"Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities." - Alfred L. Kroeber
Anthropology is the study of humankind in all of its diversity; it pays equal attention to the biological aspects of being a human as well as the ways in which we construct, negotiate and express our humanity. 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. Anthropology is therefore a holistic, or all-encompassing, examination of the human experience, merging the empirical sciences (biological and social/behavioral) with the humanities.
West Chester University’s anthropology program provides students with a solid foundation in the discipline, preparing students equally for graduate education in the social sciences as well as 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 anthropology program is dedicated to producing well-rounded graduates who are prepared to participate in an increasingly global society. In the current day and age, humans around the world are interconnected as never before; this requires our students to recognize that people around the world are motivated by different things – they see the world differently and behave in different ways.
With its award-winning faculty and convenient location near Philadelphia, West Chester University’s anthropology program provides students with unparalleled opportunities to succeed. The department is particularly dedicated to giving students exciting and diverse opportunities for hands-on learning. Faculty are dedicated to involving students in their research, which 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. The Department is committed to supporting students in their professional development through career-focused internships, course practica, hands-on curatorial work, archaeological and ethnographic field schools, and a range of exciting study abroad opportunities across the world. The department focuses on preparing students in not only the theoretical aspects of anthropology, but also in the practice of being an anthropologist.
Biological anthropology studies all facets of 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 is the study of human culture—the different ways in which people see, value, and act in the world. Our diverse faculty works in nearly every continent, studying 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 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 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’.
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 anthropology program boasts an innovative and interdisciplinary concentration in museum, tourism and heritage studies. A hallmark of the concentration is its hands-on approach to learning, and drawing on the rich array of the area’s resources, includes ethnographic work in area museums and tourist sites, internships, and student-curated exhibitions in the WCU Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.
The WCU Anthropology program has a fully functional laboratory facility used for teaching archaeology and biological anthropology courses, as well as for faculty and student research projects, processing field specimens, and conducting artifact specimen and collections management. The laboratory is equipped with wet lab capabilities, PC and MAC computer stations, Leica projecting stereo and light microscopes, Leica binocular light and stereomicroscopes for student use, computer USB microscopes, artifact reference collections, two portable flotation tanks, fossil hominin casts, human and non-human primate skeletal casts, anthropometric equipment, and instruments used to study molecular variation.
The West Chester University Anthropology program curates over 135,000 items (cultural, archaeological, environmental) from North America, Central America, and Africa, covering the past 10,000 years. These materials are used in faculty research, student research projects, themed exhibits in the WCU Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, classroom teaching, public outreach and education, and are sometimes loaned to other institutions and organizations for exhibit and study. Select materials from these collections are archived by the Keystone Library Network and can be viewed at http//www.digital.knap.org/cdm/search/collection/qwcarch.
Part of the West Chester University Museums and Special Archives, the department’s headquarters in Old Library features a teaching museum that provides students with hands-on curatorial instruction. Our array of museum studies, archaeology and heritage courses provide a solid theoretical foundation on the role that objects and exhibitions play in educating and fostering a sense of identity among visitors. The Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology acts as a working laboratory in which students, under the guidance of our faculty, take part in all aspects of creating a museum exhibition—from examining objects in a collection to constructing a museological narrative; from aesthetically arranging artifacts to writing exhibit labels and other interpretive markers. Past exhibits have utilized the department’s rich archaeological collections spanning diverse time periods, as well as private collections, and have addressed topics such as the Silk Road, enculturation through childrens’ toys, feasting and foodways from prehistoric to modern times in Chester County, and human rights in Latin America.
Anthropology of Food and Sustainable Heritage ethnographic field school: In partnership with the Umbra Institute, this field school examines the ways in which sustainable food systems are employed, in discourse and practice, as markers of cultural identity in central Italy. Interdisciplinary in nature, the department also collaborates with nutrition professors for a holistic understanding of the role of food in Italian society. Located in the beautiful, historic city of Perugia, students are trained in qualitative, ethnographic methods while observing, talking, and even interning with organic local producers at markets, agritourism sites, and vineyards in the surrounding Umbrian countryside—renowned for its cured meats and cheeses, hearty wines, and year-round truffle production. Students also enjoy hands-on cooking lessons, gelato-making, cheese-making and bread-making workshops. For more information, see the webpage (www.umbra.org/wcu) or contact Dr. Di Giovine.
Anthropology of Religion, Pilgrimage and Devotion to St. Padre Pio: Students may join faculty in researching tourism, pilgrimage and heritage in the global Catholic saint’s cult to the major devotional shrines of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in Southern Italy and Barto, PA. In the recent past, students were able to attend a papal audience in the Vatican, travel with American and Irish pilgrims in Italy, and conduct research on the museum/shrine to Pio in nearby Barto, Pennsylvania. Future plans include traveling to Pio-related shrines in West Africa and the Philippines. For more information, contact Dr. Di Giovine.
Contentious Social Action Project: How do large groups of people and entire communities develop a common understanding of their social situation and articulate this understanding through action in strikes, riots, uprisings, or cultural and social movements? Students interested in these questions have recently had the opportunity to travel and participate in faculty research exploring local histories and twentieth century patterns of collective, social action in an industrial city in Colombia. As the project expands, students will continue to have opportunities to engage in field research activities in Colombia, including archival research, and conducting interviews and collecting life histories. For more information contact Dr. Arredondo.
Gishwati Primate Project: In conjunction with the WCU Department of Psychology, the anthropology program hosts a primatology field school at West Chester University’s own field station in Gishwati National Park, Rwanda. Students come face-to-face with non-human primates as they aid faculty in their study of chimpanzees and golden monkeys. They also travel to a nearby national park that is home to mountain gorillas and tour Rwanda, learning about its rich culture and difficult past. Tourism, heritage and museum students can also participate in a long-term research project with primatologists and cultural anthropologists examining the biological and psychological impact of visitors on great apes in the park. Students may also engage in primate studies more locally at the Philadelphia Zoo. For more information, contact Dr. Chancellor.
Archaeology Field School: Students may learn how to do archaeology by joining a vibrant faculty-lead student research team that works on real archaeological projects throughout the Middle Atlantic region. Students participate in all aspects of field research while taking a practical and multi-disciplinary approach to studying the human and environmental past. Current and on-going research focuses on eastern Native American heritage and climate change impacts to heritage sites and stakeholder communities. Projects are often conducted in cooperation with regional heritage and preservation organizations, thus also exposing students to applied elements of research. For more information contact Dr. Wholey.
Lambda Alpha Nu is the WCU chapter of the National Anthropology Honor Society. It is a service organization that organizes outreach programs. It 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.
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.