Program FAQ

FAQ for M.A. in Applied Anthropology Admission
FAQ for M.A. in Applied Anthropology Students

What are applied and practicing anthropology?

Applied anthropology generally refers to the application of anthropological knowledge and methods by academically-employed anthropologists apart from their teaching and scholarly activities and in partnership with non-academic organizations, communities, or groups. Practicing anthropology refers to a different role, one in which the anthropologist’s primary employment is nonacademic and where they may be practicing anthropology within and in service of the very organization that employs them, which could be a business, a nonprofit, or a government agency. The basic anthropological skills of each are similar. To learn more about applied and practicing anthropology and what you can do with the training provided in our graduate program, please see:

Our Graduate Alumni Profiles
Our Anthropology Department Blog


What is applied anthropology at San Jose State University?

The SJSU graduate program in applied anthropology is designed to help you develop skills in applying or using anthropology and not linked to preparing you for specific job titles. Specifically, its mission is to enable students to build on their knowledge in cultural anthropology, physical anthropology and archaeology, and to develop skills that will allow them address real world problems and issues. The program is not a “cookie cutter” one in which all students develop similar expertise. Rather, it seeks to provide a structure through which students can develop as distinct practitioners by working closely with faculty. The program is organized around a set of common skills in the analysis of social systems and their environments; evaluation; and planning, policy and design.

This program produces skilled practitioners at the MA level who can move into positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors as researchers, administrators and program developers. They do so by applying anthropological knowledge and skills to local, regional, and global problems and issues. Students will work in a variety of relationships with the people they serve, including advocacy, public anthropology, and consutlation. Students will be conversant with the ethical and political implications of each relationship, and the personal and professional skills needed to be efffective. Students in the program can master a variety of models of application, such as:

  • Ethnographic methods and their application
  • Needs assessment, program evaluation, social impact assessment, and risk assessment
  • Organizational analysis 
  • Physical anthropology, especially in bio-archaeology and forensic anthropology
  • Archaeology, cultural resource management and museum studies 
  • Visual anthropology 
  • Network and spatial analyses
  • Community-based participatory research 

Students who successfully complete this program will:

  1. understand a range of anthropological research methods and be able to conduct research relevant to problem solving in various settings and for different clients/partners;
  2. know basic models of applying anthropology in different settings and have the skills to be able to function as practitioners of several;
  3. be knowledgeable about (a) the discipline of anthropology in general and how it contributes to understanding and improving contemporary society, and (b) a particular field of anthropology in greater depth;
  4. be able to function effectively in at least one content area;
  5. understand personal, political and ethical issues inherent in research and application;
  6. develop professionally as practitioners with skills in contracting, project management, and budgeting, as well as the ability to communicate about project goals and findings and the discipline of anthropology to diverse audiences; and
  7. be knowledgeable about the region as a social and cultural system with complex state, national and global interconnections.


How do I apply to the program?

Students apply for admission to both the University and the department. The program admits students every fall semester and both the University and department applications must be submitted by the deadline for fall applications.

For complete information on applying to the program, click here


What if my background is not in anthropology?

Minimum departmental requirements for the program are a bachelor’s degree in anthropology; or, alternatively: (1) a core of introductory cultural and physical or archaeological anthropology; (2) an upper division methods course in either ethnography, archaeology, or osteology; (3) an upper division anthropological theory course; and (4) six elective units in upper division anthropology. These courses should total at least 18 units. Additionally, the Anthropology Department normally requires a 3.0 grade point average (B or better) in the last 60 semester units of undergraduate work and a 3.0 grade point average in anthropology coursework. Students who do not have a bachelor's degree in anthropology and do not have the prescribed 18 units of anthropological coursework may be admitted conditionally to the M.A. Program in Applied Anthropology under certain circumstances. Students admitted conditionally must fulfill specific conditions before being classified.

Entering students must demonstrate skills and knowledge of anthropology. They may do so by having completed an undergraduate degree in anthropology or by completing an 18-unit preparatory track for the Applied Anthropology Program. The total units and courses in this preparatory track are determined in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator

Courses generally recommended as part of a preparatory track include:

  • One or more of the following: ANTH 11 Cultural Anthropology, ANTH 12 Human Evolution, or ANTH 13 Archaeology; 
  • One of the following: ANTH 149 Ethnographic Methods, ANTh 155 Human Osteology, ANTH 168 Archaeological Methodology, or equivalent experience;
  • ANTH 131 Theories of Culture; and
  • 6 units of upper division anthropology coursework. 

Equivalent courses from other universities may be accepted. Contact the graduate coordinator for assistance in determining how best to prepare for the program. 

Students conditionally admitted to the program must complete a preparatory track of anthropology courses prior to enrolling in or concurrently with core graduate courses.


What are the requirements for the graduate degree in applied anthropology?

A total of 36 units are needed to complete the MA in Applied Anthropology. These 36 units are made up of the following course requirements:

  • 18 units of Applied Anthropology Core courses
    • ANTH 230 Advanced Theory, 3 units
    • ANTH 231 Applications Core, 3 units
    • ANTH 232 Applications Core, 3 units
    • ANTH 233 Fields of Application, 3 units
    • ANTH 234 Advanced Research Methods, 3 units
    • ANTH 235* Quantitative Methods, 3 units

* Advisor approved elective may be substituted for ANTH 235

Students admitted unconditionally to the program are only eligible to enroll in core graduate courses until they submit their first First Year Review proposal.

  • 6 units of Anthropology Depth
    • Two 3-unit upper division anthropology courses approved by faculty advisors**
  • 6 units of Field of Application
    • Two 3-unit upper division SJSU courses approved by faculty advisors**
  • 6 units of Thesis or Project Requirement
  • ANTH 280
  • ANTH 298 (Project), or ANTH 299 (Thesis)  

* Anthropology Depth and Field of Application Courses may NOT include SJSU Studies courses, ANTH 191, or ANTH 193. These courses may also NOT include transfers from community colleges. Field of Application course may be taken outside of the Department of Anthropology. 


How do I know what courses to take in order to make good progress in completing the requirements?

The program can be completed in two years, if courses are taken as follows.

Year One

   Fall semester
  • ANTH 230 Advanced Theory.
  • ANTH 231 Applications Core.
  • ANTH 233 Fields of Application.

   Spring semester
  • ANTH 234 Advanced Research Methods.
  • ANTH 232 Applications Core.
  • ANTH 235 Quantitative Methods (or SCWK242, GEOG 195 or 279, SOCI 200B or HS 267, per advisor permission) 

Year Two

   Fall semester
  • One upper-division or graduate-level anthropology courses (Anthropology Depth Requirement) and one upper-division or graduate-level SJSU course (Fields of Application Requirement); these course may not include General Education/SJSU Studies courses (e.g., area R, S, V, Z)
  • ANTH 280 Structured Research Experience

   Spring semester
  • One upper-division or graduate-level anthropology course (Anthropology Depth Requirement) and one upper-division or graduate-level SJSU course (Fields of Application Requirement); these course may not include General Education/SJSU Studies courses (e.g., area R, S, V, Z)
  • ANTH 298 Project or ANTH 299 Thesis


What graduate courses in anthropology are offered?

Students admitted unconditionally to the program are only eligible to enroll in core graduate courses until they submit their first First Year Review proposal.

  • ANTH 230 Advanced Theory. In-depth analysis of anthropological theory and accompanying methodology, including recent innovations in theory and method. Research design. 3 units.
    • Prerequisite: ANTH 131 or instructor consent.
  • ANTH 231 Applications Core. Methods for the analysis of sociocultural systems, ethnographic evaluation, and program/design development. Emphasis on professionalism, project management, budgeting, ethics, and contracts. 3 units.
    • Prerequisite: ANTH 105 or instructor consent.
  • ANTH 232 Applications Core. Methods for the analysis of sociocultural systems, ethnographic evaluation, and program/design development. Emphasis on professionalism, project management, budgeting, ethics, and contracts. 3 units.
    • Prerequisite: ANTH 231 or instructor consent.
  • ANTH 233 Fields of Application. Survey of domains in which anthropological skills and knowledge are applied. Topics include health, business and industry, sustainable regions, and immigration. Emphasis is on opportunities for anthropological contributions. 3 units.
  • ANTH 234 Advanced Research Methods. Advanced research methods including individual and group interviewing, structured observation, and formal analytical methods. Emphasis on data management, ethnographic writing, and presentation of data through different media. 3 units.
    • Prerequisite: ANTH 149 or equivalent.
  • ANTH 235 Quantitative Methods.  Understanding of quantitative methods for the analysis of various data sets.  Emphasis on determining appropriate statistics, interpreting statistics in reports and scholarly literature, creating databases, and using statistical software packages (e.g., SYSTAT, SPSS), and comprehension of statistical results. Quantitative approaches in anthropology and their relevance to regional issues. 3 units.
    • Prerequisite: STAT 095 or equivalent.
  • ANTH 280 Structured Research Experience 3 units.
  • ANTH 298 Project or ANTH 299 Thesis 3 units.


What is the structured research experience requirement (ANTH 280)?

ANTH 280 is an internship developed by the student in coordination with their faculty advisor and an outside organization. The internship allows students to gain practical experience in conducting research or applying anthropology. ANTH 280 is required of all students, regardless of whether they are working towards a thesis or a project report (see below). The internship entails working in a stuctured research or professional setting on behalf of an organization and being supervised by one of its staff and a faculty member. Alternatively, a student may conduct research under supervision by a member of the graduate faculty as part of one of their ongoing project. How you fulfill the ANTH 280 requirement should support your thesis or project and be undertaken in consulation with appropriate faculty members. You will enroll in this 3-unit course (C/NC) with your primary advisor, often by the end of your second semester.


How do I choose between thesis or project?

Students must complete either a thesis or project in order to graduate. In both cases, you determine which route you will take when preparing your proposal as part of the First Year Review. Students complete a thesis under supervision of a department committee (and enroll in ANTH 299) and then it is submitted to the University Graduate Studies & Research Office for final approval (consult your advisor on developing a timeline for graduate committee review and the College of Graduate Studies deadlines). Students completing projects undertake a project in applied anthropology and prepare a report documenting the process and results (and enroll in ANTH 298 instead of 299). The report is submitted to the anthropology graduate faculty, but not the College of Graduate Studies. All research or professional activity must conform to the ethical standards of the discipline of anthropology as outlined by the American Anthropological Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the requirements of the university’s Institutional Review Board (see "What goes into a proposal for either a thesis or project?" and "How do I work with Human Subjects and the Institutional Review Board?" below).  

Whether you complete a thesis or project, your graduate work will be guided by a committee and you will probably work most closely with your committee chair. There are important differences between thesis and projects, and understanding them is critical to making the right decision for you: what is best for one student or topic might not be best for another.

A thesis is a scholarly contribution to general knowledge. It follows a fairly standard, traditional form across disciplines and fields, and your thesis must conform to the format required by the College of Graduate Studies. Typically, a thesis has an introductory chapter that includes a problem statement, a literature review chapter followed by one on methodology, one or more chapters of data and findings, a discussion chapter, and a concluding chapter. This basic template can be modified to best meet your needs, but it must be done in consultation with your committee chair to ensure it meets university requirements.

A project report documents some activity that you undertook to apply anthropological skills and knowledge. Specifically, its length and organization are more variable and must be negotiated with your committee chair and the graduate faculty of the department. Project reports may be as brief as 50 pages and as long as several hundred. The report will typically document the problem, question or issue that stimulated the application; a literature review that includes both the history of the specific problem and its context, as well as comparable problems elsewhere is included. It will document in detail the application (i.e., what you did), its rationale (i.e., why you took the steps you did), and the outcomes (i.e., what happened). Although the emphasis will be on solving or addressing a particular problem, the report will also include systematic reflection on what happened and why, the larger lessons you learned, and how they might inform practice in the future.

There are several things to keep in mind as you consider which plan to pursue. With a thesis, the emphasis is on the final product of your labor, the thesis. With a project, the emphasis is more on the activity you are documenting. Not everything need “work” for you to be successful; it is only necessary that what you did reflects professional standards of practice and that you learned from what happened. If you plan to subsequently pursue a doctorate, the thesis may provide better preparation. If you are plannning a career as a practitioner who solves particular problems in communities and organizations, then a project may be best. There are no differences in the effort that students will expend on a thesis versus a project; the effort just takes different forms. Likewise, both the thesis and project report must meet the same standard of quality.

As M.A. students you have several options for completing your Anth 298 and Anth 299 requirements.  Previous examples of M.A. Project Reports and Theses are archived on our departmental website. In Plan A you could write a thesis conforming to the university guidelines, as you complete your Anth 299 supervised course. In plan B you can write a project report, similar to previous examples in our archive, in order to fulfill their Anth 298 requirement. We prefer that you choose to write a publishable article with annotation, as described below.  Discuss these options with your advisor.


What goes into a thesis or a project report?

New Models for Theses and Project Reports for the MA Program in Applied Anthropology

Our thesis model is a three-chapter thesis whose core component is a journal article and our project report model is a three chapter report whose core component is an article for Practicing Anthropology, a practitioner-facing publication of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Note that students are encouraged to adopt the current guidelines but may also work with their MA committee to adopt our former, traditional thesis and report models. Note also that in both theses and project reports, the articles need not be accepted for publication in order to graduate. Faculty committee members simply certify that the materials are sufficient to qualify for the MA degree and submit for peer review. For both theses and project reports that entail group work and/or co-authored articles, the Graduate Faculty must certify that the student made unique and substantive contributions sufficient to warrant the conferral of the MA degree.

Model 1: Thesis

The thesis is intended as a contribution to knowledge and would primarily consist of a journal article. The thesis product would be written in three chapters, all formatted according to prevailing thesis guidelines. The chapters would be as follows:

1 – Introduction and literature review. This is a slightly more in-depth introduction, problem statement, and history of the study than is manageable within the limits of journal article word count. It also generally includes a little more literature review than is manageable within the journal word counts. This can be presented under subheadings adapted from the National Science Foundation criteria for Intellectual Merit.

·       If the journal article is co-authored (e.g., with faculty), the student must explain what their original role and contributions to journal article.

2 – Journal article – This can be for a journal deemed appropriate by the student and their committee. The formatting of the text must follow thesis guidelines (e.g., no endnotes), but citation style and other content matters must follow the author guidelines of the proposed journal. This chapter is presented as a standalone journal article.

·       To qualify as a culminating experience for graduation from the program, committee members must determine that all three chapters satisfy the standards of the department and that the journal article is ready for peer review (i.e., it need not be accepted for publication to qualify as culminating experience).

·       Students wishing to publish their journal article should embargo their theses with San José State University and ProQuest so as not to undermine their viability for publication.

3 – Conclusions. This is a short chapter that is meant to reflect more on the research and share further take-aways from the research, limitations of the study, and plans and recommendations for future research. It should also include a statement on the applied value, or broader impacts, of the study. That is, how can the results of this study benefit society or advance desired social outcomes?

4 – Cumulative Reference List. This reference list will include all references from the journal article and any additional references from chapters 1 and 3 not included in the article manuscript

Model 2: Project Report

The project is intended as a contribution to practice and/or policy and would primarily consist of a deliverable agreed upon with a project partner with whom the student negotiates an MOU. Project deliverables may include, but are not limited to: service design, program design, event(s), visual products (e.g., videos, photographic works, exhibits), policy briefs, opinion-editorials, presentations of study findings (public or private), and reports. Though reports can take several forms and the ultimate form should be negotiated with the partner, we suggest working with one of several models provided by the department (see attached).

The project report delivered to the Department of Anthropology as a culminating experience for the MA degree should be written in three chapters, with the centerpiece chapter as a submission for Practicing Anthropology, though alternate publications with similar parameters (e.g., career/ practitioner/ public facing, similar word length) are welcome. Chapter outlines are as follows:

1 – Introduction and description of project and deliverables. This is a slightly more in-depth introduction to and history of the project and description of deliverables than is manageable within the limits of the Practicing Anthropology word count. This includes more details on introduction and problem statement, history of project, and project implementation and crafting deliverables. It may also include more literature review than is manageable within Practicing Anthropology word limits.

·       If Practicing Anthropology article is co-authored (e.g., with faculty or community partner), the student must explain what their original role and contributions were to the article.

2 – Practicing Anthropology article. This chapter is presented as a standalone article manuscript for Practicing Anthropology.

·       Practicing Anthropology is a career-oriented publication of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Its overall goals are to: provide a vehicle of communication and source of career information for anthropologists working outside academia; encourage a bridge between practice inside and outside the university; explore the uses of anthropology in policy research and implementation; and serve as a forum for inquiry into the present state and future of anthropology in general.

·       Articles for Practicing Anthropology should be written in an interesting style that maintains readers’ attention. The length should be roughly 3,000- 4,200 words including all bios, references and tables (if applicable). The number of references should not exceed 12. Citations should be in Chicago Manual style. Include: 100-150-word abstract; up to three key words; a one-paragraph bio containing the author’s affiliations, research activities, and email address (or other contact info if preferred) and a picture of the author. Articles should be written in first person narrative style with no passive voice.

·     Practicing Anthropology now also accepts submissions of creative work. Creative submissions should relate in some way to social scientists conducting fieldwork and/or engaging in the practice of ethnographic and mixed-methods research. Submissions can be visual pieces, flash fiction, non-fiction, fieldnotes/field notes, first person reflections or narratives, poetry, children’s stories, or other creations. Written work should be brief and may not exceed 3,500 words.

·       To qualify as a culminating experience for graduation from the program, committee members must determine that all three chapters satisfy the standards of the department and that the manuscript is ready for submission for review in Practicing Anthropology (i.e., it need not be accepted for publication to qualify as culminating experience).

3 – Conclusions. This is a short chapter that is meant to reflect more on the research and share further take-aways from the research, limitations of the study, and plans and recommendations for future research.

4 – Cumulative Reference List. This reference list will include all references from the article manuscript and any additional references from chapters 1 and 3 not included in the article manuscript.

Talk over your plans and ideas with the faculty and, in particular, your committee chair. Try to find the best fit between your goals and interests, and the constraints of thesis or project. Do not try to figure out what is easiest, but look for what is most appropriate.


How do I enroll for the Project course (ANTH 298) or the Thesis course (ANTH 299)?

When you are ready to write up your project or thesis, and you have shared some rough drafts with your committee chair, you should consult with your committee chair to enroll in the appropriate course. If you are completing a thesis, you should ask your chair to set up a section of ANTH 299 and add you to it; if you are completing a project you should ask your chair to set up a section of ANTH 298.  We encourage you to discuss the timing of your ANTH 298 or ANTH 299 with your chair. Sections of either course are easily set up at the start of the semester and you add them like any other course by using a permission number provided by your chair.


What goes into a proposal for either a thesis or project?

The objective of the First Year Review proposal is for students to demonstrate readiness for advancement to candidacy in the MA Program in Applied Anthropology by designing an anthropological study or project of their own. Projects and theses will begin with appropriate titles. This requires students to succinctly articulate a problem, applied significance and deliverable, a brief review of the literature informing the study or project, and the methods they will employ in order to carry this out. 

Objectives (500 words)

This section should include a detailed statement of the problem that is to be studied (in the case of a thesis) or addressed and even solved (in the case of a project). Thesis problems can in principle be addressed through research leading to the generation of knowledge, while project problems are typically addressed through an intervention that is informed by applying the methods and knowledge of anthropology. This section should also describe the goals or objectives of the thesis or project. Here is a helpful outline for this section:

(a) introduce your research or project topic and objectives in a succinct paragraph (e.g., "In this study, I will examine how crowdwork strategies in A and B companies affect trust among workers within the organization and how this affects productivity"). For a project, this also entails introducing your partner or client organization and their stated needs. 

(b) the problem statement -- tell us what the problem is in your case(s) (e.g., homelessness camps in a city park), then situate it within broader trends in the issue area (e.g., homelessness or poverty) and applied anthropology (in a sentence or two, introduce an anthropological frame for thinking about the problem).

(c) Applied Significance and Deliverable -- describe the applied significance and (in the case of a project) the deliverable (work product you will provide your partner). In general, applied significance is demonstrated by explaining either or both of the following:

(i) A clearly-stated project intervention or policy implementation objective. In the case of a project, this is the deliverable you will provide your partner or client organization (e.g., report, course or workshop, program design, exhibit). Some projects are also driven by research, and so should address bullet (ii) below as well.

(ii) How your study or project contributes to knowledge (public, institutional, and/or anthropological) relevant to solving problems affecting human groups and/or organizations. In this case, you will introduce a research question or two that is/are appropriate to the problem statement. 

Literature Review (300 words)

This section should include a succinct review of the literature relevant to the problem. This literature review should demonstrate that the student has studied relevant literature in the field. This section can take one or more of the following forms:

·      Summarizing and integrating findings from past studies that you borrow and extend to study or create an applied intervention in your problem and context. That is, you will identify central issues in your field of study that inform your study or applied intervention in your problem and context

·      Critiquing previous works to argue why they are limited in their applicability to your problem or context, concluding with how your study or applied intervention will fill these gaps or limitations

·      Synthesizing studies of related topics not previously (or significantly) integrated to address your problem, concluding with how you will borrow from and extend these studies to study or create an applied intervention in your problem and context

Methodology (300 words)

In this section, you will succinctly explain the details of your methodological strategy. This can take one of two general forms: (a) a research-based project or thesis; or (b) non-research, intervention-based project.

(A) For a research-based project or thesis, this includes:

·       Your general methodological strategy. This is 2-3 sentences explaining the components in your methodology, meaning both data collection (e.g., a combination of interviews and participant observation, materials or spatial analysis) and analysis (e.g., content analysis, statistics) and how do they work together to collect data that can answer your research question(s) in a way informed by your engagement with the literature you reviewed?

·       A succinct description of the specific site(s) and/or organizations in your study and your rationale for selecting them

·       Sample, participant selection, and recruitment description and justification: Describe the participant pool or community from which you will enroll participants as specifically as possible (e.g., college students in a specific class, professionals in a specific field, random pedestrians). How many participants will you include and why? What are the participant demographics (age range, gender, ethnicity, etc.)? Why is this the appropriate population and sample for your study? How will you identify and recruit participants? For archaeological or physical anthropology project, describe the material(s) or collection to be included in your study and provide a rationale. 

·       Methods of data collection. Specify the methods you will use to collect data. What are your planned data collection activities, why are they appropriate, and how will you carry them out? It is not sufficient to say that you will conduct interviews, participant observation, or an excavation. You have to explain how you will do this and how this will yield data that speak to your research question. For material culture or human remains, specify planned data collection in the field and/or laboratory and variables on which you will collect data.

·       Methods of analysis. What are your planned data analysis activities, why are they appropriate, and how will you carry them out? This should include definitions of variables and/or how you will identify patterns in your data. Try to identify how you will detect patterns within variables (e.g., themes in people's attitudes toward plastic waste), and relationships between variables (e.g., how attitudes toward plastic waste may be related to race, class, gender, or ethnicity). 

(B) For a non-research, intervention-based project, this includes:

·       A description of the specific site(s) and/or organizations in your project and the work you will perform with them

·       A description of the proposed intervention or application. 

o   If data collection and/or data analysis is part of the intervention, then it must be explained and justified according to the methodology in part (A) above.

·       A plan for implementing and adjusting the planned intervention

·       A description of how sponsorship and intellectual property issues will be addressed (e.g., in the case of an exhibit or demonstration; each student should carefully work this out with their graduate committee chair)


The reference list should conform to the Chicago Manual Style author/date guidelines.

Appendix: Timeline (200 words)

In an appendix to the proposal, please include the activities required to complete your project or thesis. Remember to include sufficient time for writing and revising the report or thesis. Here’s a rough sketch of what this should look like:

·      January 2021-May 2022: Tasks A, B

·      June 2022-July 2022: Tasks C, D

·      August 2022: Task E

·      September 2022: Task F

·      October 2022: Task G

·      November 2022: etc.

·      December 2022: etc.

·      January 2023: etc.

Ethical Considerations

Following submission of the First Year Review proposal, discuss IRB and curational facility requirements with your advisor. 



How do I form a graduate committee?

You can start by discussing your interests with the graduate coordinators or with any of the graduate faculty members. As part of your proposal as part of the First Year Review, you will submit a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that indicates the faculty you request as committee chair and members. As part of the First Year Review process, the graduate faculty will decide on final committee chair assignments based on students requests, faculty expertise, and the distribution of faculty workloads. 

A graduate committee plays a critical role in a student’s education by assisting them in preparing a program of study that will help them achieve their educational goals. It is specifically charged with guiding the student through the thesis or project process, and the committee’s approval of the thesis or project report is required in order to complete the degree requirements. Individual graduate committees will differ in how they operate, depending upon the preferences of their chair and the other members, the student’s needs, and the nature of the thesis or project. The main goals of the program’s graduate committee system are to (1) help maintain the quality and integrity of the program and (2) help the student become a practicing applied anthropologist.

Graduate committees in the program must conform to the following policies:

  1. Both thesis committees and project committees are types of graduate committees (depending on which Graduate Studies plan the student is following) and the Applied Anthropology Graduate Program policies governing their composition are the same.
  2. A graduate committee must have at least three members, one of whom is its chair. The graduate committee chair is also known as the student’s graduate advisor. The committee may include additional members if requested by the student and approved by the committee chair.
  3. The committee chair and at least one additional member of the committee must be tenured or tenure track faculty members in the Anthropology Department.
  4. Part-time or full-time temporary faculty, faculty in the early retirement program (FERP), and non-faculty with expertise related to the thesis topic may serve as committee members, if approved by the graduate committee chair and if acceptable to the Anthropology Department’s other permanent faculty members.
  5. Students are encouraged to discuss their interests and goals with the graduate faculty, and to work with a committee chair/advisor of their choosing.
  6. Other members of the committee should be mutually agreeable to the student and the committee chair, and, of course, be willing to serve on the committee. The department reserves the right to intervene in assigning the third member of a committee in order to help balance faculty workload.
  7. Once a graduate committee is formed, its composition should be described in a Memorandum of Understanding to be completed by the student, signed by the members of the student's committee, and submitted to the graduate coordinator who will verify that it meets program policies before placing a copy in the student’s file. Any proposed changes in committee membership must be similarly documented and submitted to the graduate coordinator. Prior to approving any committee or changes in committee composition, the graduate coordinator with confirm them with the affected faculty members.
  8. A new or modified thesis or project proposal must be approved by the committee chair if the thesis or project work deviates significantly from the original proposal. Committee chairs determine the need for a new proposal, based on open communication from the student.


Who are the regular graduate faculty?

  • Dr. Melissa Beresford, Assistant Professor
  • Dr. Jan English-Lueck, Professor
  • Dr. A.J. Faas, Associate Professor
  • Dr. Roberto Gonzalez, Professor
  • Dr. Marco Meniketti, Professor
  • Dr. Elizabeth Weiss, Professor
  • Dr. Charlotte Sunseri, Associate Professor


What is the First Year Review?
Every spring semester the first-year cohort's progress and project/thesis proposals will be reviewed by a faculty panel (comprised of the department's graduate committee). Prior to this panel review, students will be asked to finalize and submit their thesis/project proposals attached to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) listing potential committee members.  The faculty panel will review student proposals, confer on student progress, and discuss any concerns with the student. Students may change the MOU later in consultation with their committee, but the goal is for every student to have a working MOU/proposal by the end of first year. The committee will provide written evaluations, including ratings and feedback on content, to students 3-5 weeks after the submission deadline, typically mid-semester. Within 2-4 weeks of notification to the student, the First Year Review panel will be held to allow private meetings between each student and the committee. At the panel review, students have opportunity to provide a written response to the faculty evaluation for their file, discuss matters of concern or questions, and finalize which faculty will serve on the three-person thesis/project committee. Students are expected to speak directly to how they will improve their proposals in the areas identified by faculty reviewers as being in need of improvement. All students in the first year of the MA are advised to carefully read and follow the procedures in the First Year Review Policy


What is admission to Candidacy?

General university requirements for admission to candidacy for the MA degree include satisfactory completion of the First Year Review process and the satisfactory completion of the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirements (fulfilled by successful completion of ANTH 230). Once a student meets these criteria, it is their responsibility to complete the appropriate Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluation (GAPE) form and submit it to the graduate coordinator. The deadlines for this form each semester are posted to the GAPE website ( If the performance of the student is satisfactory and the student is considered to be a potentially competent and mature practitioner, he or she will be advanced to candidacy. Students who fail to meet the expected standards will be terminated from the program.


How do I apply for graduation?

Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations controls the process for graduation and you should consult its website in order to learn current policies and procedures. Visit their website for up-to-date information on deadlines, applications, and procedures.


What is the Anthropology Graduate Student Passport?

If you have read this far from the top, you may be getting the sense that there are many things to keep track of as an Applied Anthropology Graduate student at SJSU. With this in mind, we have created a tool to help students keep track of their responsibilities and the appropriate procedures at each stage of their progress through the program. At the mandatory graduate student orientation at the beginning of the Fall semester, each student will be granted a personalized Graduate Student Passport. Inside the passport, there are areas marked with program requirements in the order in which students will progress through them. Each time you complete a requirement, just visit the Anthropology Department Office Staff or the Graduate Coordinator for a stamp and then set your sites on the next box to get stamped. It's really much easier than it may seem at times. 


Who is the Graduate Coordinator and what do they do?

Graduate Coordinator is A.J. Faas, (408-924-5732), aj.faas@sjsu.eduThe graduate coordinator is responsible for facilitating the discussions that result in a high quality program that meets student needs, while conforming to the faculty’s beliefs about what is good practice. The graduate faculty members are committed to working collaboratively on developing and teaching the curriculum; the coordinator facilitates those discussions. The Graduate Coordinator is also responsible for making sure that practices in the department are consistent with those of the university so students can graduate in a timely manner. They are also responsible for handling the nuts and bolts of admitting students and helping students work effectively with Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations and the College of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Coordinator is here to help students understand the program requirements and to make sure individual students are following them, but your interests may not be the same as the coordinator’s and you are encouraged to seek out those faculty members who can best help you meet your educational objectives.


How can I best work with the faculty?

Once a faculty member has agreed to work with you as a committee chair or member, you will work closely to develop your project proposal and final report/thesis. Please respect facutly time by submitting well-edited and carefully constructed papers, and providing drafts well in advance of department or university deadlines. Be aware that the standard time to expect full feedback from faculty on proposals may be three weeks, and on final report/thesis drafts may be up to six weeks.

Successful graduate students generally communicate well with the faculty, especially those with whom they work closely. Communication does not have to be elaborate, but brief, frequent updates are useful. If anything outside of school is affecting your capacity to complete coursework and projects at a high standard then you should discuss the situation with the Graduate Coordinator, an advisor/mentor, and/or your committee chair.

Remember, too, that being in a graduate program is different than being in many undergraduate ones. Attendance and participation in classes is expected and few classes will be lecture format. As students, you will be playing a large role in leading and participating in class discussions. Obviously, the faculty expects that you will be prepared for class.

In undergraduate classes, the professor typically frames the questions and the students provide answers. You probably did that quite well, or you would not be admitted to the graduate program. In graduate school you are expected to become the producer of the questions and to further develop skills in answering them. In other words, the faculty will not simply tell you what to do, for being a professional means learning how to apply your skills and knowledge to new situations.


What is the College of Graduate Studies and how do I work with it?

The College of Graduate Studies is the university office that is responsible for all graduate programs at San Jose State. In order to graduate, you must meet both the department requirements and those of Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations and the College of Graduate Studies. In particular, the College of Graduate Studies controls the deadlines that affect when you will graduate, especially if you are following Plan A and writing a thesis. This office also administers the campus human subjects protections that guide research conducted with people. It is your responsibility to be familiar with the College of Graduate Studies requirements and operations. Visit their websites ( and, click on “Current Students” and explore! 


What funding or assistantships are available for graduate students?

There are multiple funding opportunities for graduate students, particularly for use in research or professional development purposes. The department has a series of "GRAD (Graduate Research and Development) Grants" for graduate research projects. These grants include Seed Grants (maximum award: $250) for costs of an exploratory project in its early stages, Research and Development Grants (maximum award: $500) to support an M.A. project or thesis (including work on a faculty-led project), and Travel Grants (maximum award: $750) to support travel to an academic conference for the purpose of presenting a professional paper. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis (throughout the academic year), and students should consult with a faculty sponsor regarding the application. Additionally, some faculty projects may be able to offer internships with paid positions. Besides these department funds the College of Social Science offers some research grants for faculty and students (typically announced each September, and sometimes again in January)-see the college website for more information. 


How do I work with Human Subjects and the Institutional Review Board?
Currently, every student whose M.A. work involves human beings is expected to file a protocol to the HS-IRB (Human Subjects Institutional Review Board). Any student who does not have approval from the HS-IRB will not receive a degree from San Jose State University. Some projects will be exempt, but that determination is made by the IRB coordinator and an application-protocol must still be filed. Most of anthropology projects do not involved protected classes of people, such as children, patients with mental illness, pregnant women or prisoners, and so can be expedited, or given a relatively rapid review.  Projects involving protected classes of people must have a full review by the IRB. Filling out the forms correctly and taking thoughtful appropriate precautions is essential to having a successful experience with the IRB. Carefully consult the forms, instructions, and tutorials provided through the IRB website.  Templates for completing the protocol that are adapted to ethnographic research are available through the Anthropology Department.


Whom to contact?

Most of your questions will likely be about planning your courses and project/thesis, and will be answered by your committee chair or another faculty member. Most questions about the Applied Anthropology Graduate Program should be addressed to the graduate coordinator(s). The office staff will also be able to answer many questions and do not forget the Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations (GAPE) and the College of Graduate Studies as a source of information. Finally, the department chair is ultimately responsible for both the graduate and undergraduate programs in anthropology.

Graduate Coordinator is A.J. Faas, (408-924-5732),