Anthropology is the study of humanity in its broadest sense. From biology to culture to language, this field studies people of the past and the present in depth and often on-site.
As an incredible and vast area of study, anthropology is an exciting prospect, but it can be tough to know where to start. Luckily, Richard Sutter, Ph.D.—our resident anthropology “expert”—took some time to sit down with us and gave us some pointers about what questions students should be asking in order to find a top-notch anthropology department.
1. What kinds of research and/or internship opportunities are there?
This question is huge because it will allow you to make connections and explore different career paths while you’re getting your undergraduate degree.
“IPFW has a few successful examples of internships and service learning opportunities that our students have engaged in, and perhaps they don't want to necessarily work for that particular agency or organization,” Professor Sutter explains. “It gives them a sense of things they might choose to do in the future. It may not be the very specific thing that they're doing, but it certainly provides them with certain skills.”
Your advisor can help you identify what skills you’re learning (or may learn) in an internship that you might not even realize are marketable and transferable to your career goals.
Some places where students have worked for internships (or eventually for a career) are:
- In a service learning course in medical anthropology with the Fort Wayne – Allen County Department of Health or with the Healthy Cities Healthy Fair in the fall
- With various underserved communities like the Fort Wayne Burmese population, who may not be aware of the types of health services available to them here
- Planned Parenthood
- Local museums, like Science Central
2. What kind of research methods courses (or field school offerings) does your school have?
Research methods courses and field school offerings give you both a direct scope and a variety of hands-on opportunities to engage in your field—and help you decide where you want your career path to lead.
“It gives students hands-on opportunities to learn what anthropologists actually do, but once again those skills are transferable,” Sutter said. “For example, we have archaeological field schools, ethnographic methods field schools, which will involve things like interviews, and data analysis.
“I teach a human osteology course where students have to measure skeletons, figure out the age, sex, and stature, and things of that sort, that kind of information. They have to actually write reports for these methods courses. They're learning in a hands-on fashion the actual methods and techniques, and then having to communicate them, write about them, and write formal reports.”
3. What kinds of collections and lab facilities do you have?
IPFW has an archaeological lab as well as a human bioanthropology lab—which is unparalleled in the Midwest—with more than 40 fossil casts and 8–10 human skeletal remains. Our anthropology department’s collections are on par with much larger schools’ (which is very useful to students interested in learning about forensics or bioarchaeology).
Even non-anthropology majors have access to introductory courses for general education credits that will expose them to some of these valuable opportunities.
“We've done a really good job of accumulating fossil casts. We buy probably two to five a year. Probably closer to five a year. We get all the latest fossil casts and additional skeletal materials for learning things like forensics and bioarchaeology,” Sutter says. “It’s experiential learning.”
4. What percentage of your graduates go on to graduate school?
Undergraduates are often “trained” as if they are intending to go to graduate school so that graduate school is definitely an option for them. Approximately 50% of IPFW’s anthropology majors go on to graduate school after finishing their undergraduate degree.
“I think two things make our graduates successful,” Sutter says. “One is the high-quality advising and mentoring that we give our majors from the beginning. Secondly, it is the world-class reputation of our faculty as researchers. We're all known throughout the anthropological community, and so that certainly helps.”
5. What’s the reputation of the anthropology faculty as researchers and teachers?
As Professor Sutter mentions in that last statement, IPFW’s anthropology faculty is very well-known in the global anthropology research community. He emphasizes that asking about the credentials of the faculty at a university—regardless of your field—is important and something that you’re absolutely entitled to ask.
So, what now? Asking to visit your school of choice on a class day and meet students and professors in your department is a good way to start. You can also ask if you can see what a typical class looks like—you’ll get to talk to current students, meet with the professor, and get a much better “feel” for the experience at that particular school.
Learn more about IPFW’s anthropology department, schedule a campus visit, and download the campus visit checklist to take with you.