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 complete program details can be found in the M.A. in Anthropology Program Handbook. 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.

Check out what our current cohort of students has been working on in our most recent Graduate Newsetter.

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


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, and Indigenous responses to environmental change in Wisconsin. Through such projects, anthropologists seek to understand how politics, history and culture shape ecologies and vice versa.


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

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.


Nell Gabiam, Christina Gish Hill, Matthew Hill

Anthropology of Indigenous Peoples

Anthropologists interested in Indigenous peoples around the world study the diversity of their political, social, and cultural practices, their responses to histories of violence, loss of territory, and attempts eliminate their distinctive ways of life, and the dynamic ways in which they assert political and cultural self-determination and sovereignty in the contemporary world.

Iowa State Faculty active in this area conduct research on Indigenous peoples in the Americas, throughout the hemisphere. The questions we look into include the concept of indigeneity as a cultural, historical, and political concept; its discussion and performance in tourism and the media; its importance in dialogues about ecology and economics; and its influence in political organization of communities. What we are most interested in, however, is how Native peoples live and interact in and with places, how they deal with a globalized market, how they relate to powerful companies and states, and in general how communities live their lives.


Grant Arndt, Sebastian Braun, Christina Gish Hill, Matthew Hill, Andrew Somerville, Max Viatori

Tourism, Media, and Museum Studies

Anthropologists are centrally concerned with contemporary cultural representation in museums, tourist performances, and the media. Museum studies addresses the preservation and interpretation of cultural heritage, the nature of material displays of culture, and the relationships between museums and the communities whose heritages they represent. Tourist studies include the social relationship entailed in tourist performances, the political and historical contexts of performance sites, and the economic and implications of tourism as a mode of economic and social development. Media studies use ethnographic and archival research to examine the way people around the world use technologies like print (newspapers, books), radio, television, film, and digital media as producers, consumers, and critics.

Iowa State Faculty active in this area conduct research on the impact of globalization on contemporary Art museums, the representation of Indigenous peoples in print and on film in North and South America, American Indian and Indigenous tourist performances, theatrical performance in Equatorial Guinea, and the value of historic museum collections for current archaeological research.


Grant Arndt, Christina Gish Hill, Matthew Hill, Elisa Rizo, Max Viatori


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.

While 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.


Grant Arndt, Sebastian Braun, Christina Gish Hill, Matthew Hill

Anthropological Archaeology

Anthropological archaeology and bioarchaeology investigate the human experience though documentation, analysis, and interpretation of material culture, human skeletal material, and the remains of plant and animal foods in order to gain insight on the behavior and biology of ancient people.

Dr. Matthew Hill and Dr. Andrew Somerville are primarily interested in pre-Hispanic hunter-gatherer and state-level societies in North and Middle America, respectively. Using evidence derived from field investigations, museum collections, and laboratory work, their current research revolves around several, longstanding big picture questions about the human experience in these locations. More specifically, Dr. Hill works at the intersection of archaeology, paleontology, and geology in the Upper Midwest to develop an understanding of how the late Ice Age settlers in the region organized labor, mobility, technology, and subsistence activities, under conditions of low population density and rapid environmental change. Dr. Somerville works in the more recent past in pre-Hispanic Mexico, with on-going projects in the Tehuacan Valley, the ancient city of Teotihuacan, and in southern Zacatecas. He aims to understand the health consequences of maize agriculture, the shift from hunting and gathering to village life, and the social-environmental factors associated with emergence, maintenance, and collapse of complex societies.


Ready to apply?

We’ll even pay for it! Our program has funds to cover the application fee for a select number of applicants. If you are interested, please contact Sebastian Braun ( Decisions will be made on a first come, first serve basis and financial need will be taken into account.

Applications for Spring admissions are officially due October 1

Applications for Fall admissions are officially due January 15

While we encourage applications by the official due dates, program admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis.