Anthropology Ph.D. program focused on job placement

The new Ph.D. in Anthropology of Health program will be aimed at providing a more quick and in-depth approach to the graduate degree process. Graphic by Emileé Edwards | photographer

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

A new Ph.D. program in the anthropology of health sector was approved by the Board of Regents on Friday.

Chair of the anthropology department, Michael Muehlenbein, said this will be the newest Ph.D. program at Baylor for one of the only two programs in the entire college of arts and sciences that doesn’t have a graduate program.

The proposal has been in development for three years to provide a program that prepares students for all kinds of jobs in anthropology of health, Muehlenbein said. It will cover a wide breadth of anthropological methods but will focus on the health side.

“As opposed to more traditional programs would offer what is called a four-field approach, in which you would need to take classes from all of the traditional branches of anthropology,” Muehlenbein said. “So that would be providing breadth of anthropological theory, but not really depth. We want to provide breadth of anthropological methods, but depth in the anthropology of health.”

The program focuses on more transferable methods across disciplines rather than a specialization of traditional and modern anthropological theory, Muehlenbein said. They will be preparing students for jobs in healthcare, non-profit, government and the private industry.

“We know that only about 50% of students in Ph.D. programs right now report wanting to be professors,” Muehlenbein said. “We need to be able to accommodate these other students and importantly we have to accommodate what the job market demands. I feel it is unethical to be training students for positions that simply don’t exist anymore, at least at the frequency that they did in the past.”

The job market within universities is more saturated and highly competitive. He said less jobs are available because fewer professors are retiring too.

Dr. Lori Baker, professor of anthropology and faculty regent, said the program is also unique in that it will start out small and aim to get students through in a shorter amount of time.

“It is structured to attract the best and the brightest by being a small program, so the students will get a great amount of investment of time from the faculty,” Baker said. “They will be able to begin their research when they enter the program, and we are committed to getting students through the program in five years by providing guaranteed funding and a focused research agenda.”

The average time to get a Ph.D. in anthropology in the U.S. is 8.3 years, Muehlenbein said, but professors in Baylor’s program want to do better.

“It’s about adequately preparing them for job placement in a timely manner too, because although we’d love to have students stick around forever, our job is to train them to get a job,” Muehlenbein said. “That means intensive research-related activities — our focus is to get them out in five years.”

The department will also be able to contribute to the school reaching Research-1 status with the new program.

“As we become more successful and contribute more to our goals of achieving R1 status, part of that means producing Ph.D. students. That’s going to be our largest contribution besides granting and other research activities,” Muehlenbein said.