"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.
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.