Apr 17, 2024  
2012-2013 CU Denver Catalog 
2012-2013 CU Denver Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Anthropology, MA

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►  Graduate School Rules  apply to this program.

Plans of Study

MA students may pursue the thesis or non-thesis option.

  • Thesis Option:  A thesis is characterized by three factors: 1) it is based in a research question or problem; 2) it involves original research; 3) there is a fully developed research proposal. A thesis can also encompass a range of format alternatives to the traditional thesis (e.g. article submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed journal, or a video production, internship or museum exhibit, each generally accompanied by a companion paper developing a theoretical or problem-oriented question). The thesis option requires 30 semester hours, including 4-6 hours of thesis.

  • Non-Thesis Option:  This track is defined by additional course work in lieu of a thesis. The non-thesis option requires 36 semester hours of course work.

Thesis Option

The thesis is a major requirement for those in the MA in anthropology thesis track. The thesis should demonstrate the student’s ability to apply knowledge and skills gained from the anthropology department’s curriculum. A desirable goal for an excellent thesis would be a work of sufficient rigor and quality that it could be considered for publication. Original data collection (”fieldwork”) is recommended but not required for the thesis. Analysis of secondary data—whether quantitative, qualitative, visual or other formats—is perfectly acceptable as long as the research is informed by a clearly articulated research question and under-girded by a research proposal.

The traditional thesis is a single document that often incorporates a literature review, definition of a problem, discussion of methods to address the problem, the subsequent research activity and results. However, the student may design a thesis with different emphases, in consultation with their advisor. For example, the goal may instead be a more compact paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Other thesis plans may combine some research activity such as a video production, museum exhibit or an internship, with an accompanying paper. Students pursuing the thesis option must develop a topic and research proposal that specifies their plans in the semester after their completion of 18 credit hours.

The thesis must be defended before a committee of three faculty, at least two of whom need to be on the Department of Anthropology faculty (which includes senior instructors and research faculty). The structure of the thesis is largely determined by the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School Rules ; i.e., a thesis must conform to the rules.

  1.  For the thesis, students must prepare a full research proposal which must be approved by their thesis chair before beginning their research. This proposal must be completed by the semester after the student has completed 18 credit hours. Sections of the proposal should include, at a minimum:
    1. Introduction and statement of the problem: Should include a one sentence statement of the problem on the first page, and a discussion of its significance (i.e., why is it important that this topic be researched).
    2. Literature review covering theoretical and topical material.
    3. Research design and methods including a data analysis plan.

Note:  Wenner-Gren and National Science Foundation both provide good models and templates for the research proposal. Those in the medical anthropology track might want to consider following the NIH model, depending the nature of their research questions and career goals.

  1. All students proposing to work with humans or data on modern humans must apply for and receive approval from the Human Subjects Research Committee before they begin their research. Note: most of the material for the application will be drawn from the research proposal.
  2. The draft thesis must be reviewed and approved as “defensible” by the student’s thesis committee faculty chair before a thesis defense date can be set. Defensible means the chair has reviewed the draft and suggested changes have been made.
    1. The draft sent to the student’s committee must be substantively complete: All references must be in the text and properly formatted in a references cited section; there should be no “track changes” comments in the text; the text should be formatted according to Graduate School requirements.
    2. Given the complexity of faculty and student schedules, consultation on a defense date should be done as far in advance as possible.
    3. There must be a minimum of three weeks between the agreed-upon date for the defense and distribution of the draft thesis defined as defensible by the student’s chair. If you would like feedback from your committee members before the defense, you should plan to distribute the thesis at least 4 weeks before the defense date.

Note: If you intend to graduate the same semester you defend your thesis, you must schedule, successfully defend, and complete all recommended changes in accordance with CU Denver Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines . This effectively translates to having the thesis completed and “defensible” before the middle of the semester.

Non-Thesis Option

The non-thesis option allows students to pursue their own educational goals through the selection of additional courses that fit their interests. We strongly encourage students who choose this option to consider an internship position arranged around an area of expertise or the development of a skill-set. The internship may be in a governmental agency or non-governmental organization in Colorado, the U.S. or internationally. Successful completion of an internship will be acknowledged on the transcript of the MA program. The decision to pursue the non-thesis option should be made by the semester following the completion of 18 credit hours.

Additional Information

Students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 to remain in good standing and receive a grade of B- or better in a course to have it count toward graduation. The Graduate School on the Downtown Campus allows up to five years to complete a master’s degree, but students are strongly discouraged from spending more than four years. While it is possible to finish the MA in two years, most of our students work part-time, which limits the time they can dedicate to the program; most finish within three years. Four semesters must be taken in residence at CU Denver. All students are required to pass a written comprehensive examination, taken after core course work has been completed.

Some students may benefit from adding a specific skills-based certificate program onto their graduate program. For example:  archaeology students may wish to gain expertise in Geographic Information Systems through the GIS certificate  offered through the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, while medical anthropology students may benefit from the certificate in public health offered through the School of Public Health or the environmental health certificate  through the Master of Science in Environmental Sciences program. Graduate-level courses in certificate programs can often fulfill elective requirements in the anthropology program.

One doctoral program at CU Denver campus that may be of particular interest to graduates of the anthropology MA program is the PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences  offered through the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences. It is highly interdisciplinary and a natural extension of a master’s degree in anthropology.


Course Requirements

Your graduate anthropology education begins by taking ANTH 5810, Integrating Anthropology, plus two core courses each from two subdisciplines of Anthropology. After completing this core, you will select from among the specialized elective courses in the research concentrations described in more detail below. You will work closely with an advisor in selecting the range of courses appropriate both to a problem orientation and to your career objectives.

Required core courses (18 semester hours)

Choose two of the following three sets of core courses (Students are not required to take these courses sequentially)

Research Concentrations (8-18 semester hours)

You will round out your program by selecting from the diverse range of courses offered in the department according to your particular interests in anthropology, your career goals and your plans for future graduate study. You may take courses in one or more concentrations. The courses listed are suggestions only; you must work closely with your advisor in constructing your particular program of study.


Medical anthropology is a subdiscipline of anthropology that includes the study of all aspects of health, illness and disease in human communities and populations. It draws on all of the perspectives that distinguish anthropology as a unique discipline: the analysis of human evolution and adaptation; cultural development, expressions and variability; and historical change and continuity. Medical anthropology takes as its subject a broad range of specific topics, including the study of health care systems, factors that affect the distribution and determinants of disease in populations, maternal and child health, nutrition and food habits, human development, political ecology, health policy and language and communication in health care contexts. Faculty in the department emphasize the applied dimensions of medical anthropology, preparing students for careers in public health, health care and health sciences research. Courses in the department are complemented by electives in other departments (sociology, biology, psychology, history, geography), programs on the Denver campus (health administration, public affairs, education) and programs at the Anschutz Medical Campus (Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Dental Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing).




The archaeological studies program concentrates on the study of past human societies using archaeological data collected in field and museum settings. While a quantitative and scientific approach is emphasized, the theoretical perspectives employed also draw heavily from political economy and cultural ecology. The department offers a variety of theoretical, methodological and area courses, which may be supplemented by others in the geography and environmental sciences and history departments. Internships are available in local museums and historic preservation offices in the Denver metropolitan area.



The biological anthropology concentration is concerned with modern human biological diversity and the past evolutionary history that has led to such diversity. Students in this concentration develop a firm understanding of the evolutionary processes that lead to physical and behavioral variation in humans and nonhuman primates. The concentration also emphasizes the theoretical and quantitative methods used to explore and explain this variation. Students may take courses in diverse areas including evolutionary biology, genetics, ecology, ethnobiology, epidemiology, nutrition, medical anthropology, paleoanthropology, paleontology and primatology. Because biological anthropology is multidisciplinary in nature, students are encouraged to consider courses offered outside the department.



This concentration provides a critical, multicultural and multidisciplinary perspective on issues of development and resource conservation, with a strong emphasis on the integration of theoretical knowledge with field-based training opportunities. Three major themes are addressed within this concentration:

  1. the types of resource management systems present in the world and their relationship to particular ecosystems
  2. the types of knowledge systems and ideas associated with this diverse array of resource management systems, environmental knowledge and theoretical perspectives
  3. the culture of institutions—ranging from small-scale NGOs to the World Bank—that design and implement conservation and development

A central goal of this emphasis is to provide students with the information, opportunities and resources required for pursuing a wide variety of career options in conservation and/or development. In addition to offering the following courses, the department encourages students to develop a specialized skill in conjunction with other departments and schools, including areas such as GIS mapping (geography), ecology (biology/anthropology), legal and policy issues (political science, School of Public Affairs), land use (geography, School of Public Affairs) and research/evaluation methodologies (anthropology).



     Thesis Option:    30 Hours (including 4-6 hours of thesis)

     Non-Thesis Option:  36 Hours


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