SOCY 3042 Topics in Population and Health: Death and Dying

Instructor Contact:

Liane Pedersen-Gallegos


Instructor Biography:

Liane Pedersen-Gallegos earned a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Pedersen-Gallegos (also known as “Dr. Li” by many students) earned a M.A. in Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a B.A. in Sociology/Psychology (double major) at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Dr. Li’s research interests are the Sociology of Thanatology (the study of death and dying) and the Sociology of Religion. Dr. Li has been teaching at the University of Colorado since 1985. She has taught 99 classes since then (as of August 2015), the majority of which were at the University of Colorado. Of these, 47 classes were Sociology of Death and Dying classes and 26 were Sociology of Religion classes.

In addition, Dr. Li worked 12 years as a research associate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The focus of her research was the evaluation of pedagogical innovations in the teaching of physical sciences at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with an emphasis on student career development. Dr. Li was the co-director of Ethnography & Evaluation Research for 7 years and was the director for 3 years.

At this time Dr. Li devotes full-time to teaching through the Sociology Department and the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

About the Course:

This course addresses sociological aspects of thanatology (the study of death and dying). We will analyze the social meaning of death and its normative treatment in western civilization, with a focus on the contemporary United States.


By the end of this course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Describe and discuss specific theoretical perspectives of thanatology through various written exercises, including discussion posts, and short papers.
  2. Describe and discuss significant social influences in the meaning given death.
  3. Describe and discuss social influences on the experience of dying and of grieving.
  4. Apply sociological theory to analyses of contemporary controversial issues such as physician-assisted suicide.

Required Texts:

No required text

Grading Criteria:

Letter grades are assigned only at the end of the semester as final grades for the course. Individual assignments and exams will receive points and the final letter grade will be based on points accumulated, as indicated below. The instructor will make every effort to grade assignments and exams within one week of the date submitted. The instructor reserves the right to curve the final grades in the event of lower-than-expected average points accumulated.

  • Discussion Postings – 130 points
  • Quiz #1 – 30 points
  • Quiz #2 – 30 points
  • Final Exam – 30 points

220 Total Points Possible

  • 198 – 220 A
  • 176 – 197 B
  • 154 – 175 C
  • 132 – 153 D

Discussion posting grades will be determined by the instructor and recorded only in the student’s own grade book, which are available only to that specific student. Likewise, exams will be administered and submitted online, and students’ individual feedback and grades will be available only to the specific student whose work is being evaluated.

Online tests will be in short answer/essay format. Study guides will be provided prior to the exams, and the test questions will be based on the study guides, reading and film assignments, and on-line lectures.

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Monday – Friday
9:00am to 4:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado