Anthropology seeks to understand the nature and origins of human diversity. The preferred approach is the holistic study of humanity. The discipline draws freely from other fields of study in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. A four-field approach is taken in the MA program, embracing archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology. Upon initial contact the department provides a faculty sponsor for each incoming student. This faculty member will become the student’s provisional advisor until a faculty member willing to serve as permanent advisor is identified. Students will initially pursue their curriculum under the guidance of this advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. There are a number of general requirements that all students must fulfill in order to earn the MA degree.

General Requirements

Course Work

Each student must complete a minimum of 36 credit hours of courses numbered 500 or above. Without special prior approval of the student’s advisor, committee, and the Director of Graduate Studies, ANT 598 (Individual Investigations) will not count toward the minimum 36 hours. For students in the thesis-track only, 6 hours of ANT 599 (Thesis Research) will count towards the minimum 36 hours. (Note that there are additional requirements depending on the plan of study, see below). Graduate students are expected to enroll for 12 hours of course work per semester. However, for Graduate Teaching Assistants on 0.5 (20 hour per week) assistantships, the maximum course load is 9 hours per semester.

Core Curriculum

All students are required to complete satisfactorily a core curriculum composed of one graduate course in at least three of the four fields of anthropology: ANT 501 (Linguistic Anthropology); ANT 625 (Survey of the History of Archaeology); ANT 641 (Culture); and ANT 670 (Principles of Physical Anthropology). Additionally, a seminar in Research Methodology (ANT 600) is required. These four core courses should be taken during the student’s first year in residence.

Entering students must provide evidence of having passed introductory level undergraduate courses in any given field before taking the graduate courses in that same field. A student who has not had an introductory course may be required to take or audit the appropriate undergraduate course before enrolling in the graduate course. Credits earned from such preparatory course work may not be applied to the 30 credit hour requirement.

Language/Research Skill Competency

Each student is required to demonstrate competency in a foreign language or research skill. This requirement may be satisfied in one of several ways including:

  • successful completion (meaning a grade of B or better) of at least the second course in a
    language course sequence such as FR 101/102, GN 103/104, or SP 103/104; or,
  • certification of competency by examination from the appropriate language department
    (language exams are administered by the Department of Modern Languages and
    Classics and are given once per semester); or,
  • successful completion of a graduate level statistics course such as BER540, ST550, or
    CHS25; or,
  • other specialized research competency, contingent on the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students must receive the approval of their advisor before undertaking any of these options. The student will be responsible for furnishing evidence of completion of this requirement to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Chair.

MA Adviser and Committee

By the start of the second semester of academic work each graduate student will be required to have identified a faculty member willing to serve as permanent advisor. Students who intend to pursue a thesis also must name at least three additional faculty members to comprise an M.A. Committee, which will function as an advisory and research project approval board. The committee must include a representative from at least  three of the four sub-disciplines of anthropology and an external member of the Graduate Faculty.

The aim of the external member of the committee is to add expertise from outside the student’s field, as well as to help the student remain cognizant of the need to communicate outside a narrow frame of scholarly reference. Therefore, under most circumstances, the external committee member should be chosen from faculty within the university in other departments or divisions; however, under some circumstances, it may be appropriate to invite an anthropologist from another university to serve as the outside member. Approval for such action must be obtained in advance from the Director of Graduate Studies, and it is incumbent on the student and his or her advisor to complete the paperwork necessary to obtain a temporary appointment of the outside member to the Graduate Faculty of the university.

Committee appointments should be submitted to the department by February 1 of the student’s first year. (The form for the appointment of a master’s thesis committee can be found at

Comprehensive Examinations

All students must take and pass comprehensive examinations on their knowledge of the field of anthropology. The student will take three-hour written exams in at least three of the four sub-disciplines. The selection of the three areas will be made in collaboration with the faculty advisor. All anthropology faculty will participate in composing the exam questions. The examinations are evaluated by the entire faculty of the department.

Comprehensive examinations are administered near the end of the first year of graduate study. The faculty’s evaluations will be communicated by the Director of Graduate Studies to the Chair of the department. The student must pass the comprehensive exam in his or her specialty subfield. Not completing the exam in his or her area of specialty with a grade of “pass” will mean immediate dismissal from the program.

If the student does not pass the comprehensive exam in one of his or her supporting subfields, he or she will be required to re-take that exam(s) prior to the next semester (practically, this means in early August prior to his or her second year in residence).

If the student does not pass the exam in the supporting area(s) at this time, this will mean dismissal from the program. If the student performs adequately, but still exhibits serious gaps in his or her knowledge, the faculty retain the right to require the student to pursue a non-thesis option for the MA, and the student may be directed to complete specific coursework to remedy deficits in knowledge.