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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Anthropology

Applied Anthropology and Public Policy

Anthropologists have long applied their knowledge, skills and methods to meet the diverse needs of communities, indigenous peoples, public agencies from the local to the global levels, non-profit and non-government organizations, and business. Applying anthropology involves combining theory, ethnographic insight, and methodological expertise towards practical ends. In doing so, anthropologists bear in mind their ethical obligations to the communities in which they work, as well as their obligations to the entities or groups that they are working with.

The ability to work in inter- and multi-disciplinary settings is a major aspect of contemporary applied anthropology - and a central feature of our graduate program in Anthropology within the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Applied anthropologists practice their craft in fields as diverse as law, medicine, health care, agriculture, forestry, health, environmental and social planning, tourism, cultural resource management (including archaeological sites), indigenous rights, forestry, conflict management, social services, and communications. Some of the many roles assumed by applied anthropologists include administrator, policy or social analyst, program or project evaluator, planner, project designer, researcher, and trainer.

Faculty members in our department have carried out applied assignments and applied-oriented research in a number of countries, including the United States, Egypt, Peru, India, Ghana, Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Canada for entities ranging from the First Nations to the United Nations. For example, faculty members have recently worked on issues such as food security, community health care, natural resource conflicts, micro-credit, relocation, and election monitoring. What unites our work is a shared vision of anthropology that seeks to contribute to local empowerment through the fostering of broadly based participatory processes.

Students interested in applied anthropology also often choose to obtain a master's degree in Public Administration, either through the MPA program or through the master's program in Executive Education. The latter program is primarily for more mature students who have experience in policy organizations.

Our faculty have links to numerous applied foci on SU campus: these include the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts; the Global Affairs Institute, The Women's Studies Program, the Center for Policy Studies, and the Center for Environmental Policy and Administration. In addition, we have joint programming with State University of New York School of Environmental Science and Forestry and Upstate Medical School.

One special focus is the Syracuse Social Movement Initiative (SSMI), a joint activity of the Anthropology Department and the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts (PARC). Since it was created in 1995, SSMI has provided opportunities for students to participate in and study social change organizations in the Syracuse community. In the years since SSMI's inception, some seventy students have taken one or more courses in the program, and 35 of these have conducted collaborative action research projects in the community. These have included a survey to assist a service workers' union enhance communication with rank and file members; workshops to improve community outreach of an alternative arts center; a survey to inform a Latino rights group about its constituency's attitudes toward voting; an analysis of an off-the-grid community to assist an anti-nuclear power organization; and numerous others.