The UNCG Sociology Department was established in the 1913-14 academic year. This first department, called the Department of Rural Life and Economics was founded and chaired by sociologist E.C. Lindeman. (With departmental pride and institutional shame, Lindeman was "relieved of his duties" when accused of entertaining black people in his home. He was immediately hired by NC State University because of his national reputation in research methodology). The department was chaired by Glen Johnson from 1923 to 1953. Lyda Gordon Shivers, the first woman with a law degree from the University of Mississippi, served as department chair the longest, from 1954 to 1968.
Nine sociologists have chaired the sociology department since the Shivers era: Wayne Thompson, Alvin Scaff, Daniel Price, Harriet Kupferer, James Skipper, William Knox, David Pratto, Steve Kroll-Smith, and Julie V. Brown.
Four sociologists at UNCG have been presidents of the Southern Sociological Society. They are E. William Noland (while at UNC-Chapel Hill), Joseph S. Himes (while at NC Central U.), M. Elaine Burgess, and Rebecca Adams.
Three UNCG sociologists were presidents of the North Carolina Sociological Association, an organization founded at UNCG under the leadership of its first president Joseph S. Himes. The other presidents were David Pratto and William Markham. In the late 1960s, the department (combined with Anthropology at the time) prided itself on having the largest proportion of female full professors of any department in the country. Mereb Mossman (Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs), Lyda Gordon Shivers, M. Elaine Burgess, and Harriet Kupferer all served as full professors with Wayne Thompson, E. William Noland, and Joseph S. Himes.
The undergraduate and graduate concentrations in Criminology were added in 1997 and received their first cohort of students in the fall of 1998. Beginning in the 2004-2005 academic year, the department added a second concentration in Social Problems in a Global Society. Both of the new concentrations have been successful at drawing increasing numbers of students into the department.