Undergraduate Applied Anthropology Program Development: Designing a Bachelor’s Degree for Entry into Job Markets and Graduate Schools

Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting, 2012


Faith Warner (Bloomsburg U-Penn), Lisa Henry (U of North Texas) and Bill Roberts (St. Mary’s College)


Susan Hyatt (IUPUI), Robert Rotenberg (DePaul U), Tim Wallace (NCSU), Bill Roberts (St. Mary’s College)


Faith Warner (Bloomsburg U-Penn) and Lisa Henry (U of North Texas)

Expanded Abstract

This COPAA-sponsored roundtable discussion is in many ways an inevitable extension of the 2011 SfAA session organized by Lisa Henry and Kerry Feldman, who brought together representatives from departments to discuss successful strategies for developing graduate degree programs in applied anthropology. However, students do not become graduate students sui generis—they must first complete an undergraduate program that prepares them for graduate programs in applied anthropology. What, we ask in this roundtable, is the ideal preparation for an undergraduate student who wants to pursue a career as a practicing anthropologist? How do we prepare undergraduates to enter the job market directly or to be well-prepared candidates for graduate school admission? When this roundtable was first proposed, several themes quickly emerged from the discussion. First, there was a sense of surprise that there were in fact so few undergraduate programs in applied anthropology with an explicit track or actual undergraduate degree. Secondly, there was recognition that many undergraduate programs did already have an applied emphasis and that faculty members were teaching applied anthropology in various ways in the undergraduate curriculum, even though much of the actual practice was not codified into a formal program. Roundtable discussants will address the following questions and invite faculty and practitioners to join us in constructing guidelines for the development of an applied anthropology undergraduate program. How would an undergraduate degree program in applied anthropology be structured? What would be the advantage of developing a bachelor’s degree in applied anthropology as opposed to an applied track within a larger anthropology undergraduate degree program with multiple tracks? What might a minor in applied anthropology look like and how could it be structured? What core courses and content should an undergraduate applied anthropology program require? What textbooks and curricular materials are available? How would professional development differ for undergraduates entering the job market as opposed to those with graduate degrees? How can undergraduate faculty prepare students to successfully market their applied anthropology undergraduate degree? How can we develop links with practicing anthropologists in agencies, businesses, organizations, and institutions to provide students the mentoring, internship, and practical experience they need beyond the classroom? Finally, what strategies and information could faculty members use to argue for the development of undergraduate programs in applied anthropology to their university’s administration? Is this the right “experimental moment” in applied anthropology to develop undergraduate degree programs and if so, how do we justify, support, and explain this to the administrative decision-makers at our home institutions? This roundtable seeks to develop a network of individuals who wish to continue the conversation on the above questions beyond the meetings in order to develop guidelines for best practice in undergraduate applied anthropology program development.

Summary of Discussion

Faith Warner opened the session with a brief overview and explanation of the impetus for the session. Lisa Henry discussed last year’s roundtable on MA programs in Applied Anthropology to provide background for the session. Next, each panelist discussed the specific history and curriculum development of their programs. There were approximately 25-30 participants in the room.

Key points of discussion were:

  1. Most agreed that departments do not need to create a bachelor’s degree specifically in applied anthropology. The title doesn’t matter as much as the content. It is more important to provide resume building skill sets.
  2. Most agreed that programs should provide both undergraduate degrees with training for jobs AND preparation for graduate school. The student representatives in the room stated they need definable skills to get jobs if they can’t afford to attend graduate school immediately following their bachelors.
  3. Departments need to bring applied anthropology into the classroom.
  4. Departments need to teach students to use their anthropology and build skills that they can use in the future. Students need to be taught how to articulate their skills for the job market.
  5. There isn’t a one-size-fits-one model of how to build an undergraduate program in applied anthropology. Programs must fit into their surrounding university climate, but we can still have viable, existing models around the country that work well in similar environments (public, private, small, big, etc.) This parallels the ideas in Riall Nolan and Elizabeth Briody’s upcoming book about graduate program models.
  6. There was some discussion about the need for career fairs tailored for our undergraduates.
  7. At some of our universities, students are place bound and have limited opportunities for study abroad. We briefly discussed the idea of creating a “decentered study abroad experience” locally.
Future Dissemination

• Faith Warner is taking the lead on establishing a listserv for undergraduate program development in applied anthropology.
• We are also going to follow up at the Denver meetings in 2013 with another panel on this topic.