This summer Dr. Daniel Bauer, assistant professor of anthropology, led six USI students to the Peruvian Rainforest in USI's first Amazon Field School, a special topics anthropology course that also met on campus during the second summer session.
A field school gives students the opportunity to learn the methods of ethnographic research while being exposed to a different cultural context and experiencing cultural immersion, Bauer said. "It's an experiential learning opportunity that will give students a competitive advantage when applying to graduate school or entering the workforce."
Bauer has taught a USI course on the Amazon before—most of his research over the past decade has been conducted just across the border in Ecuador—but this was the first time USI students had the opportunity to travel there.
"I chose Amazonian Peru for the field school because I have a research project of my own in the area and great partners in the region that have worked with students and researchers in the past. The availability of bilingual guides allows students with little or no Spanish ability to take part in the program. The Amazon also is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and an area of amazing cultural diversity."
The class spent a couple of days in the city of Iquitos, learning to haggle at the open markets and developing a taste for Chifa (Chinese Peruvian food) before taking a boat down the Amazon to their ultimate destination—the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Communal Reserve, a cooperative of 10 communities that have joined together to protect and conserve nearly two million acres of rainforest.
Students researched a variety of topics while in Peru, conducting interviews with people they met in the urban and rural areas. Topics included obstetrics, medicinal plants, local conservation efforts, education, adoption of Western medicine, local craft production, and women’s artisan cooperatives.
They also delivered school supplies (collected by the Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology Club) and toothpaste and toothbrushes (donated by the dental hygiene program) to rural schools in the area.
Most of the students received USI Endeavor! Awards for Research and Creativity, and all received Global Engagement Fellowships from the University to fund the trip.
Anthropology degree meets growing demand for related careers
A bachelor's degree program in anthropology was approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and officially began in fall 2014. The program was developed in response to projected job growth in anthropology-related fields. The program prepares students for graduate study or work in federal, state and local government, including the military, healthcare centers, nonprofit associations and marketing firms. The degree also can prepare physical anthropologists who work in biomedical research, human engineering, private genetics laboratories, pharmaceutical firms and archaeological work.