Professor of Sociology
On Faculty Since 2000
Most students think that sociology has something to do with counseling or social work. They are correct, but it is about much more than that. You might call sociology the science of everyday life. Sociology professors try to help students to see how the groups they are a part of (large groups like the United States, and small groups like a family) shape their behavior and their thinking. To that end, sociologists study a number of theories and frameworks for understanding how society shapes us, even while we shape society. We also explore the sociology of the everyday, learning about concepts like norms (for example, the custom of men opening doors for women), class stratification, deviance, and socialization, to name just a few. In addition to these more theoretical matters, we have courses in practical areas like counseling and interpersonal communication, where students are particularly encouraged to practice in life what is absorbed in the classroom.
Why attend a Christian college to study such things? In the Sociology Department at Covenant we take seriously the scriptural idea that Christians should strive to be in, not of, the world. A Christian approach to sociology has much to say about living in and engaging our culture, while remaining keenly aware of its traps and distorting influences. As Christians we hope to influence the larger culture around us, but we are often unaware of just how much culture influences us. In some ways the calling of a Christian sociologist is like the calling of an Old Testament prophet -- to provide perspective on God’s Word and to call people to see through the traps of culture and live more godly lives. We do this by drawing attention to some very ordinary, “everyday” experiences that most people take for granted. My colleague Dr. Robinson likes to say that we all look straight ahead as we walk down the path of life. Sociology encourages you to keep doing that, but also to shift your gaze just a little so you can begin to see things from other perspectives. In short, a Christian approach to sociology can help you understand ways you can resist society’s control as you work out your calling before God.
Training in sociology prepares students for service in quite a few areas. You’ll be surprised to learn where our graduates have made use of their degrees. Some of our graduates are social workers or counselors. Others are doing work in criminology, community development, the media, sports and health fields (for example, some have become child-life specialists and work with children in hospitals), journalism, and art therapy. Sociology is an excellent springboard into law school, Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, and a number of other fields of graduate study. If you are interested in exploring the wide variety of sociology careers, you can look at the website for the American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), or contact me directly and I’ll tell you about them.
- Ph.D. Sociology, The University of Tennessee at Knoxville
- M. Ed. Administration and Supervision, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
- B. A. Music, Covenant College
Interests / Specialization
- Sociology of Sport
- Sociological Theory
- Sociology of Religion
Selected Professional Work
- Vos, M. S. (February 10, 2023). “One Square Inch We Won’t Concede: Super Bowl Christians and the God Outside the Stadium.” Comment: Public Theology for the Common Good.
- Vos, M. S. (2022). “From Strangers and Scapegoats to Neighbors and Friends.” By Faith, 76, 56-60. https://byfaithonline.com/from-strangers-and-scapegoats-to-neighbors-and-friends/
- Vos, M. (2022). Strangers and Scapegoats: Extending God’s Welcome to Those on the Margins. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
- Vos, M. S., and Chiareli, A. (August 2021). Race and Ethnic Stratification (Ch. 8), in Sociology: A Christian Approach for Changing the World, 3d edition.
- Vos, M. (April 2021). “‘Thugs’ in Context: Why Dividing People into ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ is a Bad Idea.” Journal of Sociology and Christianity, 11, No. 1, 70-75.
Get to know your professor
Q. If you could compete in an olympic sport, what would it be and why?
A. I wouldn't! I teach sociology of sport, and rather than competing, I would work to address the corruption that is so pervasive in the Olympics. But, after I'd cleared up all the corruption, I would petition for slalom waterskiing to be added as an Olympic sport, and compete in that.
Q. Favorite movie?
A. What About Bob
Q. What is one thing that instantly makes your day better?
A. Two things: Coffee, and then going out to my barn to feed my horses.
Q. If you could teach any other major, what would it be?
A. Art, because I find that art and sociology share a lot of common ground. Both disciplines work to help people see old things in new ways.
Q. Personal Interests/Hobbies
A. I slalom waterski, ride a motorcycle, and have two rescue horses.