Prospective Students

To Prospective Students:

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago has a long and proud tradition of scholarly excellence and leadership in the discipline. Our prominence and achievements are rooted in a vibrant community where innovative investigation is especially encouraged. The department has trained many of anthropology’s most creative scholars and ethnographers; recent recipients of the Ph.D. at Chicago continue to find rewarding jobs in the academy and in research; and the dissertations we produce are regularly published as excellent books from academic presses. Members of the faculty and the graduate student community support and participate in each others’ research, finding many opportunities to consult on methods and findings through seminars, laboratory-style courses, research workshops, and writing groups.

We maintain and deepen the quality of the Department by recruiting skilled and imaginative graduate students. The excellence of our graduate student group has always been one of the most important aspects of our program. In this department, much is learned in free-ranging interactions with fellow students, and many resources are freely shared. Students share the expertise they develop through fieldwork in many parts of the world by exchanging drafts of writing and inviting comparative discussions as they write and analyze their findings.

In encouraging you to apply to our Ph.D. program, we stress several things. The first is that you do not need to have an undergraduate degree in anthropology either to be accepted into the program or to thrive in it. Many of our most successful students have come to us with little background in the discipline — but with a commitment to making it their own. In the application process, a personal statement that expresses the nature of your interest in social research, showing how it relates to the contemporary tasks of anthropology, can be much more persuasive than the list of courses you have taken.

You should also be aware that there may be a number of faculty members at Chicago who could help you with your projects, and you need not commit yourself to one advisor to earn a Ph.D. here. We decide as a faculty whom to admit (under the guidance of the Admissions Committee), and students select their own academic advisors after they arrive and learn about the particular expertise we offer. You don’t need to attract the attention of a faculty mentor to be admitted to this program, or to establish very productive working relationships with a number of faculty and fellow students after you arrive.

In fact, in the admissions process, we have a preference for students whose existing interests are clearly of a kind to be well-served by our particular faculty, at this particular university. In general, our faculty is very collaborative in their practices of advising every one of our graduate students. You can see how wide-ranging the interests of both faculty and graduate students are by consulting the People section of this website.

We hope you find the information you need as you browse the website. If there are questions we have not answered, feel free to telephone Anne Ch’ien, our administrator of graduate affairs, at 773 702 8551, preferably in the afternoon.

Sincerely yours,
Kathleen D. Morrison
Neukom Family Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College
Department Chair


Dear Prospective Student,

The graduate students in anthropology at the University of Chicago welcome your interest in the anthropology program. We would like to provide you with a student perspective on graduate work in our Department.

The interaction among students, in both formal and informal contexts, is a critical element in any graduate education. We strive to create an atmosphere that encourages this. Through our student listserve and meetings, students organize conferences, social events, and publication projects. Students with topical interests in common form reading or writing groups, seminars and workshops.

Just as important, however, are the informal conversations that naturally develop among us. We foster these in several ways. Graduate students make themselves available to prospective and incoming students in a variety of venues organized by the departmental office and the Student-Faculty Liaison Committee. Many anthropology students share apartments, and the departmental office can sometimes help incoming students find such living arrangements. The Student-Faculty Liaison Committee organizes social events such as parties, picnics and film evenings, and it provides a forum for discussion and action on issues of departmental concern.

As outlined on this website, the University of Chicago offers diverse resources and opportunities. It is up to students, however, to avail themselves of them. It is important that they be prepared to use their own initiative in creating and taking advantage of research opportunities that may lead to their dissertation projects, as well as in seeking funding that can support field research. The anthropology program at the University of Chicago is intense and demanding, and those who earn their Ph.D. in it enjoy a well-deserved high reputation in the discipline. Graduates of the department enjoy considerable success in finding teaching and research jobs; many dissertations from Chicago are published as books; and some of our Ph.D. holders find rewarding careers outside the academy in the professions and public service. Though the department faculty and staff help to inform students about opportunities and career trajectories, the successes we enjoy ultimately rest on our own efforts. The student body in the Ph.D. program does its best to encourage its members to think creatively not only about their research, but also how they will put their training to use after earning the degree.

If you have questions after reviewing the information below, we encourage you to contact students who work in your area of interest, whose names are listed on the website. We wish you the best of luck with your application.

The Graduate Students in the Department of Anthropology