What is Anthropology?
Anthropology’s diverse subject matter of “human beings in all times and places” reflects the discipline’s interest in human culture dating from the Paleolithic past to contemporary times; from exotic, distant societies to the myriad subcultures of the Western world; from the biological bases of human behavior to our most elaborate cultural creations; and in the interaction of diverse peoples from colonial to modern contexts. Grounded in the practical realities of daily life and direct ethnographic research, anthropological methods are applicable cross-culturally. Perhaps anthropology’s greatest strength, however, is the perspective it promotes: an understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity, human universals, and the dynamic potential of human culture.
Undergraduate preparation in cultural anthropology equips students with theories and methods for living and working in all human societies. Being trained in anthropology can make people more effective advocates, mediators, and translators in contexts that involve minority cultures or different cultural philosophies. It provides a basis for careers in human service, education, medicine, development, public administration, and business.
Archaeology examines material remains to understand and explain past and present human behavior. Archaeologists excavate and analyze the tools, textiles, pottery, and other artifacts of prehistoric peoples to reconstruct ancient cultures. They also investigate the cultural interaction between Western and nonwestern societies. A major branch of contemporary archaeology deals with preserving knowledge of our country’s past through cultural resource management and historic preservation.
Coursework and discussions emphasize practical applications in the anthropology program. Students are encouraged to expand on this by seeking internships and practica placements that match their specific interests and fully develop their anthropological skills. The department’s close and supportive relationship with local groups and organizations provides a basis for meaningful student involvement in problem solving. Practical experiences culminate in a senior capstone project designed and carried out under faculty supervision.