Applied Anthropology, Masters

Charlotte Sunseri 

Charlotte Sunseri
Graduate Coordinator


This program produces skilled practitioners at the MA level who can move into positions in the public and private sectors as researchers, administrators and program developers. They do so by applying anthropological knowledge and skills to regional problems and issues. The core of the program is built around skill “clusters” and conceptual "umbrellas". The program is built around three broad clusters of research skills that can be used within the different content tracks. The first cluster consists of basic and advanced ethnographic methods for understanding how social systems, including organizations and communities, function in the regional environment. The second concerns assessment and evaluation skills, especially those based on qualitative methods that complement the familiar quantitative methods. The third skill cluster consists of skills in applying anthropology to the planning and design of programs and organizations, services and artifacts.

The Anthropology department has developed three broad based conceptual "umbrellas".

Under the first umbrella, Human Adaptability and Material Culture, we explore how humans—past, present and in various societies--adapt through their ability to alter and transform environments through technology. The resulting built worlds increasingly provide both the context in which we live and the most profound challenge for our species. Under this umbrella, we ask:

  1. What are long-term environmental trends and patterns of human adaptation, including mobility, artifacts, and cultural practices?   

  2. What does environmental sustainability mean in modern societies, what can we learn about it from other societies past and present, and how can we create practices that support it?

  3. How can anthropological research and findings be incorporated into designing in order to support better human built environments?

  4. How do societies adapt to and integrate new technologies and how do they shape interactions and relationships within families, communities, and societies?

  5. How are economic decisions embedded in cultural systems, world views and assumptions about human nature?

In The Anthropology of Wellness, we explore how human health and illness are affected by social and cultural conditions. Wellness is not just a concern of individuals, but of entire societies, and anthropology’s attention to diverse societies allows us to think creatively about how to promote wellness in all its forms. Here we ask:

  1. What does wellness mean in different societies and how do we create cultures that promote it?

  2. How can knowledge of biological evolution inform individuals and groups, and policies that promote wellness?

  3. How do traditional societies change in diet health, and stress during modernization?

  4. How do social conditions affect how information about health is transmitted to members of different communities and what are patterns in access to care?

  5. How do individuals understand different kinds of knowledge about disease, health and illness and put them into practice in their own lives?

Knowledge in Action is about how social science skills and knowledge can be used to address real-world issues for human betterment. The social sciences are not only about understanding the world, but also about finding ways to act effectively to improve it. Here we explore ways that anthropology can be used in communities and organizations to help people address issues as diverse as innovation and design, consumerism and household finance, architecture and housing, and disease and health care.

  1. How can the social sciences contribute to making the results of scientific research more useable to society?

  2. How can the social scientific study of spaces, architecture, and artifacts be integrated into processes of design and engineering?

  3. How can anthropologists enhance how data and findings are communicated to and used by different communities?

  4. What are best practices for anthropologists who are applying their skills and knowledge to contemporary issues?

Students will work in a variety of relationships with the people they serve, including advocacy, public anthropology, and consultation. Students will be conversant with the ethical and political implications of each relationship, and the personal and professional skills needed to be effective. They will master a variety of models of application, such as needs assessment, program evaluation social impact assessment, and risk assessment. While much of applied anthropology emerges for the subfield of cultural anthropology there are applied aspects to physical anthropology, especially in bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology. Archaeology too has applied facets in cultural resource management and museum studies. This proposal includes facets of all subfields although it is predominantly based in cultural anthropology.