Anthropology - Mission Statement

The anthropology faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University practices a student-centered learning approach, encouraging and supporting our students to be actively involved in their own learning processes.  The knowledge, skills, and the unique perspectives of our discipline cannot be taught.  The independent, analytical, and critical thinking of anthropology necessary to our students' success in their future endeavors must be acquired through students' interest in the discipline and active work while attaining its knowledge.  We are committed to making our insights and experiences available to our students and to helping each student define and reach individual educational goals.

Whether students choose to concentrate their studies in the field of anthropology or take courses with us as a complement to a major in another subject, they will find that this commitment shapes our program.  We make it our undertaking to continuously encourage students to critically assess the information and knowledge with which they are presented by us and by others.  We take as our point of departure for organizing courses and single classes that every student has an active, critical interest in partaking in the learning process and that she/he brings unique life experiences to the classroom that should be appreciated and which can enrich the production of knowledge.

Students in our program for one course or for many find that we put an emphasis on student-centered learning.  Students in anthropology classes tackle difficult readings, make oral presentations, and write a variety of journals and papers.  They work in small groups and collaborate on projects, at times even teaching their classmates.  Many courses require active professional experience outside of the classroom, computer competency, and research skills. 

After graduation, anthropology students may choose to go directly into applied work in anthropology, to draw from the discipline to enhance opportunities in another profession, or to pursue graduate training in anthropology.  Regardless, our students find that the mastery of oral and written presentation skills is a decisive factor in their ability to independently establish and achieve their goals.  We have crafted a program to provide each student with the very best tools for meeting such challenges in their future lives.

We encourage majors and minors to take courses with as many different professors in our program as possible.  While we are committed to a general teaching philosophy, we each bring a unique perspective to the discipline, which will enrich students' educational experience.  All faculty teach differently and, like all the different people and organizations students will encounter in the future, we have our individual preferences when it comes to writing styles, presentation formats, and classroom participation.

On this web site, you will find general introductions to critical thinking, writing, and oral presentation skills, as well as a discussion of the anthropology program's grading standards.  These discussions are in no way exhaustive.  If you need additional assistance, we strongly suggest and recommend that you consult one of the available handbooks in the library or bookstore and that you ask the faculty about these important matters.  We strongly stress that we do not demand one particular writing or presentation style.  However, when it comes to details, for instance on how to write references or cite material, these suggestions are supported by disciplinary practices in anthropological journals and books and should be viewed as part of your professional development.

Regardless of the general format used, there are always two golden rules for any written or oral presentation: that you consistently implement the format you choose, and that the format helps the listener/reader to acquire and understand the knowledge and arguments you present. The easier it is to follow your presentation, the more weight your arguments carry.