Northern Kentucky University’s anthropology program has earned its bragging rights. The program boasted an all-time high in enrollment, with 118 anthropology majors as of the fall 2011 semester.
The number of anthropology majors enrolled is comparable in relation to other majors at NKU, with the lowest enrollment at 1, and the highest at 1,257, according to 2009 NKU enrollment records. However, in relation to other universities in Kentucky and the tri-state, NKU has the highest enrollment of anthropology majors.
Anthropology professor Judy Voelker thinks one reason for the growth in anthropology majors at NKU is the diversity in faculty. According to Voelker, each faculty member has a research region, some of which include Thailand, Madagascar and the Ohio Valley.
According to Voelker, the anthropology program at NKU offers a hands-on approach to learning, which further contributes to the popularity of the major.
“I think there’s opportunities both within and outside the classroom that make learning not just more exciting, but more available,” Voelker said.
Only about 20 to 25 students were majoring in anthropology at NKU when Coordinator of Anthropology Sharlotte Neely began teaching the subject in 1974. The program has since grown, especially in the past 10 years.
One of Neely’s greatest challenges has been getting word out about the program and combating the belief that anthropology majors are unemployable. However, many companies, such as Proctor and Gamble and General Motors, hire anthropology majors, according to Neely.
Marcia Young, who graduated from NKU with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology, was recently hired by Adult and Family Services for the State of Kentucky. Young, who wanted to help migrant workers in her area, said she has found her niche.
NKU alumna Emela Halilovic, who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in anthropology at University of Sussex, said that after completing her degree she will be able to work for the United Nations or an independent research institution.
Some anthropology courses can help students find work in the field while still in school, too. According to Neely, after taking an archaeology field course or a museum course, students are able to work in the respective fields.
“We get students doing anthropology almost from their first course,” Neely said. “I think that’s exciting.”
According to Halilovic, one of the things she liked best about the anthropology program was the helpfulness and open-mindedness of the professors.
“I always felt the freedom to express my ideas in their classrooms,” Halilovic said.
Young said she, too, felt accepted and welcomed within the anthropology community at NKU.
Halilovic said the only improvement she would suggest for the anthropology program is to offer more variety in courses that better reflect the many disciplines within anthropology.
Students who are not anthropology majors can benefit from the skills learned in anthropology classes, too. According to anthropology professor Douglas Hume, anthropology is commonly blended with other majors. The museum course, for example, teaches students skills which can be used in an anthropology museum or an art museum.
Anthropology also pairs well as a minor for students going into medical or law school, according to Voelker.
Regardless of what a student’s major is, though, anthropology offers a broader perspective of the world, Voelker said.