Our two-year M.A. in anthropology is aimed at providing students with advanced training in cultural anthropology and bioarchaeology with a goal of preparing them for additional graduate study or professional work in anthropology and related fields.Students are required to do original field, archival, or laboratory research that will result in a scholarly thesis. The majority of our students receive financial support through teaching assistantships. Additionally, the department has scholarships available to support summer field research – see below for more information.

Recent graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs in anthropology or take positions in corporate and non-profit organizations.

Program of Study

In your first year you will take both core courses designed to expose you to major issues and contemporary thinking in the discipline’s major subfields:

  • Anthropology 503: Biological Anthropology & Archaeology
  • Anthropology 510: Theoretical Dimensions of Cultural Anthropology

In addition, all graduate students, must take an appropriate methods course such as:

  • Statistics 415
  • Statistics 587
  • Community & Regional Planning 451/551
  • an appropriate 400-level language course

All cultural anthropology students are encouraged to take:

  • Anthropology for Global Professionals (Anthr 511)

In your second year you are required to take at least four credits of:

  • Anthropology 699: Research

Please note: the students are required to take 9 credit hours per semester to be considered a full-time student.

In addition to the above courses students must take at least 9 additional of 500-level anthropology courses. Beyond the program’s required courses, you are encouraged to take courses outside of the department that contribute to the development of your area of concentration.

What topics can I study?

When choosing a graduate program, one way to know that you have right fit is to see what the faculty members are working on. If they look interesting, they can mentor you in your own project and probably invite you to work with them! Check out what our faculty work on!

Faculty Areas of Concentration

Environmental Anthropology

Environmental anthropologists study the impacts of resource extraction on local communities, the politics of knowledge and climate change, and the significance of traditional ecological knowledge for sustainable food systems.

Faculty active in this area conduct research that explores the complex relationships between humans and their environments through the study of natural gas fracking in North Dakota, oil extraction in Ghana, climate change and overfishing in Peru, and Native seed activism and sustainable agriculture in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. Through such projects, anthropologists seek to understand how politics, history and culture shape ecologies and vice versa.



Matthew Hill, Andrew Somerville, Max Viatori, Sebastian Braun, Ann Reed, Christina Gish Hill

Anthropology and Migration

Migration is the movement of people from one place to another. In today’s world, migrants include tourists, diplomats, foreign students, individuals moving to access better economic opportunities, individuals fleeing war and persecution, and individuals displaced by climate change. Through ethnographic fieldwork, anthropologists examine the kinds of social incentives or pressures that influence people to move, the social inequalities that result in some people having greater mobility than others, how migrants attempt to create a sense of home and familiarity in their new environments, and how migrants navigate and overcome social and cultural barriers they encounter in their host societies.
The work of faculty in the anthropology program at ISU engages with migration from a variety of perspectives spanning different spaces and time periods: it explores pilgrimage tourism on the part of  diasporic Africans to Ghana; the role of kinship networks in enabling Native peoples to  maintain a sense of belonging to their homeland despite the U.S colonial policy of removal and forcible relocation; the mobility strategies of hunter-gatherers; and the impact of pre-existing refugee status and statelessness on the experiences of Palestinians displace by the war in Syria, a host country for Palestinian refugees for the last seven decades.

Training in the anthropology of migration prepares students for work with international and non-governmental humanitarian, development, and health organizations and with governmental immigration agencies.

[Nell Gabiam, Matthew Hill, Christina Gish Hill, Ann Reed]

Museum Studies

Anthropology’s interface with Museum Studies has considered the preservation and interpretation of cultural heritage, representation of cultures through material displays, and relationships of community patrimony to museums. Those trained in Anthropology and Museum Studies have pursued rewarding careers both inside academia and in museum contexts as curators, managers of collections, community educators, researchers, and archivists.


The Anthropology of Tourism has focused on the relationship of hosts to guests, critical analysis of cultural heritage through politicized and performative contexts, and sustainable tourism development. Those trained in the Anthropology of Tourism have become academics as well as independent tour operators, managed NGOs for economic development, and consulted with governmental and non-governmental organizations in supporting sustainable development initiatives.


Ann Reed, Christina Gish Hill, Grant Arndt, Mark Rectanus, Matt?, Andrew?]


Ethnohistory is a method of thinking about historic cultures that attempts to understand historical experiences through an anthropological approach. It is not simply the integration of individual, everyday, native voices into historical accounts, like the annales school proposed, but the engagement of history from native points of views. Ethnohistory as a field began with deep connections to legal and political issues in North America, especially in connection to the Indian Claims Commission and its work, which began to operate in 1948. In this context, anthropologists and historians had to find ways to construct histories based on oral traditions. 

Ethnohistory evolved out of North American contexts, the method can be applied globally. Ethnohistorians learn how to deal with complex issues of representation, writing, inclusion, and historical construction. 

Ethnohistory prepares students for careers in fields that deal with the complexities of cultural and historical interpretation. Ethnohistorical skills are sought in Cultural Resource Management; tribal, regional, state, and national historical preservation and conservation organizations; and political and legal affairs organizations working with Native communities or on Native issues; as well as in any situation where historical knowledge should include perspectives from different cultures.

Christina Gish Hill