Anthropologists Abigail Adams and Amanda Poole presented a paper titled “All in for Applied Anthropology” at the Society for Applied Anthropology national conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 29–April 1. Their panel, “Leading and Assessing Curricular Reform in Higher Education,” was sponsored by the Higher Education Topical Interest Group of the SfAA.

Due to the common banes of falling student enrollment and funding, IUP school administrators sought to reduce the number of tracks in our undergraduate program. In 2019, our department chose to place the general track in moratorium and orient our department towards applied engagement. This decision builds on our success with high-impact practices in the use of hands-on learning strategies in anthropology. This turn to applied anthropology was also in line with disciplinary trends that see an increasing demand for people with anthropological skill sets across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. 

The anthropological toolkit has long proven useful to fields outside of academia, particularly as methods are adapted to reflect social and technological trends and incorporated into projects completed by interdisciplinary teams. However, undergraduate and graduate anthropology education has often focused on classical academic approaches. Our curriculum and pedagogy need to meet the demands of a shifting landscape in higher education. In the Anthropology Department at IUP, our concentrated applied focus provides students with a background in anthropological method and theory, a cross-cultural perspective, and an avenue to translate this knowledge into action through internships and collaborative research. This paper draws from a review of literature on trends in applied anthropology, along with our experience conducting applied community-based research with students, and our observations on curricular changes in our department to discuss the curricular challenges, experiential components, and ideological underpinnings of committing to an applied approach.

This paper makes significant contributions to our discipline by exploring the significance of emerging trends in higher education for undergraduate anthropology education and proposing pathways for creatively and strategically navigating these trends.  This paper places our department at the forefront of innovative curriculum design and pedagogy in anthropology.  We hope that this recognition will be useful for the continued success of our graduates seeking post-graduate education and professional opportunities. 

About the Society for Applied Anthropology 

The Society for Applied Anthropology is a worldwide organization for applied social sciences. It represents the interests of professionals from a wide range of academic and applied settings. The SfAA was founded in 1941 as a global organization focused on applying social science to better understanding of and finding solutions for contemporary social problems.

The IUP Anthropology Department frequently involves faculty and students attending and presenting at this conference, reflecting the applied focus in our curriculum. For the SfAA annual meeting in March 2022, Poole and Adams organized a panel of IUP students to present their original research investigating community resilience and pandemic recovery efforts.