In the Department of Anthropology at UMass Amherst, we regard anthropology not so much as a discipline but as an approach to understanding various issues about the human condition. Accordingly, new questions and perspectives are constantly being explored and tested. Individuals with quite different backgrounds, experiences, and goals have joined our program and have been successful in their contributions to anthropology as a whole. Thus, we do not have in mind a single profile of our ideal applicant in terms of background in anthropology. Rather, we look for individuals who have received a solid liberal arts education, who express themselves lucidly in writing, who are clear about what they want both from our program and for their careers, and who are self-starters, capable of independent work of high quality.
We structure our MA and PhD programs around student interests. There are no specific courses required of all graduate students. Rather, a student and her/his faculty advisory committee jointly construct a course of study relative to the skills and knowledge necessary to reach particular objectives. We strive to sustain an atmosphere that is intellectually rigorous and mutually supportive. Thus, while we are very selective in our admissions decisions, once a student is in our program, the faculty work with that student to reach her/his training objectives. Students do not have to compete with fellow students for access to advanced levels of our program.
In general, we assume all those admitted to our program will complete the PhD here; most of our students earn the MA degree as the foundation stage for the doctoral program. A few of our students enter the program with MA degrees in anthropology earned elsewhere, and a few of our students expect to remain in the program only through the MA level.