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Graduate Program in Anthropology

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The fundamental goals of the Hunter College Master's Program in Anthropology are to provide a first-class graduate-level grounding in the basics of anthropology and an extensive exposure to advanced research. We remain committed to providing a level of Master's training second to none.

 

Graduate Program Objectives

The most important characteristics of our program include the following: The Department maintains a commitment to a four-field approach to graduate training despite an apparent national trend towards increasing specialization at earlier levels of graduate training. We feel that a substantial background in sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, anthropological archaeology and linguistics is essential to student training irrespective of subdisciplinary specialization.

Current theoretical approaches to problems of anthropological interest increasingly blur the traditional distinctions between sub-disciplines. Students with only minimal cross-quadrant training will be equally limited in their choice of future research topics. Further, in an increasingly difficult job market, there is a growing pressure for a more generalized competency. As anthropology PhDs increasingly find employment in smaller institutions and outside academia, the drawbacks of highly specialized, wholly thesis-focused graduate programs become more serious. We feel that a student with a solid four-field background can readily opt to specialize, while one-talent specialists are hard to retrain as generalists.

The Department maintains stringent degree requirements such that students who complete the program have reached a level of training equivalent to, if not superior to virtually any other anthropology Master's program in the country.

The entire Master's Degree Program is tied to an evening course schedule thereby offering a unique educational resource in an urban area where the majority of potential graduate students are self-supporting and hold full-time jobs. Hunter's comparatively modest fees also serve to attract students who would otherwise never be able to afford graduate education. Many of these students have proved to be our most capable, and working with them represents one of the genuine satisfactions of teaching at Hunter.

The Department is also committed to involving graduate students in ongoing faculty-supported research, and in encouraging independent student-initiated research projects. We are by no means content to see students only in lectures, and try to convey that the most interesting parts of their training may happen outside the classroom. The Department further emphasizes the development of scholarly writing skills and, in concert with College policy, we encourage writing and research assignments wherever possible.

 

Admissions Policy

The Department of Anthropology at Hunter serves one of the most diverse urban centers in the world, and attracts students from a growing number of foreign countries and most parts of the United States. Applicants thus often come from unusually cosmopolitan backgrounds, and our admissions policy is adjusted to a high degree of variability in level of training and prior background in anthropology.  Our admissions system-- administered by the College's Graduate Admissions Office-- is two-tiered: highly qualified applicants with strong backgrounds may be accepted system directly into the Master's Program as "matriculated" students. Highly motivated applicants who have little previous background in anthropology are occasionally admitted with "non-matriculated" status. After completing one to three courses with grades of "B" or higher, non-matriculated students may apply to the Master's Program. Admission with non-matriculated status is in no way a guarantee of admission to the Master's Program.

Matriculated (Degree-Program) admissions are based on student transcripts, letters of recommendation, and Graduate Record Examination scores. The Graduate Advisor attempts to arrange an interview and departmental tour with local applicants whenever feasible, and we attempt to judge applications on their individual merits. Many applicants, for example, have little or no previous experience in anthropology, but hold graduate degrees in related fields. Such evidence of academic success in graduate work generally carries considerable weight.  For applicants who have been out of school for some time, the nature of job experience is clearly important (we have acquired several excellent graduate students employed by the United Nations, the Museum of the American Indian, and the American Museum of Natural History). We are also careful to examine transcripts for consistent time trends. An uninspiring cumulative grade point average occasionally conceals excellent academic performance in the latter portion of an undergraduate program.

It if often the case, however, that an applicant shows promise, but lacks a record strong enough to allow immediate admission to matriculated status in the degree program. Such students are advised to apply for non-matriculate, non-degree status. Satisfactory performance as a non-degree student may serve as a basis for later admission as a degree candidate. Non-matriculated students admitted in this way are allowed to transfer up to 12 credits for full graduate credit (grades of B or above only). Non-matriculated status may also allow an uncertain student to test the waters before making a full commitment to graduate study. Non-matriculated students still must meet at least twice yearly with the departmental graduate advisor to discuss their progress, plan future course work, and obtain written approval for specific graduate courses.

 

Degree Requirements

The Department of Anthropology maintains stringent requirements for its Master's Degree. These include completion of 30 credit hours of course work, required introductory courses in the four subfields, a statistics or language examination, and a master's thesis. Students who may have a substantial undergraduate background in a particular subdiscipline may be exempted from the graduate introductory course by successful completion of a a special examination. Students must receive a grade of B or above to have a course count toward their Master's Degree.

 

Statistics and Language Examinations

The Department requires a basic working knowledge of descriptive and inferential statistics or an ability to read scholarly work in a major non-English research language. Open-book statistics and language examinations are offered once each semester and may be repeated until satisfactory performance is attained. They are administered by the Graduate Advisor and graded by an appropriate faculty member. In recent years students have taken language exams in Bulgarian, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. On rare occasions, and at the discretion of the Department, students who are educated native speakers of a language other than English (as demonstrated by the completion of high-level secondary or university training in a non-English-speaking institution abroad) may be exempted from the language examination.

 

Advising and The Master's Thesis

One of the departmental graduate advisor's most important responsibilities is maintaining communication with students. This involves a good deal of regular contact: ensuring that students fully understand requirements, alerting them to courses of special interest (or those needed to correct individual deficiencies), helping them move through the program as smoothly as possible by fulfilling the degree requirements in a timely fashion, and monitoring student feedback on courses taken and desired in the future.

In addition to a minimum of two interviews a year with the graduate advisor, graduate students are required by the end of their third semester to have established a working relationship with one or more other faculty members, who then act as the thesis advisor and general mentor. The thesis advisor then selects a second reader (not necessarily from the Hunter faculty or from the Anthropology Department) when the work reaches the first draft stage if not before. The departmental graduate advisor is an ex officio member of all Master's thesis committees.