The Department of Anthropology and Sociology believes that anthropology and sociology are closely related social sciences. Both are oriented toward the systematic study of beliefs and practices of diverse peoples and groups, though sociologists traditionally study people in contemporary, proximate society and anthropologists traditionally study people faraway in space or time (from modern-day Africa to pre-Columbian America). Both fields nevertheless share the desire to understand the meanings of social behaviors and cultural products, both material and nonmaterial, that emerge from and influence these behaviors.
Department faculty study a wide range of topics, from the archaeology of the Mid-Atlantic region to the effects of globalization on people in such countries as India and Peru; from the experiences of Americans at work today to the experiences and effects of gender, race, ethnicity, and social class in a wide range of sites; from the cultural practices of African immigrants to the U.S. to the effects of digital technologies on contemporary societies; from the study of the cultural meanings of hats worn by Bolivians to the study of social movements (protest movements and the like).
Department curricula teach the foundations of anthropology and sociology in the classroom, and the department seeks to enhance the education of its students through a number of applied or "hands-on" experiences. Students are encouraged to become involved in specialized projects, such as local archaeological excavations and community organizing internships. The department also encourages students to develop an interest in international concerns. Toward that end, students are periodically offered the opportunity to participate in overseas trips under the guidance of department members.