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Laura Cramer: Anthropology

Stroudsburg, PA
Major: Anthropology
Minor: Psychology

If Laura Cramer, in her freshman year, was uncertain about her intended college major, she had no doubt at all when it came to choosing her university.

The Honors College, itself, is really what drew me to IUP. And, then, my first semester, I took a class called Career Exploration where the teacher advised us to pick our major based on what interested us -- and not to worry so much about where it might lead in the future. I liked the anthropology course that semester and chose it as my major.

It was a choice Laura Cramer, now a junior, has been delighted about ever since.

The anthropology department is absolutely wonderful -- I'd say one of the best on campus (although I admit, I might be somewhat biased). Every professor is willing to give extra help outside of class, and all are very dedicated to the students. In class, their enthusiasm for the subject shines and is transmitted to the students. Two good things about the program come to mind immediately. First is the internship advice provided. The current internship coordinator is Dr.Kruckman and he does so much to help students seeking internships. He knows what opportunities are out there, and does everything he can to help with a student's search. The second thing that really makes a difference is the junior year review process. In that third year, students fill out a form detailing future plans and goals -- and professors, in turn, fill out forms for each student they've had, reflecting on each one's strengths and weaknesses. The advisor then gathers these reports and sits down with each student to review what has been said. It is a great tool to evaluate current progress and talk about where the student is headed. The entire College of Humanities and Social Sciences has recently instituted the process for all of its departments.

One completely unexpected benefit was the chance for Laura to work directly with one of her professors, gathering data for a research project, and then

I never thought it would happen! I was really shocked when Dr. Chaiken approached me about working with her on a project. Over the summer I took photos of people's groceries at Giant Eagle and then analyzed them, counting the number of raw vegetables, frozen entrees, and so on. Then I put all of that into an Excel file and Dr. Chaiken ran the statistics. Also, she had done surveys in senior synthesis classes, data which I coded and entered into another Excel file. This work is teaching me the importance of always backing up files, the processes involved in analyzing data, and working with someone as an assistant.

Laura's close involvement with this project took her further than she'd imagined, as she worked with Dr. Chaiken as a co-presenter on a professional paper for a major conference.

In the process of preparing the paper, 'The Death of Cooking," that we co-wrote and also co-presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in San Francisco, I was able to see, step by step, how a paper gets written -- and how it gets discussed. Along with all that, going to the conference gave me the chance to interact with other anthropologists and find out different kinds of research they do."

Aside from the research, the paper, the conference, and all the "real world" experience, Laura Cramer found one other unexpected benefit at IUP and the Honors College - working as a member of the Student Congress and the University Senate.

When I sit as a student member on the curriculum committee, surrounded by faculty who treat me as an equal, it IS the real world. I learn about compromise, negotiation, and working together in a way that cannot really be taught through any assignment of a group project. The skills I learn through anthropology--critical thinking, the holistic approach, etc.--all come into play in this kind of setting. Also, the leadership ability I am able to develop through this involvement will be an invaluable tool I otherwise would not have garnered simply through taking classes.

So, where does Laura go from here?

Graduate school seems to be in the immediate future. My Medical Anthropology course this semester has opened my eyes to the possibility of going into public health. An enduring interest of mine has been children's welfare, and I might try to get into the field of non-governmental organizations to work for an agency like Children's Defense Fund or Save the Children. In any case, anthropology is such a versatile major that a graduate with this degree can choose any number of careers, so long as s/he proves s/he has the right skills.

Laura’s Accomplishments

Academic Awards/Distinctions

  • Research Assistant in Anthropology


  • Residence Hall Association
  • Residence Hall Council (President)
  • Student Congress (Residence Life Committee Chair, Public Relations Committee Chair)
  • Co-op Finance Committee
  • University-Wide Undergraduate Curriculum Committee
  • Jazz Band

Community Service

  • Volunteer as classroom aide at Indiana County Head Start


  • Co-presenter with Dr. Chaiken, on "The Death of Cooking" at the December, 2000 American Anthropological Association Meeting in San Francisco