In recent years anthropology majors at Ithaca College have excavated a Cayuga village site in central New York, studied taro farming on the Big Island of Hawaii, worked on a farm with local Native Americans, helped refugees establish projects to raise scholarship money, worked to empower handicapped people in India through music, helped grade school children develop recycling and compost programs by having them do an archaeological excavation of waste fromt their school, and much more. For more than three decades our faculty have guided students in fieldwork, research, and internships in 22 U.S. states and 54 countries and foreign territories.
Anthropology is the study of the human species, including its origins, evolution, shared traits with other primates, cultural development, and human diversity. Our department embraces the holistic tradition of anthropology. As a result, our students get thorough grounding in the fundamentals of biological anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology before advancing to more focused coursework in anthropological theories and methods. Our diverse faculty helps students gain regional specializations in the Americas, Africa, the Pacific, and Asia. Other upper-level courses focus on skill building in research methods. These courses emphasize applied anthropology by demonstrating ways that anthropologists make substantial contributions to global issues such as cultural preservation, world hunger, environmental degradation, economic development, cross-cultural understandings of medicine, gender roles, aging, and refugee resettlement. If you would like to learn much more about our program and facilities, please browse the Anthropology Student Handbook.
Learning by Doing
The guiding philosophy of the anthropology department is that "the best way to learn anthropology is to do anthropology." Anthropology majors are regularly presented with opportunities to participate in faculty research. In addition, community service projects in cultural preservation and community building and empowerment challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills in real settings. Recent practical training experiences and projects have included the following:
- faculty-led programs in India and Hawaii
- archaeological research at sites in Alaska, Israel, Peru, the Caribbean, the American Southwest, and upstate New York
- cultural preservation and empowerment collaborations with Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) organizations.
- study-abroad programs in places such as Kenya, Nicaragua, Madagascar, India, Australia, Bolivia, Ghana, Jamaica, Brazil, and Italy
- outreach into refugee communities and refugee service organizations in Central New York and around the globe
- serving as undergraduate student representative on the steering committee for the AIDS and Anthropology Research Group
Our students also regularly receive internships with some of the most respected organizations. Emily MacDowell interned with National Geographic, where she wrote "Did You Know?" articles for National Geographic Online! Freshman Melendy Krantz spent the summer of 2006 in Bangladesh, studying Bangla on a Critical Language Scholarship through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. Elana Sukert interned at the indigenous rights organization Cultural Survival, where she helped to organize bazaars at which vendors, artists, and musicians come together to raise money and awareness for the organization.
We are very proud of our graduates and their accomplishments as well. Indeed, recent graduates have found research positions and internships with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome and in nursing homes, courtrooms, museums, organic farming operations, and public schools throughout the United States.
Engaged in the World
Faculty in the anthropology department are deeply involved in research, consulting, and the applications of anthropology to global as well as local concerns. And our faculty often include their students in their research efforts. Here are some examples of our research:
- Sue-Je Gage is inspired by Margaret Mead's statement, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world." Her research on identity and race focuses on belonging and citizenship in Asia and the United States, as well as research on the US military. Sue-Je works with "mixed-blood” Korean Americans in South Korea. Although this is a "small group," their very presence changes our world and how nations think of their citizenry. Anthropology for Sue-Je is one of the few disciplines that actively engages with our world, locally and globally, providing an extra push for us to consider our own roles and actions.
- Cultural and medical anthropologist Brooke Hansen provides students with cross-cultural understandings of medical practices and medical pluralism. She also draws on her extensive experience with Native American organizations in central New York as an example of how anthropologists can help foster mutual understanding and respect between diverse populations. She has also long worked with the Ithaca Health Alliance on integrative heath issues.
- Archaeologist Michael Malpass and his students have excavated sites in southern Peru to understand the forces shaping the rise of complex societies. His current research is aimed at understanding the early hunter-gatherer societies that occupied this region.
- Jennifer Muller’s research focuses on the biological impact of poverty and social stratification. Most recently, Jennifer has analyzed indicators of workload stress in the skeletal remains of manumitted African Americans from the “Newburgh Colored Cemetery” (1830-1870), Newburgh, New York.
- Denise Nuttall studies the anthropology of India through apprenticing as a percussionist with learned gurus of a classical Indian music form (Hindustani). As an ethnomusicologist and a cultural anthropologist, she locates the study of culture within musical and educational relationships found in South Asia, India, and the South Asian diaspora in North America. She is primarily concerned with indigenous knowledge systems and how these articulate (or not) with social/cultural theory today.
- Archaeologist Jack Rossen introduces students to modern and pre-European Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) culture in his classes. He operates a field school that enables students to learn firsthand about Haudenosaunee culture while gaining archaeological experience. Students can also work with him in a fully equipped archaeological lab to analyze artifacts from his excavations.
- David Turkon in engaged in applied research on economic and agricutlural development, homestead gardening, and HIV and AIDS in Lesotho, southern Africa. He also works to repatriate Sudanese "Lost Boys" refugees with personal history files that were created for them in the 1980s by Save the Children as they entered Pignudo Refugee Camp, Ethiopia, as unaccompanied minor refugees.
- Ethnobotanist and archaeologist Paula Turkon studies prehistoric diet and the development of complex societies. She is especially interested in the way that food factors into social differentiation, and focuses most of her work in the semi-arid Malpaso Valley of northern Mexico. Because food production is dependent on stable environmental conditions, she uses macrobotanial analysis (the analysis of plant parts from archaeological sites) and dendrochronology (the study of tree ring variability) to reconstruct prehistoric diet and rainfall patterns.
The small size of our department gives students and faculty the chance to get to know one another and interact together in a close, mutually supportive environment. Faculty work one-on-one with students as mentors, advisers, and fieldwork supervisors. Many students get involved with our anthropology club, which is oriented toward both service and social activities. This strong sense of community also expresses itself in a variety of extracurricular activities. Staff and students participate in informal seminars, picnics, and dinners, and travel to conferences, museums, and field sites. Elected student representatives play a vital role in shaping programs in the department.
Students in anthropology will find that the faculty is interested in promoting their personal growth as well. The department emphasizes that in studying anthropology and the world's cultures, students also learn a great deal about themselves. Overseas study opportunities are encouraged as a means of broadening one's view of the world. We are committed to giving undergraduates the attention and support they need as they shape their future role in a culturally diverse and interdependent world.