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Learning Objectives

Upon completing the Anthropology major, Pomona students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of complex research problems, and apply appropriate methods and theories to the study of these problems.
  • Design and carry out an anthropology research project, understand both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and identify the underlying assumptions in theoretical orientations and methodological approaches.
  • Critically evaluate humans as social, cultural, and biological beings; how people and groups vary across time and place; and the effects of such variation.
  • Think holistically and comparatively in describing human ways of life, and recognize how ethnographic, archaeological, and biological knowledge contribute to that understanding.
  • Demonstrate anthropological skills applicable to solutions to present day concerns, both locally and globally.
  • Effectively communicate anthropological knowledge through writing and oral presentation in various formats for diverse audiences.

Current curriculum

The required courses for the anthropology major encompass the majority of these goals, especially Social Anthropology, Theory in Anthropology, and the methods courses. Five electives chosen from among the anthropology courses offered at The Claremont Colleges offer additional breadth in the discipline. Among our goals are to expose students to the diversity of theories, methods, and data encompassed within the umbrella of anthropology, and, as a result, for students to become proficient in the practice of anthropology and its application to a variety of contemporary issues.

The remainder of the major and minor requirements, including electives, reflects the attempt to provide both curricular breadth and depth, particularly with respect to cross-cultural comparison, diachronic perspectives, and holism (Appendix A). North and South America, East Asia, and the Middle East are among the geographic regions are expertise of the faculty and are addressed in relevant coursework. Courses are also organized major themes of human behavior including language, sexuality, politics, globalization, and traditional lifeways.

Conducting and presenting original research is also an integral component to anthropology curriculum, emphasized in formal coursework and the senior thesis.

Student assessment

In addition to formal coursework, the anthropology department regards the senior thesis to be a particularly useful way of assessing student understanding of anthropology, especially in the following ways (Appendix B):

  • Engaging in original research
  • Application of anthropological theory to frame research questions
  • Application of quantitative and/or qualitative methods
  • Critical thinking and reading
  • Writing and presenting (submission of their thesis and presenting their research to the department and at other college functions)
  • Professionalism and ethics (e.g. presenting their research at the end of the semester and at professional meetings)

To enhance the utility of the overall experience and more effectively evaluate student proficiency, we have been implementing changes in the senior thesis exercise. In 2005 we started scheduling thesis meetings at which students informally discuss their theses with their peers and faculty throughout the year. We have continued these meetings, and this year invited juniors to attend to start thinking about conducting original research (in the context of study abroad, summer research, or otherwise). In addition, we have changed our thesis requirements from one to two readers in the anthropology department.

The department also requires that students present their research at the end of the spring semester, which is consistent with many other departments and programs. However, in the past few years we have been focusing professionalism, expecting that presentations will be of a caliber suitable for a professional meeting. Also, when appropriate we encourage students to attend and present at conferences as well as publish papers. Should the number of majors increase dramatically in the future we would consider administering comprehensive exams as part of this assessment.

We will continue to engage in discussions about the senior thesis and other aspects of the anthropology curriculum. In particular, we are considering the development of a more formal senior seminar. In the addition to the senior thesis, we would address career issues such as applying to graduate school, job opportunities, and grant writing. Likely in association with the senior seminar, we have also discussed requiring students to develop graduate portfolios of writing samples, research projects, and other undergraduate accomplishments that would be useful for graduate school and job applications. For now, we feel that the thesis meetings and presentations are working well, especially given the emphasis we place on conducting original research, and that we are moving forward with other positive changes.

Furthermore, we have developed a tracking sheet for advising that assists both the advisor and student in the completion of coursework, senior thesis, and other requirements.