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Learning Goals for the Department of Anthropology

Our majors progress through three stages of learning.  The first stage, Introduction and Exploration, consists of 100- and 200-level courses that allow students to sample the various subfields and geographic areas represented within the department.  The second, Foundations, introduces students to the practice of fieldwork, as well as its theoretical underpinnings.  Students in the third stage, Application, apply what they have learned in the first two stages to upper-level courses.  Some may choose to specialize in a sub-field of anthropology, while others may take a broader approach.  Depending on their interests, some may even choose to do an optional senior essay or thesis, focusing not only on a sub-field but also on a particular project. Historically, our majors have done fieldwork all over the world, from the forests of Belize to the streets of Beijing.

There are ten (10) required courses for the major, divided into the three stages (see also Anthropology Requirements).  Within each stage, our courses share certain characteristics:

  • The 100- and 200-level courses introduce students to basic concepts in anthropology: culture, evolution (biocultural), identity, ideology, kinship, sociolinguistics, political economy, race, and ritual.  Students choose two (2) 100-level courses and two (2) 200-level courses to fulfill this requirement.
  • The 300-level methods courses explain how anthropologists use these concepts to do research.  Students choose one (1) of these courses and learn about quantitative as well as qualitative research methods.  They learn how to devise ethical research projects and how to do ethical fieldwork, regardless of which course they choose.
  • There is one (1) theory course, ANTH 306, offered within the department.  The course presents the history of anthropological thought.  Students learn about the evolution of anthropology as well as the major debates and controversies within our discipline.
  • The 400-level seminars give our students depth; they research and write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choosing.  Students choose one (1) of these courses.
  • Students can use their three (3) electives in a variety of ways. They can focus on a particular geographic area or topic; they can also sample different areas or topics within the department.  They can even do an ANTH 700/710 senior research project on a topic of their choosing, spanning one or two semesters in consultation with a faculty advisor.

In progressing through the major, we expect our students to learn:

  • basic anthropological concepts;
  • the centrality of class, ethnicity or race, and gender in most situations;
  • the value of comparative analysis;
  • the need to evaluate all sources of information critically;
  • the value of questioning received wisdom or common sense;
  • research techniques that will enable them to pursue their own investigations in whatever field they choose.

Anthropology attracts students who are taking many different educational and career paths.  Some of our students focus on different subfields of anthropology, while others strive for broad exposure.  Because of this, we do not use a single test to evaluate our majors.  However, we do evaluate each of our majors, and implicitly our departmental program, in our 400-level courses.  In addition to these, our capstone courses for the major, we also use the results of our 700/710 offerings to assess the extent to which we are accomplishing our learning goals. Although senior work is optional, many of our majors choose to do research projects of their own.