Anthropology department considers splitting program into three new programs

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The Anthropology Department at Cal State Fullerton has created a proposal to restructure the anthropology degree into three concentrations, so students are better able to study specific practices within a broad field. The proposed divisions are cultural anthropology, archaeology and evolutionary anthropology. (Mike Trujillo / Daily Titan)

To better reflect changes in anthropology and enable students to be more specialized, the Anthropology Department at Cal State Fullerton has proposed restructuring the major into three divisions.

Anthropology, the study of humankind, constitutes many divisions, and the department has suggested three subfields: cultural anthropology, archaeology and evolutionary anthropology, to provide students with a focal point for their studies.

The proposal will also restore the graduate anthropology program, which has been closed for the past three years, starting in the fall 2014 semester.

Carl Wendt, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology, helped write the proposal, including the series of bylaws and the revised graduate program.

Three anthropology professors, Wendt, John Bock, Ph.D., and Barbra Erickson, Ph.D., will each represent a proposed anthropology subdivision.

Wendt will be in charge of the archaeology program.

The three will all act as coordinators and work with Mitchell Avila, Ph.D., the associate dean for academic programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The process has been ongoing for about a year before the proposal went to Sheryl Fontaine, Ph.D., the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

It then went up to Provost Jose Cruz, Ph.D., who approved it, and proceeded to an ad hoc committee that made recommendations and held an open forum on March 5.

Kristi Kanel, Ph.D., a professor of human services, was appointed by the Academic Senate to be the chair of the ad hoc committee to handle the proposal of creating a division of anthropology.

Kanel sent a report to Sean Walker, Ph.D, the chair of the senate, and recommended that the senate support the proposal. The senate scheduled a vote on the proposal for March 20.

The proposal was envisioned with the goal of developing the department’s own chair and administration.

“Back in 2010, there were issues and we had an external chair from sociology, and he retired, so the dean’s office decided to take over the administration of our department,” Wendt said.

At that time, anthropology professors at CSUF had a department and faculty to teach all of the classes, and students could still receive anthropology degrees, but they did not have a chair. Additionally, the dean’s office in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences handled administrative duties for the department on a temporary basis.

Wendt said the department’s goal is to develop the three concentrations to allow students to focus on an aspect they are most interested in.

“We want the administrative structure to mimic those concentrations, so we found it was beneficial first to get our self-governance back … and then move the concentrations through,” Wendt said.

That is also the case with the field of anthropology itself, which Wendt said was “moving toward more specialization.”

“I think it’s going to give us a good reputation, because now for people wanting to come and major in anthropology, students are going to know that these are programs that really specialize, and have expertise in these areas,” Kanel said.

For students to become more prepared for the job market and for graduate school, this new proposal will be very beneficial to them.

“Say you want to be (the character) Bones from that TV show Bones, you know you’re going to go to the archaeology program and you know you’re going have a better sense of things,” Kanel said. “You’ll get an exposure to all of it, of course, but now students will be able to have better advisement, have an understanding.”

Teaching anthropology is important because it is about human value and human diversity, which fosters a greater understanding of others, Wendt said.

“It’s a need for anthropology, (a need) for an anthropological perspective on the world, one that looks at all the different aspects of what it is to be human: in the past, in the present, in different cultures, in all places, all times.”

The new proposed plan will also consist of the three coordinators acting as advisors of their particular subfields for the students.

“It gives the students that much more of a direct person to go to who could really help them, because the field is really broad. We study humans in all places at all times … so you almost have to specialize a little bit,” Wendt said.

The anthropology department has 15 tenured and tenure-track faculty, who have all expressed support for the proposal.

Wendt said across the board, the department has received strong support from others, because everybody sees this change will be a move forward for the university, for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and for the students.

“All of the people in anthropology support it; when you have that much support from administration and faculty, I think it’s always better for students,” Kanel said.

When everyone agrees and supports a proposal or plan, it frees up the faculty members’ time to give students the best education possible, Kanel said.

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2 commentsOn Anthropology department considers splitting program into three new programs

  • Kathy Dettwyler

    Bizarre article, bizarre process. The strength of anthropology is in its FOUR-field approach — “Hello, anyone out there in Fullerton ever hear of linguistic anthropology?”. Most students have not been exposed to anthropology as a discipline before college and they aren’t going to know what interests them most until they’ve had an opportunity to take classes in all four sub-disciplines. Not to mention that if you want to be a forensic anthropologist like “Bones”, you are going to need to specialize in the “Evolutionary Anthropology” (Biological Anthropology) track, NOT the archaeology track. And again, students would be well-advised that the TV show is nothing like the reality of a forensic anthropologist’s actual work. I feel sorry for any students going to this university who are interested in anthropology.

  • Dr. Dettwyler,

    California State University Fullerton, though you or I may not agree with it, made the decision to separate Linguistics and Anthropology departments within the college of Humanities and Social Sciences. Although it is not within arm’s reach, Linguistics is definitely referred to as the fourth field, and it is ensured that students understand the basics of each field through introductory classes that encompass all of anthropology in general before a student decides on a single specialization in upper division classes. As a first-time student representative, I can say for myself that I never leave out this information when informing students about what anthropology is, and what they can do with this knowledge. Regardless, this shift has lead to CSUF’s Anthropology department, itself, focusing on three of the four fields: archaeological, biological/evolutionary, and cultural.

    Though you or I may not agree with this process completely, as evolutionary anthropology can certainly mingle with archaeological knowledge, and cultural anthropology with all of these fields, I would consider that this decision was made with the idea that our department is understaffed, perhaps underfunded, and professors needed to simplify the program to present a more linear process of providing attention to undergraduate and graduate students. I do not fully agree with this process, because from an undergraduate student’s perspective I feel this process may take away from the aspect that an anthropology degree allows more opportunities than just ethnography, archaeology, and forensics. If anything, I see more benefit for graduate students who have already decided on their focus. I also feel that this article lacks in explanation and really only *hints* at what, how, and why this different teaching process is coming about. It’s more of an overview of the school’s bureaucratic process of separating these labels.

    Also, I feel that the comment on Bones may have been a misquotation? I agree that putting the TV character Bones in this article was not the best form of representation for our department. I can assure you that professors have, for countless times, reminded students that forensics is nothing like Bones, archaeology is nothing like Indiana Jones, etc. As a student who is interested in working in forensics, or otherwise a Law Enforcement related field, I can assure you that students in this field understand that they are specializing in biological anthropology, even if they may also gain a little experience with archaeology or cultural studies.

    Beyond this, I recognized your name and took the time to look up your research on breastfeeding advocacy and your website. I think it is very interesting, and that education on breastfeeding and feminism in this society is definitely necessary. At some point in the future, when our Anthropology Students’ Association has more funds, I wish to ask you to come speak at CSUF. I agree that its Anthropology department could provide more for its students. CSUF is not the best university in America, and its newspaper is even further from that title. However, I believe the more access we have to diverse topics and to thought-provoking speakers, the more our students will receive from their college years. This is what I hope to achieve as a student representative. If you are interested in speaking with me, let me know, and I will email you later on.

    I look forward to your reply,
    Bethany Lesh
    [email protected]

Comments are closed.

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