UWA adds anthropology studies

A minor in anthropology at the University of West Alabama is offered for the first time beginning during the Fall 2012 semester. The new course of study provides students in every major field of study a way to enhance their future job prospects with skills in analytical reasoning, communicating in unfamiliar social or cultural settings, and developing a global perspective, all of which are critical to success in the job market.

UWA offered its first anthropology course in 2009, and student interest in the subject has grown enough to support the creation of a new anthropology minor.

“Each time that I’ve taught the introduction to anthropology course, several students have approached me toward the end of the semester to ask about other available anthropology courses. Once we added more courses to the catalog, it just made sense to develop a minor to meet the demand,” explained Dr. Ashley Dumas, assistant professor of anthropology at UWA.

“The anthropology minor complements our existing major programs in the College of Liberal Arts and in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathemathics. My ultimate hope is that we will attract enough minors that we can justify creating a standalone anthropology major,” explained Dr. Rob Riser, chair of the department of history and social sciences.

Anthropology is often confusing to people because they are unsure if the study falls under liberal arts or social sciences. According to Dumas, it is both. Anthropology is the study of human behavior—our biology, language, culture, music, art, and our past. Studying anthropology develops skills in critical thinking as well as quantitative analysis, but the focus remains on understanding humans in every culture and throughout time.

Dumas said that she explains to her students that anthropology is the bridge between the sciences and the humanities. She tells them that anthropology is relevant to everyone. “As long as it has to do with humans, nothing is off limits for anthropological study,” Dumas said.

That holistic approach is what makes a degree in anthropology so marketable to potential employers. Business students, especially, can benefit from a minor in anthropology.

In 2009, the Harvard Business Review recommended that U.S. corporations should be hiring more anthropologists, not engineers, to meet the needs of expanding global markets. “In other words, understanding the principles of business or marketing is necessary, but success often depends on being able to adapt your business strategy to constantly and rapidly changing markets, understanding the needs of people from other cultures, and effectively communicating with people of diverse perspectives,” Dumas explained.

According to the American Anthropological Association, major corporations like Intel, Citicorp, AT&T, Boeing, Microsoft, and General Mills have hired anthropologists because the companies value employees with multicultural approaches.

UWA’s course requirements for a minor in anthropology focus heavily on archaeology—the study of past cultures through their material remains. As required, students enroll in the archaeological field school, where they practice techniques used to learn about past cultures and also take part in a real-world project requiring teamwork, problem solving, observation, and application of scientific methods.

UWA’s 2012 field school just completed excavations at the eighteenth-century site of Fort Tombecbe, where the students helped to uncover one of the only French bakeries ever excavated in North America.

A minor in anthropology provides flexibility to an individual’s career path. When asked by future employers about the benefits of a minor in anthropology, students will have an opportunity to explain how they are better prepared to work in diverse social and cultural settings; are better able to understand multiple perspectives; and, as a result, can better understand their own role in the company and in a fast-changing society.

For more information about UWA’s minor in anthropology, contact Dr. Ashley Dumas at adumas@uwa.edu or 205-652-3830. More information on anthropology and the benefits of studying it can be found at www.aaanet.org/profdev/careers/Careers.cfm