The anthropology program at Central College, focused on cultural anthropology, emphasizes learning about non-Western societies, with the goal of preparing students for involvement and careers in an increasingly diverse and culturally dynamic world. Students conduct original research and complete internships that provide an edge in applying to jobs or graduate school.

The required courses offer a combination of academic, anthropological knowledge and real-world fieldwork experiences that give students the foundation they will need to put their anthropological training to use after college. The anthropology minor is also structured so students can easily combine it with another program of study (such as foreign language, not-for-profit management, interdisciplinary program, etc.), providing even greater opportunities for students to capture their individual interests and prepare for a range of professional careers.

The Central Difference

Student Research

Conducting field research is a rite of passage for all anthropologists. Anthropology minors have the opportunity to conduct field research projects, conducting fieldwork in Pella or surrounding communities. In recent years, students have carried out ethnographic studies of Red Rock park rangers, Knoxville police officers, Iraqi immigrants living in Des Moines and lesbian college students. Students present the results of their research during the Undergraduate Scholarship Symposium in May of each year.

Cynthia Mahmood

Title: Frank Moore Chair of Anthropolgy and Professor of Anthropology
Expert in:Political asylum and human rights issues
Previously taught at:University of Notre Dame and University of Maine


Anthropology minors have the opportunity to participate in a semester-long internship that prepares them for a specific career after graduation.

Recent internship sites include:

  • Pella Police Department
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Iowa State Historical Society
  • One Iowa: Equality for LGBT Iowans

Off-Campus Experiences

Central students can study off-campus — both internationally or domestically in the United States. These opportunities give students the chance to prepare to be global citizens, equipped to compete in the global job market. Students can check out experiences led by Central faculty or attend select academic programs across the world that provide opportunities for study, service, internships and other types of experiential learning. Options include experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Central America, Ghana, England, the Scottish Highlands and more.

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

  • Sarah Van Weelden ’20, Account Services Representative, LanguageLine Solutions
  • Steven Tuggle ’19, Natural Resource Specialist/Park Ranger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Olivia Schouten ’14, Land Steward, The Nature Conservancy in Indiana
  • Katherine Sylvis ’14, AmeriCorps Program Director, Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity
  • Lisa Tiemeyer ’14, Nonprofit Coordinator and Grant Writer, Lakeview Consulting

Central Professor Mahmood Comments to Canada and India Complexities

Central Anthropology Professor Cynthia Mahmood provides a perspective on India-Canada tensions.


  • Anthropology Club

No matter what your interests are, Central has a student group for you! Learn how you can get involved with groups and organizations at Central.

Graduate Placement

  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • McGill University, Montreal
  • University of Iowa, Iowa City


  • The Department of Natural Resources
  • Pella Police Department
  • Pella Wildlife Company
  • One Iowa: Equality for LGBT Iowans
  • Lutheran Refugee Services of Iowa
Central College student

Courses & Faculty

Central’s anthropology minor is structured to provide students with a strong grounding in cultural anthropology within a liberal arts framework. The required courses offer a combination of academic anthropological knowledge and real-world fieldwork experiences, giving students the foundation they need to put their anthropological training to use after college.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

  • Cynthia Mahmood, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Frank Moore Endowed Chair in Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology
  • Lori Witt, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Kenneth J. Weller Distinguished Professorship of the Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of History

Sample Coursework

First Year

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Archaeology

Sophomore Year

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Cultures of Latin America
  • Schools and Societies

Junior Year

  • Ethnographic Field Methods
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Sociology of Religion

Senior Year

  • Culture Theory
  • Globalization, Development and Social Change
  • Applied Anthropology


Learn More

Want to find out more about Anthropology at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.


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