Anthropology Department External Review

Anthropology Department External Review
Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA
March 20, 2007
Both the Department of Anthropology and the office of the Associate Vice President for
Undergraduate Studies were very helpful is setting up the visit and arranging the schedule
so that I was able to interview students, faculty, and administrators, view facilities (but
not the inside of Dean Hall), and review the self-study documents prepared as part of the
review process. The information in this report reflects those interviews as well as
analyses of other documents provided. My analysis finds a strong and vibrant department
with energy and ideas. This can be a time of exciting developments with the move to
Dean Hall, the development of the Museum Studies Program, possible expansion with the
REM Program, and the graduate degree in PB&E.
“It’s really personal.” “Teachers are available and work with students.” “Teachers here
will help you; they will give you their time and even their books when you need them.”
These are comments from the undergraduate anthropology students interviewed, and
show how the faculty is considered a great strength of the program by the students
enrolled. They reflect the sense of commitment to teaching in this exceptional
A. Introduction:
This is an energetic department with strong and vigorous leadership. Committed to the
holistic four-field approach, the department offers a great deal to other programs in the
College, particularly to those programs whose aims are the inclusion of interdisciplinary
foci. The department is deeply formally committed to involvement with the Primate,
Behavior, and Ecology Program (PB&E), directing the Museum Studies Program, and is
one of the two core disciplines in the Resources Management Program (REM). With 11
full-time tenure and tenure track faculty members, the department offers both a BA and a
BS, runs three to four summer field schools, and conducts fieldwork from grants and
Having recently hired approximately 50% of the faculty, the department undertook a
strategic planning exercise to develop a shared Mission, Vision, and Values statements.
These statements emphasize respect for diversity, interdisciplinary relationships, critical
thinking and experience-based teaching and learning.
B. Curriculum:
The courses listed represent the standard courses used in a four-field approach. In
addition, new courses that reflect special interests and will attract students such as ANTH
412 Forensic Anthropology: Cold Case Analysis, ANTH 494 Applied GIS, ANTH 416
Pongid Behavior, ANTH 360 Introduction to Museum Studies, and ANTH 425
Zooarchaeology to name but a few of the many. Interviews with students suggested that
those students present for the interviews were pleased with both the quality of the
courses, and the quality of the teaching. The department also heavily contributes to the
university General Education teaching requirements.
The many involvements of the faculty (4 members of a department of 11 full-time tenure
or tenure track are directors or co-directors of programs) suggest the centrality of the
department to the mission of the university. However, the level of work leading away
from the department in support of interdisciplinary programs, as one administrator said:
“test structurally everything we are in the College.” That testing may show up as
struggles between departmental and interdisciplinary needs and faculty time allocations
which, in turn, may determine how often courses can be taught. Students did comment on
the difficulty of scheduling when to take courses because they were not sure when the
courses would be taught. This is particularly significant for required courses. The
department succeeds in keeping class size relatively small which the students enjoy. In
addition, the department currently offers both BA and BS degrees, further extending the
faculty resources.
Anthropology enjoys the benefits of a strong four-field approach, making it a critical
department for any college that emphasizes interdisciplinary teaching and research.
However, this very strength can provide challenges to administer multiple programs and
staffing courses both within and external to the department. The department should be
encouraged to consolidate its efforts, perhaps by reducing the number of degrees offered
thus reducing the number of required courses it must staff annually. Another
consideration should be the number and frequency of field schools and special programs
it is committed to. The self-study acknowledges these difficulties and mentions that they
are still to be considered. At that time, the department might consider ways to combine
different programs under some other, more general heading, thus streamlining their
C. Program Planning and Assessment.
The thorough self study completed as part of this review process is an excellent statement
of the state of the department and should provide a tool for both formative and
summative assessments in the future. In that document the department notes that they
have not yet completed the revision of the curriculum. The comments made in an earlier
section of this analysis might be useful to that process. In terms of student learning
outcomes, the department currently administers both a pre-test and post-test in Anth 301
and Anth 458/459 by providing a Basic Knowledge Assessment Test. The department
also tracks enrollment numbers for each level of the curriculum to maintain desired class
size (intro class -45, advanced courses – 25, and seminars -8-12 students).The department
also includes in their planning and assessments responses on SEOI to questions, reviews
of syllabi and peer reviews of teaching. According to their self-study report, the
department has identified a series of goals and with each goal is an associated set of
assessment measures such as those identified above and others related to research and
funding. These are excellent measures, and the analysis of them should be brought back
into the program in a systematic form.
Both the goals and assessment measures appear to be appropriate for their identified
tasks, the only part of the process that remains unclear is who and how the assessments
will be integrated into the program. According to the self study document, the department
is planning to streamline the curriculum so to facilitate course rotation and develop
mechanisms for interpreting the student assessment tools.
D. Faculty
Approximately half of the department’s faculty has been hired in the last five years.
These hires have been successfully recruited to staff potentially high visibility programs
such as Museum Studies. Overall, the faculty is young and energetic, engaged in a
multitude of university-wide programs and contributing to university goals in a variety of
ways. Student interviews reflected their opinions that the faculty is always willing to
spend time with them, were willing to help them and assist them in learning. Interviews
with administrators noted how often members of the anthropology faculty were actively
involved in campus-wide initiatives, outreach, and committees. In addition, the majority
of the faculty has on-going research and publication programs.
The primary challenges are how to maintain the energy and dedication of this faculty,
how to avoid burnout, and how to allocate their work load in equitable ways. These
challenges, however, are significant. Space problems will be reduced once the move is
made to Dean Hall, however, again the challenges inherent in the process must be
addressed. The nature of the discipline results in major collections of biological,
archaeological and cultural materials that must be packed and moved and this cannot be
left on the shoulders of the faculty. To do so would penalize them for successfully
maintaining their professional obligations.
Course consolidation as a result of program reconsideration is necessary in order to
reduce the presence of courses required for programs that cannot be successfully staffed
in a timely manner. Rather than a proliferation of undergraduate courses necessary for
multiple programs, the department might consider combining programs under a single
rubric and extending them into the REM graduate program. For instance, a focus on
socio-cultural and political-ecological analysis of the human dimensions of resource
management could augment the natural and physical dimensions of the extant REM
program. Such changes might reduce the number of undergraduate courses required and
simultaneously provide faculty access to training graduate students in their areas of
The Museum Studies Program also offers the possibility for innovative ways for the
department to connect with the larger university and surrounding communities.
However, in order to do that without overloading current staffing, attention needs to be
paid to the resources necessary for building that program. Again, the move to Dean Hall
offers great possibilities for making the museum a central part of university life if the
spatial dimensions are in accordance with contemporary thinking about how to bring
museums to life. Careful integration of faculty into decision-making about facility
utilization, as well as the move into the facility, could maximize the benefits of such a
E. Students
Anthropology students interviewed from two separate courses (ANT 451, and another
course) were very positive about the department and the faculty. Most of the students
were from Washington State, and several were students who had transferred to CWU
after starting out somewhere else. Students in all classes are provided with syllabi that list
university learner goals for that class and a description of how the class addresses those
goals. New anthropology majors complete a process designed to acquaint them with the
department and introduce members of the department to them. They are asked to
complete a two-page application form and an interview with the department chair
following which they are assigned to an advisor. Students continue to be assessed by
meetings with the advisor, class completion, and a survey taken at the end of Anth. 301.
Additionally, students also take a comprehensive exam during their senior year and must
make up for areas in which they are judged deficient (based the test results). The number
of majors that have graduated from the department each year since 2001 averages 30, an
appropriate number for a faculty of 11.
The GPA of 2.00 seems quite low and the department might want to consider raising it.
Other challenges such as student office space, will be resolved by the move into Dean
Hall. Concern with the frequency with which required courses are taught may be
resolved by a consolidation of program.
Students who are struggling should be encouraged to work with Student Affairs to find
ways to help them. Reducing faculty commitment outside of the department would make
them available to each required courses within the department.
F. Library, Information Resources, and Facilities
Library materials and materials available through electronic and shared sources (interlibrary loan) provide students with adequate access to resources for classroom and
research activities. Curation activities, NAGPRA-related facilities, archaeological and
physical anthropology laboratory needs are marginally adequate. However, it is difficult
to assess due to the fact that the department is moving into a newly renovated building
(Dean Hall) which will differently configured.
Always there are storage and curation needs in active anthropology departments, plus the
continuing special needs of NAGPRA-related activities. Museum space is presently
inadequate by should be greatly improved after the move to Dean Hall. Having graduate
student offices together in Dean Hall will also be a significant improvement. Collection
management now appears to reside primarily with the faculty and were resources to come
available, that would be an area of on-going need to address.
It is critical that the renovation of Dean Hall take into account the needs of the
department is its space allocation. The opportunity to make this a usable, community
accessible museum is most important. Housing such a museum could draw considerable
attention, interest, and good will to the university and is an opportunity not to be missed.
G. Future Directions
CWU is fortunate to have an anthropology department like this one, and it reflects on the
far-sightedness of CWU deans and other administrators who have supported this
department in its growth. Its recent hires, including Kathleen Barlow as chair, have been
critical to building an engaging and innovative department, positioned to move forward.
The department is hampered in its ability to control time allocation in part by state
bureaucratic constraints: meeting classes five times a week and dividing the year into
semesters. I fear that changing those two constraints may not be an option of CWU,
but I would be remiss were I not to mention them given how frequently they were
mentioned by faculty.
This review has focused on the strengths and challenges the department faces in the
areas of curriculum, planning and assessments, faculty, students, and facilities.
However, the larger question is: what the direction should the department take given
those resources? The development of a cohesive identity could strengthen the
I believe that the presence of the REM, Museum Studies, and PE&B programs situate
CWU in an unusual and desirable position for recruiting quality students and
providing them with outstanding educational experiences. Greater integration into
graduate training would reduce faculty burn-out.
Greater incorporation of the socio-cultural faculty and students into the REM
program would provide a graduate experience for them both, as it would strengthen
the diversity of the REM program. Integration of the socio-cultural faculty would also
strength the REM Program.
Likewise, the proposed graduate degree in PB&E would provide access for graduate
training in physical anthropology, while the enhanced Museum Studies program
centered on the museum space in Dean Hall could connect students, scholars and
communities. The Museum Studies Program, in particular, should be enhanced to
reach local and regional communities.
Each of these areas could be considered practice based or applied anthropology. The
department might wish to consider identifying itself as such. This title would provide
a distinctive ‘brand’ for the program and it would include CRM, forensic
anthropology, primate studies, museum studies within its scope. At this time, fully 60
percent of anthropologists are employed in practice or applied studies, something
CWU could build upon.
In conclusion, this is a strong department with admirable commitment to, and support
from, the larger university. With careful husbanding of resources through reductions in
the number of degrees offered and expansion into existing or soon-to-be existing graduate
programs, faculty energies may be rewarded. Certainly the planned move into Dean Hall
is a critical step in retaining outstanding faculty and students, creating even greater
linkages with the surrounding communities, and creating a cohesive synthesis between
the departments of Anthropology and Geography.
Report submitted on March 20, 2007
By Linda Whiteford, PhD, MPH
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