Undergraduate Guide

PENN’s Department of Anthropology continually strives to develop teaching programs for undergraduates that reflect the current state of Anthropology and its relationship to other disciplines and contemporary society. The Department emphasizes the integration of Anthropology’s sub-fields. Following this philosophy, the Anthropology major is designed to encourage students to experience the full breadth of the discipline, while providing flexibility to design a course of study best suited to their individual needs and/or interests. Our majors have moved successfully into a wide range of professions and the holders of postgraduate degrees have distinguished themselves by their contributions to scholarship and service.

Declaring the Anthropology Major or Minor: In order to declare Anthropology your major or minor, you should first email the Undergraduate Coordinator in order to meet with the Undergraduate Chair. Prior to this appointment, prospective majors should ensure their worksheet on Penn-in-Touch has been made official by their pre-major advisor.

The Anthropology Major consists of 14 courses, each taken for a grade. Please see accompanying webpages for details. You may NOT take a class PASS/FAIL and count it toward your major. An Anthropology Freshman Seminar may be included in your 14 courses. Depending on concentration, two or three courses from other departments can be applied to the major with the approval of the Undergraduate Chair, but these courses should be linked to a more general topic or theme in your anthropology department courses.  The major also encourages Study Abroad.

The Anthropology Minor consists of 6 courses taken for a grade, NOT PASS/FAIL. Minors are encouraged (but not required) to take the introductory courses in Block of the Anthropology major, and no more than four courses in one subfield. At least four of the courses counted towards the minor must be taken at Penn— up to two may be credit away/study abroad/transfer credits. Penn courses offered by other departments may NOT be counted toward the minor. To declare Anthropology as a minor, you should meet with the Undergraduate Chair. To make an appointment, contact the Undergraduate Coordinator (215.746.0418; anth-ugrad@sas.upenn.edu).

Concentrations. Anthropology majors may choose to declare one of the ‘concentrations’ listed on the accompanying webpages. This is entirely optional. It is not necessary to choose a concentration in order to major in anthropology.

Advising: The Undergraduate Chair, Dr. Brian Spooner (spooner@sas.upenn.edu or 215.898.5207) serves as advisor of record for all majors and minors. Students are also encouraged to seek out individual faculty members with whom they share intellectual interests or simply feel comfortable for help in planning their curriculum or discussing any other academic concerns. Please contact the Undergraduate Coordinator, at (215) 746.0418 to make an appointment.

Independent Study and Research. Independent study and work on a specific research project with a professor offers students the opportunity for an in-depth, hands-on research experience within the department.  For more information, speak to the Undergraduate Chair or a faculty member with whom you are interested in working.  Course credit as ANTH 199 can be given for pre-approved Independent Study and research work. Students may link to several sites to explore the range of grants, awards and fellowships available. All are worth visiting and most have links to homepages for specific fellowships and grants. The best place to start is the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Domestic and Summer Credit. Before you go away, you should receive pre-approval from the Undergraduate Chair for the courses that you wish to take. Please note that pre-approval is only a first step; you will still need to seek official credit for the course from the Undergraduate Chair when you return.  The Undergraduate Chair reserves the right not to accept a course even if it was pre-approved. For pre-approval, visit XCAT, the External Credit Approval Tool. Please submit a syllabus and any relevant readings, and a note to the Undergraduate Chair specifying the type of credit that you would like to receive. Grades earned in courses away from Penn do not count in the Penn G.P.A. unless taken during the regular semester at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, or Swarthmore, or in Penn-sponsored programs abroad.  If you have questions, feel free to contact the Undergraduate Coordinator, 215.746.0418 or by email at anth-ugrad@sas.upenn.edu.

Study Abroad Programs, Internships and Field Studies. Information pertaining to study abroad and summer opportunities is available on the Undergraduate Bulletin Board (located outside the departmental office room 325).  You may also receive other information and announcements concerning field opportunities via the Majors or Minors listserv.  For other information, please check the Undergraduate Research page.

Graduating with Honors. In order to graduate with honors in Anthropology you must (1) have a GPA of 3.5 for all courses applied to your major, and (2) complete an Undergraduate Thesis. The Undergraduate Thesis involves the completion of a significant piece of independent research from the formulation of a problem, question or hypothesis, through analysis and write-up. It might be an expanded or improved version of a paper initially written for a course that demonstrates a capacity for independent research (providing that the course professor and your thesis advisor approve). The Undergraduate Thesis might also be an outgrowth of an original research project, constituting a recognizable contribution to knowledge. You should begin to think about the Undergraduate Thesis in the Junior year but no later than the summer between Junior and Senior years, and should contact the Undergraduate Chair and an appropriate faculty supervisor or mentor as soon as you have a topic in mind. You must register for ANTH 300 in the Fall and/or ANTH 301 in the Spring of your senior year. ANTH 300 & 301 can be counted for major credit. For more details, check out the thesis guide, here.

The Anthropology Prize is awarded to the student who submits the best Undergraduate Thesis in a given year. In order to be considered for this competition, your thesis must be submitted in its final form by approximately the end of March (the actual date varies from year to year). The Anthropology Prize is awarded on advice of an Anthropology faculty committee, who read the submitted theses.  The prize winner is notified by the end of the term, and at the department’s graduation reception in May is given a certificate and a small honorarium.  In addition, the awardees name is inscribed on a plaque in the Department of Anthropology and printed in the University’s Commencement Program.

The Submatriculation program allows undergraduates to take graduate courses to obtain both undergraduate and graduate (MA or MS) degrees in a total of four to five years.  Four of the ten total required course units may be double-counted between both the Undergraduate and Graduate Divisions.  The GRE general test, although encouraged, is not required.

Listserv. The Department of Anthropology has a listserv for all anthropology undergraduate majors and minors. Information posted from the Undergraduate Chair includes lecture notices, field school opportunities, course updates, and other information that will be beneficial to you as a major/minor. Also the Anthropology Undergraduate Advisory Board uses the listserv to relay information. After you officially declare Anthropology as a major, your name is automatically added to the listserv. To get your e-mail address added to the list in other circumstances, contact the Undergraduate Coordinator.

Resources. You can find information on Undergraduate Events at the Anthropology Undergraduate Advisory Board webpage. The Anthropology Student Lounge (Room 327) has couches and comfortable chairs, as well as computer terminals and a collection of mystery novels.  Students gather in the lounge to talk and relax between classes and to eat lunch. The Undergraduate Research Room in the Mainwaring Wing of the Penn Museum is available to students registered for Undergraduate Thesis Research (ANTH 300 (fall) or 301 (spring)) or Independent Research (ANTH 199), as well as to those who have obtained faculty permission. This room overlooks the entry garden of the Penn Museum and offers a quiet space for research and writing.  The room is equipped with tables, chairs, computers, Internet access, and temporary storage. The Museum Library is a quiet, well-equipped, research facility located on the third floor of the PennMuseum where students may study and research anthropological literature. The library staff, are available to help students with their questions. The Museum Library specializes in the four sub-fields of Anthropology and is filled with books, monographs, anthropology journals, special publications and other periodicals. Phone: 215.898.7840.

The Anthropology Undergraduate Advisory Society (UAS) acts as the official liaisons between undergraduate students and the faculty. The objectives of the UAS include:

  1. Promoting activities and events available to majors that strengthen relationships between students and faculty members;
  2. Advising the Undergraduate Chair on issues of importance and interest to undergraduate majors; and
  3. Increasing interaction among undergraduate anthropology majors to create a more cohesive educational experience.

Membership is open to all undergraduate anthropology students. The term for each Board member shall run from January to January. Elections will be held at the end of the fall term each academic year, with turnover occurring in January. The UAS acts as a self-regulating, independent student organization. The UAS is under the leadership of a UAS Chair (who must be a rising senior when elected). The Chair will organize and run all meetings with the aid and advice of the Vice Chair. Projects for the upcoming school year include organizing the welcome-back receptions and updating this handbook each semester on the web, workshops, and sponsoring various faculty and student panels throughout the year. For more details, contact the Undergraduate Coordinator (215-746-0418) for appointments with the Undergraduate Chair.

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum).The Department of Anthropology is fortunate to be housed in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum), which is free to students with valid Penn ID.  Students with a valid Penn ID may visit any of the Museum galleries Tuesday through Saturday 10 AM to 4:30 PM or Sunday 1 PM to 5 PM.  The Penn Museum is one of the premier cultural institutions in the world.  Dedicated to the exploration of cultures around the world, culture history, and the understanding of cultural diversity, the Penn Museum’s anthropologists and archaeologists have conducted more than 350 expeditions to all the inhabited continents. Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum is internationally renowned for its unique worldwide collections of archaeological and ethnographic materials, which include more than 1,500,000 artifacts from Asia, the Near East, Greece, Italy, Africa, Egypt, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. The Museum is home to an experienced staff of scholars, scientists, researchers, students and volunteers.  In addition to conducting research in distant parts of the world, they work in the Museum analyzing new materials, perfecting scientific techniques, preserving, writing, teaching, and sharing their knowledge of the development of human culture.  Through Work Study Positions or as a volunteer at the Penn Museum, you can get your hands into the rich source of material, of ideas, and of opportunities for relationships from virtually around the world.  Visit the Penn Museum website.

Diversity and non-discrimination. The University of Pennsylvania values diversity and seeks talented students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability or status as a Vietnam Era veteran or disabled veteran in the administration of educational policies, programs or activities; admissions policies; scholarship and loan awards; athletic, or other University administered programs or employment.  Questions or complaints regarding this policy should be directed to Executive Director, Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, 3600 Chestnut Street, Nichols House, Suite 228, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106 or (215) 898-6993 (Voice) or (215) 898-7803 (TDD).