Anthropology major waiting for state approval

James Vaughn

Jillian Utter may graduate with an anthropology degree from USI if the Indiana Commission for Higher Education adds the proposal to its agenda before May.

If the state approves it, it will become a major. Utter, a senior in the history department, has completed all of the requirements for the tentative major, which was approved by the Board of Trustees Thursday.



“Fingers crossed, it’ll be available by the time I graduate,” Utter said.

She came to USI with an undecided major and took a variety of courses. One of those courses was anthropology. From then on, she knew she wanted to pursue it, but the university didn’t offer it.

She decided to major in history instead, and later picked up a minor in anthropology. Utter now plans to attend graduate school for southeast archeology. She said having a degree in anthropology would be great, but she’ll be fine if it’s not approved by the time she walks across the stage.

“I am definitely not worried about graduating with only a minor’s worth of knowledge,” Utter said. She said she owes everything to the anthropology faculty.

“They have gone above and beyond to advise and offer great learning opportunities to me,” Utter said.

Ronda Priest, chair of the department of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice and Michael Strezewski, assistant professor of anthropology, have been planning the major for five years.

It was developed over the past two years, and it has gone through a number of committees at the university level.

Strezewski said the commission should notify him when the major is scheduled to be discussed, and he and Priest will be there to answer any questions it may have.

The department has a tentative outline for the major. Strezewski said there are a number of students working to complete the requirements even though it is not official.

“I’m hoping that the major will be 100 percent approved sometime this spring,” Strezewski said. “We’ve jumped through a lot of hoops over the past couple of years and now it’s at that final step.”

He said the department currently has three full-time faculty, and they don’t plan to hire anyone else.

“What we’re doing right now is covering all of the bases with what we’ve got,” Strezewski said. “If you propose a major that has to do hires, it’s not going to go well.”

He said he doesn’t fear the proposal being shot down at the state level because of the amount of research he and Priest have conducted.

“We made sure we put the things that they want to see in the proposal,” Strezewski said.

Strezewski said one of the important aspects they want to see is what kind of jobs graduates can get, and he and Priest did research to find out where graduates are being employed.

Strezewski said the university hasn’t had an anthropology major because the university grew so quickly in such a short amount of time left some majors behind.

He said he realized not having it was a problem when students started coming to him and asking about a major and when he told them that there wasn’t one, students would settle for a similar major or transfer to another school.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Daniel Bauer said he’s excited the major is at its last hurdle.

“Having a major means that I’m going to have more students who are much more interested in diving in and tackling the big questions related to anthropology,” Bauer said.

He said he’s also excited about the opportunity to teach a broader variety of courses. Based on what he’s seen, Bauer projects about 40 students would be interested in the major if it is approved. He’s hoping that scheduling conflicts at the state level don’t push it back.

“Often times they have meetings set up, and they get cancelled and then they don’t meet again for another couple of months,” Bauer said. “At this point, it’s all out of our hands.”