“Applied Anthropology is Anthropology”

“Applied Anthropology is Anthropology”

Student Reflections on the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meetings and Applied Anthropology Program Development at Bloomsburg University — Jessica Soroka, Kristin Stauffer, and Jimmy Muwombi


Applied Anthropology is Anthropology In a time of budget cuts and limited faculty, the Bloomsburg University Anthropology department is hard at work to show the relevance and importance of the major. At the March 2012 Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Faith Warner co-chaired a roundtable discussion with Dr. Lisa Hunt, co-president of the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology Programs (COPAA), and Dr. Bill Roberts, Chair of the Program Development Committee for the SfAA meetings.

The roundtable, Undergraduate Applied Anthropology Program Development: Designing a Bachelor’s Degree for Entry into Job Markets and Graduate Schools focused on successful strategies for developing undergraduate programs in applied anthropology, the ideal preparation for undergraduates to enter the job market directly or to be well-prepared candidates for graduate school, and how an undergraduate degree program in applied anthropology should be structured.

Dr. Warner led the roundtable discussion that included Bloomsburg participants Dr. DeeAnne Wymer, Dr. Conrad Quintyn, and students Jessica Soroka, Jimmy Muwombi, Jessica Hein, Kristin Stauffer, and Katelyn McMichael. The Bloomsburg faculty presented their own forward-thinking, cutting-edge proposal for a new applied anthropology program at Bloomsburg University, with a focus on career development and consulting work.

Applied Anthropology is Anthropology The roundtable participants from four universities with applied programs discussed their strategies for successful program development. The roundtable ended with comments from students which highlighted the need for an applied anthropology track at the undergraduate level. Bloomsburg University student Jessica Hein pointed out the importance of having a cutting-edge, applied liberal arts undergraduate degree when funds are be limited for students looking to further their education.

Katelyn McMichael There was so much interest in the roundtable topic and so little time to discuss the details, that it was agreed to organize another roundtable next spring at the meetings in Denver, Colorado and to develop a Listserve discussion group through COPAA. A key moment in the roundtable discussion that resounded with everyone in attendance was when Dr. Riall Nolan, Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University, member of the board of the Society for Applied Anthropology, and author of Anthropology in Practice, stated that “Applied Anthropology is anthropology.”

Jessica Hein We were surprised to learn that despite the turn towards applied anthropology in the discipline, there can sometimes be tension between “ivory tower” and practicing anthropologists when a program undergoes modernization. Bill Roberts, professor of anthropology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, spoke about the need to revisit and deconstruct the canon and DePaul University anthropology professor Robert Rotenberg highlighted his department’s efforts in developing a university partnership with local businesses and non-profit organizations in Chicago.

Jimmy Muwombi Such liaisons encourage a positive local reputation within the community while the students tailored their skills. The discussion even included suggestions for non-traditional students who require flexible schedules and creative strategies for inclusion in higher education. Factors such as childcare, work, and age can impede a person’s access to higher education, and applied anthropology programs work to overcome those barriers according to Dr. Susan B. Hyatt of Indiana University.

Alexa Rose Following the roundtable discussion, Bloomsburg students Katelyn McMichael, Jessica Hein, Jimmy Muwombi, and Alexa Rose presented their research in the student poster session. Junior Katelyn McMichael said, “I felt it was a really great experience. Not only did I get to present my research, but I also got to discuss it and interact with professionals in the field”. Between the roundtable discussion, the poster presentation, and the varied sessions and discussions, the Society for Applied Anthropology meeting offered those in attendance a unique opportunity to interact with working professionals. Students learned that in this increasingly competitive job market, future anthropologists must learn how to best market themselves.

By developing an applied concentration, the Bloomsburg University Anthropology department is hard at work to give their students the best chance for career advancement and graduate school admission. The students are thankful to The College of Liberal Arts for supporting their participation at the conference and were gratified that their point of view was solicited and valued by the roundtable organizers. A key element in the discipline of anthropology is collaborative research, inclusion, and advocacy with our informants, and that ethos was evident at this inspirational conference.

For more information visit the Society for Applied Anthropology and The National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.