Students Recognized for Insightful Thoughts that Merge Anthropology and the Contemporary World

Posted: January 13, 2014 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: January 15, 2014 at 7:05 am

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Anthropology is more than just the study of humankind and other cultures. And George Mason University students who were enrolled in two sections of the course ANTH 114 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, which was taught by anthropology professors Susan Trencher and Justin Lowry, learned how the field of anthropology contributes to social change.

Last semester, 25 George Mason students won international acclaim from the Center for a Public Anthropology in a program in which they expressed their ideas to a worldwide audience. The students wrote about real-world anthropological research questions and received feedback from their peers.

“Through this program, students gain the experience of writing for a broad public audience, as well as improving both their critical thinking and writing skills,” says Trencher. “The project also provides students with a sense of engagement related to the broader world as they address important ethical issues and share their experiences with other students.”

The program, presented annually by the center’s Community Action Project, included the Mason students, as well as students from college and universities across the United States and throughout Canada. This year, 3,500 students from 24 colleges and universities participated.

Students are required to research and write about an ethical question that touches on the anthropology field. The students write op-ed style pieces that are published online. The participants then had the opportunity to share their pieces with local, state or national legislators, newspapers or other public news outlets. In addition, their pieces are reviewed and anonymously evaluated by students from the other participating colleges and universities.

This year, the students reviewed five case studies and addressed the question of how Institutional Review Boards in the United States and/or Review Ethics Boards in Canada should enforce a set of common rules regarding research. In writing their pieces, they considered the freedom researchers enjoy in conducting their research, as well as regulations that prevent the abuse of research subjects and ensure that the research works to promote a positive societal benefit.

The students’ essays from Trencher’s class are available online at The essays from Lowry’s class are available at

This article was previously published in a slightly different format on the College of Humanities and Social Sciences website.

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at

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