SfAA Student Committee Frequently Asked Questions
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How can I find a graduate program in Applied Anthropology?
There are several internet rescources that list programs:


How do I find the best applied anthropology program?
Unlike looking at USA Today's annual rating of Universities and programs, finding the best applied anthropology program requires a little more research on your part. There are several factors that contribute to knowing what is the best applied anthropology program:
  • The first is you! Consider the following:
    • Do you want to relocate? (stay/move in your town/state/country?)
    • What kind of degree do want? (M.A. or Ph.D.)
    • How are you going to finance your studies? (Scholarship, work/study, federal loans?)
    • Do want a large/small program?
    • Are you ready to commit two years min. for a M.A. and 3-4 more for a Ph.D?
  • The second is still you! Consider the following:
    • What are your interests? (language/linguistics, health/illness, ecology/environment, international development, art/drama, film, gender...)
    • Do you have any area preference? (South East Asia, Japan, U.S., India, and/or groups).
    • Are you undecided? It's o.k. not to know at this point, but if already know - keep it in sight.
  • Again, the third is you. I think your getting the picture...

Deciding on graduate school and the applied program to get your degree is as an individualistic choice as your subject area. Luckily, I can honestly say I've never had a student tell me that thier program was bad or of poor quality. So, to help make your choice you should consider:

  • Do they teach what you are interested in?
    For example, do they only offer one class in your interest area?
    Is there a variety of classes?
  • How is the program structured?
    How many classes do you take and what kind?
    Do you have an internship or do field work?
    Are comprehensive examinations or qualifying exams required?
    Is a thesis or a dissertation required and what kind?
  • How long does it usually take to complete the degree?
  • How large/small is the program?
    How many tenured/adjunct/associate professors are there? How many students are there?
  • How many people do they graduate a year?
  • Where do their graduates work?
  • What kind of degree/s do they offer?
  • Do they have research ties with the local community?
  • What kind of scholarships, work/study, stipends do they offer?
  • How do they assign students an advisor?

After you have these basics down, most likely from your internet research - the next steps are:

  1. Talk to someone! (via e-mail or phone). E-mail that prof. who shares the same interests as you. Let them know that you are interested in the program and want more information.
  2. Look up the prof's articles and READ them!
  3. Visit the University! Remember you are interviewing them. Be prepared.
  4. Talk to the students, the prof's, sit in on a class! Gather as much information as possible.

Finally, the decision is up to you - what you want, what you like and your preferences. Do you like the program? Do you like the prof, who will most likely be your advisor? What did the students' say? Compare you experiences across Universities. Then, make an educated decision and get that degree!



What kind of applied anthropology organizations are there in my area?
There are a variety of anthropological organizations, international, national and local. Here are some links:
They have many more links then I can cover here.


How can I find funding for my research?
I have assembled a list of links for multidisciplinary funding at my Professional Home Page.


Where can I find general information about anthropology?
Visit my web page Anthro Page and the AAA web page.


Are there any student mentors?
Yes, NAPA has a program and so do some local practitioner organizations like WAPA. Please see the links listed on the NAPA web page for those.


I am doing my graduate degree or an applied anthropology class as an independent study. How can I find resources to develop my studies?
Developing a course syllabus can be challenging even for seasoned professors - as you must keep up with the latest readings and developments and there is such a breadth and depth of the field now. Here are some recommendations:
  • Utilize a mentor/adivor
  • Developing your own course work and study will be much more easier if you have a mentor or advisor to guide you. If you do not have a anthropologist at your university/college, I would would check the local college's and universities in your area and see if your department could work out a small stipend for a professor to assist you, as well as, further elicudate anthropological concepts, thoery and methods.

  • Join Applied Anthropology Organizations
  • Join one of the local practitioner organizations in your area. You can find a listing of those at the NAPA web site. You will be able to form the contacts that will be useful to you - not only in the ability to speak to persons about your readings, but also as persons who may be able to assist you in your career goals, as well as, forming personal friendships and also listening to what applied anthropologists are talking about in your area.

    Become a member of the Society for Applied Anthropology, as well as, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the following sub interest groups:
    - NAPA (National Association of Practicing Anthropologists)
    - NASA (National Association for Student Anthropologists)
    and what ever groups interest you.

    The reason these organizations are important is not only, for making contacts, but for the journals, newletters, and bulletins that they publish. Often times, issues concerning applied anthropology are written in article format first before the long monorgraph or book. This way, you can be informed of the current dialogue and these readings as an integral part of your course work. Also, by being a member you can participate in the dialogue - you will be part of the community by having the access and ability to particpate in conferences, presentations, and committees if you choose.

  • Go to Conferences and Workshops
  • Supplement your reading with real experience. The SfAA Conference this year is in Portland and will be in March/April. You will be able to hear presentations as well as, attend a lunch with other students with past presidents of the SfAA... Now - this is the place to meet people!, and to gain a mentor as well. You can find a room with someone so its not so expensive and the student membership and conference fees are really quite reasonable. So, check that out, as well as, conferences/workshops sponsored by the LPOs and AAA.

Your challenge - like all students , including myself, is learning how to think anthropologically and applying that perspective to your experiences in a culture. Since, you will be acquiring this knowledge basically on your own the following suggestions are to help you find out what other applied anthropology students are learning. Consider:

  • Structuring Your Studies
  • If you are doing your own M.A., I reccommend looking up applied anthropology programs on the web and look at their program descriptions. You will find what courses students have to take, the order in which the programs moves, and what are the essential components of a master's degree. Compare a range of programs and you'll gain a general sense of how the master program's structure their degrees - you will know the basics for structuring your own. You can find a list of Applied Anthropology programs on the SfAA web site.

  • How to know what you must know
  • Following from the previous suggestion, do some internet research by looking up applied anthropology programs and the course listings for applied anthropology classes. Many professors are posting their syllabi on the web. You can see what topics are being covered, and in many cases what texts, readings and assignments are used. Use these as a guide for direction and locating useful references/rescources. Once you locate these texts or readings use good old research methods and go to the Social Science Index at your library and see what other people are referencing these authors. This will give you other leads to texts and articles.


    *** Please note, that a professor's syllabus may be consider proprietary and you should not copy it and pass it off as your own! Professors spend a lot of time, research and effort doing their syllabi, please do not lessen thier contribution to the field by not citing their work. If you have to develop a course syllabus create a composite of all those that you see and I wouldn't hesitate to contact the professors that have great syllabi, discuss yours and ask for feeback or permission to use parts. You'd be surprised how many will write you back!

    For those with out a background in anthropology, I recommend to start not with the applied anthropology text books but with the introductory text. This will be essential for grounding yourself in the field of anthropology - because it is so large, there are four fields - (linguistics, physical, cultural and archeology), as well as, many sub fields but there is a unifying body of thought that holds it all together and that must be your first task. To understand what anthropologists think culture is..., why we study it, how we study it, and what we do with the information and knowledge we have.

  • How to know what you know
  • Develop some mechanism to test yourself. The testing process and writing about what it is that you have read is essential to working out the "bugs" of the new concepts that you are learning. This may be suprising coming from a student, but I have found that writing and tests are the only way in which you find out, where you are going right and wrong.

    In addition, anthropologists communicate almost exclusively by writing - either through traditional ethnographies, or through the reports and recommendations regularily done by applied anthropologists. Writing is the only vehicle for publication, even if you produce film- there is usually some write up of the film and proposal. Clear, effective and persuasive writing is essential for writing up your research/grant proposals, as well as, for your thesis.

  • Hands on Experience
  • Whether you are just doing one class or doing an entire applied anthropology degree - practical experience is essential for the M.A. and ideal for the applied class.

    For those doing a degree, a thesis, in my opinion, is a must! Your thesis will be the last project that is customarily done for a masters and usually is original research that you propose (in the form of a research proposal), is reviewed by your professor and a team that you pick, then you do the research, and then write it up in the form of a thesis. The thesis work is essential for gaining the hands on experience of doing anthropological work, as well as, it usually serves as the first means of publication or presentation of your work within the anthropological discipline.

    For those doing a class, practical experience in the field is wonderful as it gives you the chance to applied all that text book learning in a dynamic environment. Coupled as part of your coursework, as an internship or your intial entree for your thesis, field work serves you well. To identify where, develop a research project, and entree into an organization and/or place, it is best that you work with a knowledgeable applied anthropologist to assist you in all these areas. There are many benefits to field expeirence but, it also requires a lot of planning, development and guidance. Thus, I would NOT advocate (recommend, suggest or even hint) anyone doing field work with out the preparation, supervision, approval and guidance of an applied anthropologist, your program and your assigned professor.



I want to learn a little bit more about Applied Anthropology. Are there any introductory texts?
Yes, every year there are more and more. Now, some are even designed for specific areas like medical anthropology and such. I don't personally recommend any specific text over another one, but have supplied suggestions as to where you can find texts and the references of some that I just pulled off my shelf.
  • Utlize your library and look up applied anthropology, under books and see what you find.
  • Look at professor's syllabi on the web. What books are they using? Who publishes them?
  • Look up major publishing houses, current publications like Sage, University of Chicago, ect. Your library can help you with developing a list anthropology publishers.
  • E-mail a couple Applied Anthropology professors and ask them for recommendations.
  • Check the applied anthropology newsletters and journals. They have book review sections at the end.
  • E-mail your student representatives at those organizations you joined - perhaps they have a list or recommendations - also check their sites.

  • Books off my shelf-
  • Applied Anthropology: An introduction. Van Wiligan, John. (Rev. edition) Bergin & Garvey. 1993. (There's probably a more recent one.)
  • Applied Anthropology in America. Eddy, Elizabeth M. and Partridge, William L. (Editors). Columbia University Press. (my copy is of the second edition, I am sure there is a newer version.).


Do you have a question not covered here?
Then e-mail me.