Undergraduate anthropology majors are immersed in a wide body of ethnographic work from near and far. In other words, they read extensively about others’ experiences and research in “the field.” Relatively few of them (at least of a cultural-anthropology bent) have any deep, systematic engagement with real-world problems. I offer thoughts here about experiential learning to generate discussion and illustrate how a well-intentioned program went significantly astray. Now you might say to this, more than ever, that students have access to practicums, internships, study abroad, honors research, or senior capstones as forms of engaged learning outside of the classroom. To [...]
About James H. McDonaldJames H. McDonald is an applied cultural anthropologist who has worked on issues concerning rural development and systems of governance in Mexico and Guatemala. He also served in a wide variety of academic administrative positions, the last of which was Provost at the University of Montevallo, Alabama’s public liberal arts university.
Higher education institutions are remarkably diverse: rural/urban; private/public; union/nonunion; R1/research intensive/regional comprehensive/liberal arts; religious/secular; and the list goes on. Today, in most institutional settings there is at least lip service paid to the linkage between education and career. All will have a career center and have some minimally loose ideas, often not completely correct, of how the social sciences fit into the larger work world. Enter the liberal arts university, my last stop in a long career arc. Mine was public and a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). The select 28 institutions of this group [...]
The “field” and “fieldwork” are central to the discipline and the ethnographic project. However, ethnographic field schools seem to be on the wane, especially those oriented toward undergraduates. We might step back and ask: Why does such a central feature in identity and practice receive such scant training in anthropology? It’s a good question because together these are critical rites of passage for our professional development. How can we expect students to be successful field researchers without providing them with a supervised model? The easy answer is resources, time, and money. It takes a lot of all three to get [...]