The Catholic University of America

About the Department of Anthropology (80 years at CU in 2014!)


Whether you're just browsing, considering study in anthropology, or thinking of studying here, this is where you can learn more about our department and what we do. You'll find profiles of the faculty including their courses and interests, information about undergraduate and graduate programs we offer, courses, news & events at the department, and information about admissions and financial aid. Read on, or look at the introduction for inquirers on the right.

Anthropology is a social science with roots in the humanities and in natural sciences. Some anthropologists study human biology and evolution, others visual and verbal art; most study some aspect of social life and the human cultures that organize social life and human adaptations to the natural world. From the study of 'primitive' cultures, Anthropology developed a distinctive combination of close analysis and comparative perspectives now applied to everything from popular culture to changing patterns of migration, economic integration, the information revolution, and the constant revaluation of ethnic and other heritages. Anthropology today focuses particularly on the sweep of globalization, aiming to understand how it opens individual lives and small worlds to large changes in surprising ways that affect us all.



CUA anthropologists apply this approach to the social and cultural life of both past and contemporary societies, to health and migration issues, ethnicity and religion, ancient civilizations of the Americas, and the emerging high-tech Information Age. We invite you to explore this website and to 'drill down' through faculty webpages to syllabuses of recent courses and see what anthropology is at CUA.

Here, in Washington, the capital region's universities are linked in a consortium for students to take courses not available on their own campuses; and Washington has a large practitioner community in policy studies, health care and environmental research, preservation, community development and international development. Among our goals is to open doors to these opportunities for our students, opportunities which reward students with initiative and a sense for that something extra that anthropology has to offer.

For undergraduates, we combine this active, professional environment with a commitment to liberal arts education and preparation for advanced professional study. Our classes are small and emphasize developing skills to find, analyse, and communicate information with a large measure of self-directed study. The undergraduate major culminates in a choice of Senior Capstone options for individual research projects or a senior seminar in which students research and write a thesis. In addition, we offer minor tracks around subjects from archaeology to contemporary studies of culture & communication, and from great civilizations to migration and environmental studies, which that complement majors in other departments. These include the multicultural component for Education and Nursing majors, for instance. Our own majors go on to graduate and professional school, as well as directly into work that values cross-cultural skills, ability to gather and analyze diverse information, and a sense for the play of cultures in increasingly global societies.

For graduate students, we offer expertise and advanced training in health and environmental studies, cultural analysis particularly of religion and of American culture, archaeology and ethnology of South America, contemporary developments in the Middle East and Latin America, the anthropology of migrants & refugees, and the Information Revolution. Our faculty do research in Latin America, the Middle East, and in the United States, participate in inter-university consortia for Andean and Islamic studies, and are active the University's interdisciplinary certificate program in international social development studies. In each of these topical areas we are able to draw on expertise in other departments of the University.

Faculty have received grants recently from the National Science Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, the Fulbright program, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Institutes of Health, and private foundations from the Church Extension Society and the National Geographic Society to the American Centers for Oriental Research and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Members of the department are currently and have been elected officers in national and international professional associations and learned societies, editors of scholarly journals; they serve on national review boards for government agencies and private foundations, university presses, and academic journals. All of these provide access to professional networks for graduate students and majors, opportunities to work and find support and to develop their interests into professional skills.

Founded in 1934 as a graduate department, we have since have provided research training in anthropology to an unusually international group of students and now to undergraduates from across the country. In addition, the department serves students in religious studies and education, nursing, social work and in interdisciplinary programs of the University. This makes for an eclectic and unusually international student body.

Overall ours is a small program in an environment that offers some unique opportunities. Small means it's not for everyone; but if you think it might be right for you, or want to find out, contact us by phone (202-319-5080), fax (202-319-4782), e-mail (, or mail to Department of Anthropology, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064.