Anthropology for Today's World

Anthropology is the holistic study of humankind in all of its diversity. American anthropology has traditionally divided the discipline into four overlapping fields: Biological anthropology examines human biological variation and its evolution over time; socio-cultural anthropology focuses on the ways in which a group’s specific patterns of ideas, beliefs, norms, values, interactions, and worldviews (what anthropologists define as “culture”) inform their behavior; archaeology utilizes biological and material cultural remains to better understand the human past and its relationship with the environment; and, linguistic anthropology focuses on the bio-cultural aspects of language and communication.

Addressing social inequality in race, ethnicity, class and gender has been, and continues to be, central to the mission of anthropology. Currently anthropologists have publicly spoken on the powerful legacies of race in America, the current immigration crisis on our borders, how different peoples are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights abuses, and unequal treatment in policing.


Anthropology Program

West Chester University’s anthropology program focuses on the theoretical aspects of anthropology as well as on the practice of being an anthropologist, preparing students equally for graduate education in the social sciences and for a range of careers for which understanding and negotiating cultural diversity is key—from medicine to law to business and consulting. Most importantly, the program is dedicated to producing well-rounded graduates who are prepared to participate in an increasingly global society.

The anthropology faculty are dedicated to offering students exciting and diverse opportunities for hands-on learning and professional development through research, career-focused internships, course practica, hands-on curatorial work, archaeological and ethnographic field schools, and a range of exciting study abroad opportunities. Faculty expertise ranges from health and nutrition research, to archaeology and collective memory studies, to human and non-human primate evolution; from understanding the transformations of early Native American society to the implications of contemporary global migration in the form of tourism, immigration, and pilgrimage; from the politics of contentious social action to drug policy. Faculty teaching and research addresses timely issues such as health inequalities, the treatment of migrants on our borders, persistant stereotyping, cultural appropriation, and the future of Confederate monuments. Here are a sample of courses you can take that deal with these issues.

Biological Anthropology

Biological Anthropololgy studies human biological variation and is firmly grounded in evolutionary theory and genetics.  The major areas of study within this subfield include primatology (non-human primate studies), paleoanthropology (the fossil and genetic record of human evolution), and human biology (the biological variation among living human populations, including physical variation, health, nutrition, reproduction, child growth and development, among other characteristics).  Faculty in this department are well-versed in all of these major areas and provide hands-on experiences for students in the classroom and field. Current field projects include ongoing studies of gorillas at the Philadelphia Zoo and of chimpanzees and golden monkeys inhabiting a national park in Rwanda.

Socio-Cultural Anthropology

Socio-cultural anthropology is the study of human culture—the different ways in which people see, value, and act in the world. Our faculty study a range of human activities, from political action in Latin America to African shamanism, from UNESCO’s World Heritage program in Southeast Asia to religious movements in Europe and North America. Study abroad and collaborative research opportunities abound for our majors. And through our introduction to anthropology and culture cluster classes, as well as our upper level seminars, our faculty prepare West Chester University students—majors, minors, and others—to be informed, thoughtful, global citizens.

Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of past human cultures through the material remains they have left behind and evidence of how they have modified their environment. Archaeologists study everything from stone tools to DNA to religious beliefs. Archaeologists piece together these clues to reconstruct all aspects of past culture, from the daily lives of ordinary people to the opulence of rulers and priests. While archaeologists still retrieve most of their evidence through excavation, they also utilize cutting edge technologies such as satellite imagery, computer modeling, drones and ground penetrating radar. Archaeologists work in the private sector as consultants in the cultural resources management (CRM) industry, and in the public sector for government agencies, parks, and heritage sites. West Chester University’s anthropology program instills an appreciation for our shared human heritage, engages students in authentic field and laboratory studies, and prepares students for ‘a future in the past’.  Our students have the opportunity to gain real world experiences through internships, labwork, field schools, and through community enagagement projects.

Community Archaeology

Community engaged archaeology brings students and community organizations together in archaeological research.  WCU Community Archaeology projects have been undertaken in collaboration with:

Museum Studies Minor

The “culture sector”—museums, arts, preservation and creative industries—is experiencing worldwide growth, and our department is committed to preparing a new generation of highly skilled applied anthropologists for cultural and museological positions in the non-profit and for-profit sectors. This includes jobs in curation, historic preservation, fine arts management, visitor studies, consulting, and non-profit/NGO work. Combining archaeology and socio-cultural anthropology, and collaborating with sociologists, geographers, archivists, art historians, and others, West Chester University’s Museum Studies Minor boasts an innovative concentration in museum, tourism and heritage studies, and offers a hands-on approach to learning that draws on the rich array of the area’s resources, and provides internships and opportunities to work with the exhibits and colletions in the WCU Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.

Anthropology Program Resources

 

Research/Fieldwork Opportunities

 


Student Organizations

Lambda Alpha Nu is the WCU chapter of the National Anthropology Honor Society.  It is a service organization that organizes outreach programs, and has been recognized with the WCU Ramdon Excellence Award for organizing and implementing “Layers for Liberia,” a clothing drive to aid Liberians forced to destroy their belongings due to the Ebola outbreak.

The Anthropology Club is a social group that organizes student events, such as museum trips, a film series, guest lectures, and restaurant outings.  Membership is open to any WCU student. For more information, see the club’s website.

Alumni

Our alumni have gone on to careers in archaeology, historic preservation, museums, education, finance, public administration, archives, public health, medical research, and non-profit work.  They have also done graduate work at the University of Kansas, Temple University, Colorado State University, the University of South Florida, New Mexico State University, Arcadia University, the University of Texas, among other US institutions, and abroad in the United Kingdom at Edinburgh University, Aberystwsth University, and Newcastle University. See our alumni profiles page.

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