CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 29 - What is the Anthropology major?

June 05, 2022 Matt Markin Season 1 Episode 29
CSUSB Advising Podcast
Ep. 29 - What is the Anthropology major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 29 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Anthropology Department Chair, Dr. Wesley Niewoehner! What is the Anthropology major? What career opportunities and internship opportunities are there? What resources does the Anthropology Department have? Find out in this episode!

For more information on the Anthropology major, visit the Anthropology Department website.

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Welcome back Yoties to another episode of the CSUSB advising podcast. My name is Matt Markin, and with me today is Professor Wesley Niewoehner, chair of the anthropology department. And here to talk to us about the Anthropology major, Professor Niewoehner, how are you? Doing? Good? How are you doing? Yeah, doing well. So let's go ahead and get started. Tell us about your background and how you got to CSUSB.

Well, I'm a have a PhD in biological anthropology from the University of New Mexico. And CISSP is the first place I actually applied to after I got my PhD and they wanted me here, so I've been here for over 20 years now. My field of study is neandertals and early modern humans. And I studied the evidence for behavioral changes in neanderthals and the early modern humans in Europe.

Hey, sounds very, very interesting. And one of the questions we get a lot from students is to learn more about the different majors we have at Cal State San Bernardino. So how would you describe the Anthropology major?

Well, anthropology is something that most people aren't very aware of, you know, because it's not taught specifically in high school. So the definition of anthropology is that it's the study of humans, both present and past humans, as well as our closest non human primate relatives, like apes and monkeys. And it's trying to understand their variation and their behavior.

And then for CSUSB, can you talk about the bachelor's degree? And does does the anthropology department do you offer aside from the bachelor's degree? Is there any minors or anything offered?

Right? Right, so the bachelor's degree because anthropology is actually composed of four fields, biological anthropology, which is kind of the, you know, the biological aspect of humans and our closest relatives. And then social cultural anthropology is another kind of major subdivision of anthropology. And then archaeology is another part of anthropology, most people don't realize that archaeology is actually anthropology. And then linguistic anthropology is another field. Our majors concentrate on the first three, getting classes in the biological anthropology, social, cultural, and archeology to get a broad feel for what anthropology is. And the next part of the question was, is there anything besides the major that we do have a minor in anthropology, and we also have a master's degree that we offer in applied archaeology. And we also have several, we have different ways of doing internships and so forth.

So a lot of different opportunities. And it looks like to like, let's say, with a bachelor's degree in anthropology, whether a student is still thinking about they want to go the archaeology route, the biological anthropology route, or socio cultural anthropology route, the lower division requirements are going to be the same, no matter which of those areas they want to go into. Correct.

Correct. We have entered, you know, 1000 level classes in in all three kind of introductory classes and all three sub fields. And they're also part of the G. So you get a GE credit for that. And we actually have some upper division, GE courses also that are part of anthropology.

Nice. So they could take some classes, and it'll count for both. And yeah, you can double dip. Nice. Any I think a lot of things that we talked to, you are always interested to know about, Hey, can I have a class that can count for a couple of different areas? So this would be a great example of one of those. Exactly. And, of course, another question we get a lot is, you know, internships, career opportunities. Can you talk more about examples of some internships or career opportunities that might be connected with anthropology?

Right, so the main internships that we have are with the anthropology museum, so we do have a museum that's dedicated solely to anthropology and run by the anthropology department actually run by Dr. hewn who's the director of the museum, and she does take on students that can can do internships in museum studies. She runs a museum studies course but she also does in internships occasionally. If you're interested more in the archaeology side, we do work a lot with the San Bernardino County Museum. And the director there often takes you know, as requires volunteers to work on their collections. And we can turn that into some sort of assistantship or or internship, we also offer a lot of resources for fieldwork, we do have summer fieldwork scholarships that we give out every year. So this year, we gave out about $25,000 worth of fieldwork scholarships. So that would allow people to get a better idea of what it's like to do field work. And this can be field work in, again, biological anthropology at for example, in Europe, when they excavate medieval cemeteries, it can be fieldwork in social cultural anthropology, can be fieldwork in archaeology can even be fieldwork in primates, because we've had some people that are interested in primate behavior and primate ecology. Those are competitive scholarships, so you do have to apply for them. But we do have quite a bit of resources available for that.

Yeah, and these can be and this, in a sense, gives students like a hands on experience.

Exactly. That's the whole idea. So they can really see what it's like to be out in the field to do these kinds of things. Talk to other people, from other schools that are also taking the field classes, talk to the instructors at the field classes. It's a great learning experience to, you know, not only learn about, obviously, what the field school is about, but also meet people from, you know, other cultures from other countries and ask what their experiences are.

Yeah, so not only are you getting to meet other people, learn about other cultures, take some classes that can count for both the major and also for general ed requirements, but you also get some of that hands on experience as well. So exactly, already a fantastic major as is.

Yeah, and of course, you know, people have to, you know, it's not required that you do the field work, but it's an opportunity to do field work, and you do have to apply for it. But our students are pretty successful at getting, you know, funding, sometimes full funding for the for the entire, you know, travel expenses, plus field school expenses, and so forth.

Now, students that say they do end up declaring their major as anthropology and they're more interested in doing some of this field work, but you know, have questions about how do I get, let's say, a scholarship? Or how can I, you know, try to get a lot of it mostly covered, would they go and talk with you talk to someone else within the department,

Primarily, they would talk to me, we do require a letter of recommendation, if they're applying for one of these fieldwork scholarships. So they can actually talk to anybody, you know, any of our faculty members that have similar interests. So if they if they want to do against some of the biological anthropologists if they want to do field work, and there's, again, like a field school in Romania that runs every year where they excavate medieval cemeteries, so they could probably come and talk to me about applying to that field school. But if it's a social cultural field school, then they probably want to talk to one of the faculty members that specializes more in socio cultural and then archaeology also.

And you were talking about a little bit about some of the things that students are learning in these different areas, depending on what they might choose within anthropology for the major. But can you talk more about maybe generally speaking, what students are learning in some of the classes?

Well, all of our classes? Well, we think we have the best students. First of all, all of our classes concentrate on critical thinking, right? We like to have, we like to make students kind of explore the world, explore the world of ideas, to try to come to an understanding of how to approach a question that maybe they've never thought about before. So how do you do research on the question, how do you frame questions? How do you frame research? And then how do you interpret what you learned? And that that kind of framework runs through? Especially the upper division classes that we have? And it doesn't really matter which subfield it is, right? It's still the same process of trying to make sense of new ideas or ideas you've never heard about before, and how do you how do you deal with them? And the good thing about our classes, again, especially the upper division classes is that we have fairly small class sizes, so maybe 10 or 15 people per class. So you really have the ability to talk to the instructors. So it's not like you're in a giant auditorium and they just say, okay, learn this and then go away and come back again.

Yeah, so we actually get to ask a lot of questions that you may have right then in there. Exactly. And, you know, you're mentioning that, you know, anthropology may not necessarily be a topic or subject that's offered, let's say, in high school, so this is kind of like their first in a way, the first time they're getting maybe get the class and maybe register for a class for a GE and get exposed to anthropology. Are there any misconceptions that you think students may end up having, or others might have about anthropology?

Well, I don't think it's so much about misconceptions. I just think it's a lack of understanding again, because, for example, in high school, you know, they'll learn biology, right, though, they'll learn about other cultures in high school. And they even may learn about ancient history, you know, Egyptians and Romans and even before that, and that's the all of those things are the provenance of anthropology, but they're not told that oh, you know, and anthropologists would be doing all these things. So I guess it's just a question of, of not understanding that all of these things are part of anthropology. And so what anthropology really does is, we're a synthetic science, we synthesize information from all different kinds of fields and try to make sense of it. And can

you tell us a little bit more about any resources resources within your department or talk to me more about your scholarship?

Sure. So actually, for students, we do have quite a few, you know, resources. One is, a great resource that we have is the anthropology museum. So that gives students again, some hands on experience in how to design museum exhibitions, we actually have a class, a lab class in museums, we also have quite a few collections that are used in our classes. So for example, I teach an osteology class, which is the study of bones. And we have an excellent collection of human osteology examples. So they can learn that we have quite a good collection of casts of ancient humans, you know, going back to over 3 million years ago. We have a lot of examples from archaeology that they can work with. We also have lab classes. I already mentioned the museum lab class, but we also have an archaeology lab class, where they can again, do kind of some hands on things, like for example, producing an atlatl, which is a kind of a spear that is thrown with a throwing stick. And so in addition to those kinds of classroom resources and collections kind of hands on resources. As I mentioned before, we do have quite a bit of resources, quite a bit of money for these summer fieldwork, scholarships.

And we're recording this at the end of May, early June. Is there anything you want to talk about regarding what your department's been up to lately?

Well, sure. Right now, we're at the, you know, we just finished up the semester. So we have one, one of our archaeologists is actually in Oaxaca, Mexico doing excavations. There's a, they just had a had a hurricane pass through there. So he was emailing me saying that they're, he's fine, right. But they're having to deal with the weather. And we have museum exhibits that are coming up. Dr. Yoon is working on several museum exhibits. And then I'm submitting a chapter for a book. And we have, of course, our students, several of them five or six that are going on summer to summer field schools.

Sounds exciting. And as we wind down with this interview, if a student has questions, or they're saying, Hey, I'm listening to this, this podcast episode, I'm really interested in anthropology now. Would you hadn't go to your department or your website? How can they reach out to you?

Sure, just go to the anthropology website. You can email me. I am on my email all the time. So feel free to contact me by email If it's over the summer, I'd be the one that would be the one to contact. But during the regular year, you can contact any of our faculty members, all of them are very welcoming to students. And especially if you have a question that relates so when you go into the website and you look at the faculty members, there's a little bio that tells you what they're doing, you know what they're interested in. So if somebody's interested in museum studies, you might want to contact Dr. hewn. If you're more interested in archaeology, then you probably want to talk to one of our archaeologists, or you know, social cultural anthropologists or whatever. But I'm always available for either emailing or zoom. If you want to talk about something over zoom, just go ahead and contact me via via email. All right,

sounds good and Yonis. Hopefully, you got a lot of information. And yeah, if you go and check out the website, csusb.edu/anthropology. Yeah, you just got a faculty and staff. I'm clicking on there right now getting to know a lot more about the different faculty members within the department. So, Dr. Niewoehner, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Sure, no problem. I really appreciate you having me.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai