Featured Major: Anthropology

By Brooke Schultz

Elm Staff Writer

Washington College offers students numerous opportunities to explore their interests, and those who are fascinated by cultures around the world and in our backyard should definitely consider declaring anthropology  as their major.

“Anthropology is the study of humanity,” Dr. Aaron Lampman, chair of the Anthropology Department, said. “Anthropology has five distinct approaches. All anthropologists adhere to a holistic approach in the belief that biology, culture, society, and the individual are deeply linked such that changes in any part of the human system will affect all other parts of the system.”

Dr. Lampman discovered anthropology his junior year as an undergraduate at New College. “I was hooked after my first class in cultural anthropology. At the time, I was a biology major, but I found the study of culture deeply alluring, and I ultimately decided to design my own major that combined biology and anthropology,” he said.

WC has a variety of topics incorporated into anthropology, many linked to environmental studies, international studies, history, black studies, gender studies, the Latin American concentration, and the ethnomusicology minor. Students are able to engage with regions of the world, such as  the Chesapeake Bay area, Mesoamerica, and the Southeastern US.


Anthropology isn’t limited to class lectures. Since the courses are about cultures and nature, there are plenty of chances for students to go outside and venture away from their comfort zones.

One of the professors associated with the anthropology major is Dr. Bill Schindler, who will be appearing on National Geographic Channel’s “The Great Human Race” to recreate the essence of the past. He teaches courses such as human evolution, experimental archaeology, archaeology field school, and anthropology of food. He said, “As an archaeologist, I teach courses that deal…with the human past, primarily focused around ancient technology, archaeological field methods, and food.”

His favorite course to teach is experimental archaeology. He said, “In this course, students learn about ancient technologies by actually learning how to make and use items such as stone tools and prehistoric ceramics.” Students are able to get a hands-on education not only in Dr. Schindler’s classes but also through opportunities the school offers.

Senior Sarah Cohen, the anthropology club president and an anthropology major, has been interested in anthropology since she was seven years old.  She said, “It all started when I watched the movie ‘The Mummy.’ From there I knew I wanted to study ancient Egypt, and in order for me to do so I wanted to major in anthropology for my undergraduate. However, since I have been at WC, I have expanded out of my love of archaeology and classical archaeology towards cultural anthropology.”

Cohen has been able to capitalize on all of the extra things WC has to offer. “For instance, Dr. Schindler’s interpreting the past class took us to museums and institutions in the states and in Denmark where we were able to conduct field work. We would talk with people at the museums and participate in their activities. Being able to excavate for six weeks during the 2013 Archaeological Field School and then analyze the lithic material (stone tools) and present my grant-funded research on their trade and exchange network at the 2014 Middle Atlantic Archaeology Conference was an incredible opportunity,” she said.

Cohen plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Egyptology, which is a subfield of archaeology. With this, she’ll be able to work in a museum and conduct research working with artifacts and educating the public.

Another chance for students to be engaged with the major is the Chesapeake Semester. A small, select group of students take part in an interdisciplinary study of the Chesapeake Bay. They learn from lectures and by traveling and talking to people who are affected by the bay firsthand.

Students are also able to access the Public Archaeology Laboratory which is held in the Custom House, a short drive or walk away from campus. “Anthropologists are welcomed in almost every field,” Dr. Lampman said. “Corporations love hiring anthropologists because they are well rounded and have strong skills in critical analysis, writing, and presentation. Recent alums have jobs in a wide variety of field. Our students have also gone to law, M.A., and Ph.D. programs all over the world.”

Students can intern with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), research the past and present cultures related to the Chesapeake Bay with the Compleat Angler scholarship, which grants students up to $1,000 to join the Anthropology Club, and be invited to join Lambda Alpha, the National Anthropology Honor Society.

“An anthropology major needs to be curious,” said Dr. Schindler. “In our department, they also have to be willing to try new things and learn in a number of different ways from a traditional classroom,” he said.


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