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.” Additionally, he has worked with both businesses and governments:
Ager has consulted and taught for several large multinational firms from different industries including finance, high-technology, hospitality, consumer products, bio-technology, bio-energy, telecommunications, and wholesale distribution. In addition, he has advised large, family controlled businesses around the world. His list of clients includes companies such as Mars, Inc., Rockefeller & Co., Inc., Caterpillar, and Morgan Stanley. His consulting activities include leadership development, strategic planning, talent management, change management, M&A, team building and succession planning.
Prior to coming to Harvard, Ager worked as an adviser to Cabinet Ministers in the Fisheries and Oceans and the Employment and Immigration portfolios of the Canadian government. He also served as a member of the finance organization at Nortel and as the Director of the Mexico Research Initiative at the Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario.
While students might have difficulty seeing how sociology classes directly relate to business settings, this class seems uniquely positioned to attract business majors, entrepreneurial types, and others who might otherwise think sociology is impractical.
Or perhaps there is a growing demand among sociology students for organizational theory. It does seem to be growing within sociology itself.