Pushing Anthropology into the Real World: An Exhibition of UNT Applied Anthropology Client Projects

Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting, 2011


Jocelyn Huelsman (University of North Texas)


Jocelyn Huelsman (University of North Texas), Yumiko Akimoto (University of North Texas), Megan Gorby, Matt Leach & Steve Carlson (University of North Texas), Nancy Gillis (University of North Texas), Louis Liao (University of North Texas)


The University of North Texas Applied Anthropology Master’s program pushes anthropological praxis into the real world through a required practicum and in-class projects. This session showcases some of the applied anthropological research conducted by current students for clients in business, organizations, marketing, and the medical field. The students demonstrate their ability to introduce applied social science praxis to their clients, assess and apply anthropological theory to clients’ needs, perform ethnographic research, and report practical suggestions. The students also highlight the developing need and openness of clients to use applied anthropology in workplaces and other fields.

Summary of Discussion

The following practicum projects, class research projects and plans for future practicum research showcase the various ways the University of North Texas Applied Anthropology Program prepares students for their careers as practicing anthropologists. One way the Applied Anthropology department ensures that students are fully prepared to enter the real world is by partnering with non-academic clients for class research studies. To gain further insight into being a practicing anthropologist, it is up to the program’s students to locate a practicum client and develop a research project demonstrating not only their ability to use anthropology practically, but also to convince non-academics of the benefits of using an anthropological research perspective.

A Question of Rebranding: Applied Research for a Marketing Agency and a Western Goods Manufacturer
Jocelyn Huelsman (University of North Texas)
Huelsman discusses market research completed for a customer of a client. For her practicum, Huelsman worked with her main client, BrandEra Marketing, and their client, a western goods manufacturer. The paper examines the relationships between the anthropologist and the agency and that agency’s client. The focus of the research was to determine whether the western goods manufacture required a rebranding in order to suit their current consumer population. Using a complicated design process and qualitative research, Huelsman developed recommendations for marketing strategies to both parties.

¡La Transformación! Community Development and Public Health Needs Assessment in an Urban Slum Community in Mexico City
Yumiko Akimoto (University of North Texas)
In Mexico City, rapid urbanization attendant with globalization has brought severe health consequences, particularly in the context of poverty found within municipal slum communities. Slum-dwellers themselves face real health challenges, the identification of which reflect an ethnographic navigation between local and agency health priorities. This paper will present research to be conducted on behalf of a Mexico-based NGO in summer 2011, as part of a larger 15-year community development project. The project demonstrates the potential for anthropological contributions to empowerment within community health assessment, health promotion, and policy change within the field of public health.

Ethnography in the Library: Researching How Online Students Use Electronic Library Resources
Megan Gorby, Matt Leach & Steve Carlson (University of North Texas)
Gorby, Leach and Carlson describe a class project conducted in the Ethnographic and Qualitative Methods course at the University of North Texas. The purpose of this presentation is to highlight the benefits of a client-based collaborative project for methodology skills training. The class conducted ethnographic research for the UNT libraries to assess how online students are using electronic library resources. We used observations, interviews, and focus groups to collect qualitative data and Atlas.ti to assist in analysis. The results will guide recommendations to the client in order to improve electronic library resources for both online and on-campus students.

Logistics: Goals and Realities in Community-based Research
Nancy Gillis (University of North Texas)
This paper focuses on the idealistic vs. realistic aspects of applied community research. The term “community research” is used broadly so to include all types of partnerships, collaborative or action research where community members, organizational representatives, and researchers share responsibilities and contribute expertise. This paper provides a graduate student perspective on the importance of assisting in community-based research projects in order to understand the logistics and to navigate the obstacles that arise when conducting real-world research. Gillis illustrates this point by providing examples from her own experience as a volunteer on a recent research project.

“Shoes, Belts, and Scanners”: A Proposed Evaluation on the Perspectives and Perceptions of the Passengers and TSA on the Effectiveness of Airport Security at DFW
Louis Liao (University of North Texas)
Airport security modifications and the introduction of new scanning technologies under the creation of TSA post-9/11 have drawn both public approval and skepticism while the effectiveness of the measures is still under debate. This paper will present a proposed evaluation for potential clients interested in the holistic research approach on the current state of airport security system at DFW. With participant-action research in mind, this project aims to empower TSA employees, administrators, and passengers to optimize the balance between airport security and passenger convenience and help contribute to a more effective, secure, and passenger friendly screening process.