Understanding what it means to be human

Anthropologists seek to understand the human condition by investigating the past and present and applying their knowledge to the future. They are as likely to study the exotic — shamanism among the Dene — as they are the mundane — the meaning of dinner to North Americans. As an anthropology major at Elon, you will dedicate yourself to answering two central questions: How are humans unique? How are humans similar? An anthropological imagination — the ability to understand the social construction of cultural assumptions and the influence of our biological heritage while embracing the overall human experience — is an integral part of the field.

“To be an anthropology major is to be a student of art, language, history, geography and sociology, all at the same time. You graduate with a sense of curiosity and resourcefulness that encourages a lifelong dedication to cultural discovery, no matter what career you pursue. ”

Tara Bott ’08

Challenging curriculum

At Elon, the disciplines of anthropology and sociology are housed within one department to create a comprehensive, integrated approach to the study of various human societies and how those societies are interrelated. You will take that understanding outside the classroom and explore those concepts through field research, study abroad, internships and service learning.

Anthropology’s foundational courses introduce students to the four subdisciplines of anthropology: cultural, biological, archaeological and linguistic anthropology. These are intersected by applied anthropology, which is dedicated to problem-solving using anthropological theories and methods in areas such as consumer research, environmental preservation, disaster recovery, HIV/AIDS, genetic counseling, heritage preservation, immigration and education. Armed with an understanding of the discipline, anthropology majors complete their academic training with the capstone senior seminar in anthropology, in which they research, write and present a significant research project in any subdiscipline of anthropology.

The anthropology curriculum is designed to enable students to pursue a double major or minor, especially in sociology. You will be encouraged to expand your academic experience in order to gain a wide range of skills that can be useful in any career path.

Award-winning faculty

The faculty in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and diverse interests to the classroom. 

Dr. Anne Bolin, professor of anthropology, a prolific author and scholar, recently published the human sexuality textbook Human Sexuality: Biological, Psychological and Cultural Perspectives. Her research interests include human sexuality, transgendered communities, the gay liberation movement, gender and embodiment, and the anthropology of sport.

Dr. Tom Mould, assistant professor of anthropology, is a folklorist with interdisciplinary research and teaching interests in sacred narrative, Southern culture and American Indian studies. He is the author of two books, Choctaw Prophecy and Choctaw Tales. He is the director of PERCS, Elon’s Program for Ethnographic Research and Community Studies.

Dr. Rissa Trachman, assistant professor of anthropology, specializes in Maya archaeology. She is currently conducting field research at the site of Dos Hombres in Belize. Her research also includes topics such as household archaeology, ancient social organization, lithic technology, gender and archaeology, ancient childhood, and everyday life.

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist, assistant professor of anthropology, specializes in medical anthropology and the anthropology of food.  She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Thailand, the Republic of Palau, Hawaii, and the continental U.S. Her current research addresses health disparities, infant and child feeding beliefs and practices, food insecurity, immigrant health, and indigenous health.

Dynamic, hands-on learning opportunities

Elon is a national leader in experiential education, and anthropology majors have some of the most extensive opportunities for field research, international study and internships. During winter term, anthropology majors can travel to Australia to conduct research with Western Australian indigenous peoples. During summer term, students can attend a field school in Belize to conduct original research in Maya archaeology. Professors also lead small groups of students on field research programs around North Carolina and international locations such as London, Brazil and other destinations.

Through PERCS, an interdisciplinary teaching and research program dedicated to the study of local and global cultures, the department offers additional opportunities for experiential learning. The group sponsors multi-year field research projects, providing students opportunities to conduct collaborative, in-depth research with faculty leaders, student peers and local community members.

Elon helps anthropology students secure internships in service, research, teaching and corporate settings. These internships offer invaluable opportunities to put classroom knowledge into action and gain real-world experience.

“The anthropology professors are so passionate about the subject, it’s hard not to catch the bug. I loved being taught to challenge my assumptions and learning to research issues to understand the ‘big picture.’ Skills like these are not easily learned but are terribly valuable for advancing in various careers."

Tiffany King '08

Cutting-edge research in premier facilities

In the summer of 2009, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology moved to its new home in Lindner Hall. In Lindner, students have access to a computer lab equipped with quantitative and qualitative software tools for data analysis and a physical anthropology/archaeology lab. For students involved in PERCS, the department provides access to video and audio recording equipment, as well as online teaching modules on interviewing, observation and ethics. 

Special opportunities

Anthropology majors showcase their research at Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), as well as regional and national conferences. Anthropology students also may be eligible for Elon’s challenging Fellows programs, including Honors Fellows and Elon College Fellows. Visit the Elon Fellows programs Website for more information.

Preparation for a career

An anthropology degree from Elon prepares students to pursue a careers in diverse fields, including public archaeology, forensic anthropology, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, healthcare and social work, and much more. Recent graduates have worked with the Peace Corps in Malawi, an environmental agency in Melbourne, Australia, the United Way in Casa Grande, Ariz., and the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va. 

Anthropology students also have attended prestigious graduate programs such as:

  • The College of William and Mary
  • University of Debrecen, Hungary
  • Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz.
  • City University of New York
  • Columbia University
  • George Mason University
  • University of Montana.