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OSU Home » Graduate School » Spring 2004 Newsletter » PhD in Applied Anthropology.
Dr. Sunil Khanna

New Programs:


PhD in Applied Anthropology

In a rapidly changing world impacted by powerful institutions, the relationships among key societal institutions are changing. Global interconnectedness has transformed the ways we work together, as government and citizens, corporations and consumers, organizations and communities.

To serve their various constituencies effectively, many institutions are realizing they need a deeper understanding of the perspectives, values, and experiences that shape their interactions. This is opening a wealth of professional opportunities in the field of applied anthropology.

OSU’s new PhD in Applied Anthropology, due to begin in the fall of 2004, will give students the combination of theoretical and practical tools they need as analysts and brokers of social change. They’ll develop the theoretical framework and methods for anthropological analysis and interpretation. But they will also build skills in such areas as business, communication, public health, and education, to apply their anthropological knowledge to contemporary issues and public affairs.

As a field, applied anthropology is quickly gaining recognition and importance, says Dr. Sunil Khanna, who helped design the new PhD program. In the past, anthropologists didn’t feel it necessary to leave the academic confines. Knowledge primarily remained within academia and rarely flowed from the university to the outside world. The emphasis was on creating a set of students who would replace their mentors or go on to other academic positions.

With recent economic and political changes, he says, the university has developed a more interactive role with industry and society in general. “There is an increasing demand for anthropologists to apply their knowledge and skills in professional niches outside the academic context. We will be preparing students to work as academics, but also to go out and explore unchartered territories of professional application.”

The new PhD program is an extension of OSU’s highly rated Master’s in Applied Anthropology program. In a review of the degree proposal last spring, Linda Whiteford, President of the Society for Applied Anthropology called the MA program “one of the best in the country . . . without a doubt in the top 3 or 4 programs” and encouraged the University to move ahead with the proposed doctoral program.

Three areas of concentration within the program correspond to the realms where anthropologists have broad opportunities for social, economic, and professional benefits. The first, Local Values, Indigenous Knowledge, and Environment, will position graduates to work in museums, schools, parks, and other agencies and interest groups concerned with the protection and sustainability of natural and cultural resources. The second, Ethnicity, Culture, and Health, will prepare students for jobs that focus on multicultural health, family planning, health demography, and related areas. The third, Business, Organization, and Work, will train students to understand and help redefine the complex dynamics between global industrial forces and communities, working within corporations, government and non-profit organizations.

These areas of concentration emerged from discussions between faculty and policy makers outside the university. Khanna serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Minority and Racial Health Issues. Other Anthropology faculty serve on high-level advisory boards for cultural and business issues, and are often invited to participate in state and national forums. “We’ve tested the waters of future employment opportunities,” says Khanna.

Potential employers from outside the university will be instrumental throughout the program, helping define courses, providing opportunities for work experience, and even serving as ex-officio members of a student’s dissertation committee. Each student will participate in a term-long full-time residency in a business, agency or institution that reflects his or her area of concentration. This residency may provide the groundwork for the student’s dissertation.

The new PhD will be flexible and interdisciplinary, to give students the broadest possible base for their programs of study. Cognate faculty from Business Administration, Public Health, Speech Communication, Forest Resources, and the School of Education are prepared to serve on students’ committees, and the curriculum includes courses from a dozen different departments.

“To make the most of professional opportunities, our students will have to bridge the gap,” says Khanna. “Putting data together is important, but their work may also take them beyond: data analysis, report writing, policy formulation, evaluation, and implementation. With this degree, they’ll be well prepared.”