Students drive posts in Old World History event

Opportunities in Anthropology

Academic Opportunities

Senior Thesis

Senior theses are intended to provide students with an opportunity to do intense research and writing in any area of anthropology under the mentorship of two members of the anthropology faculty. A senior thesis may be based on original research, library research, or a combination of the two, but in any case should build on a student’s previous course work in anthropology. It should include a thorough review of relevant previous literature and develop an original argument on the topic. In addition to a written paper, students are expected present their research to the public.

All senior theses are considered Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs), but not all MAPs are senior theses. A senior thesis requires a distinct application process.

Awards, Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships

Asrelsky Prize

The Rachael Asrelsky Anthropology Paper Prize is given annually to the author of an outstanding paper written for an anthropology class in honor of Rachael Asrelsky ’89 who died in the Lockerbie bombing while returning from an off-campus program.

Luebben Award

The Ralph Luebben Prize in Anthropology is awarded annually to the graduating senior who best exemplifies the ideal anthropology student including meritorious scholarly work, breadth in the discipline, field experience, and an anthropological viewpoint on life.

Archaeologist, anthropologist, teacher, scholar — Ralph A. Luebben was the first full-time professor of anthropology at Grinnell College, the first tenured anthropologist on the faculty, the first chair of an autonomous department of anthropology, and the founder of the department’s summer archaeological field school. Ralph Luebben’s affiliation with Grinnell began in 1957. Ralph Luebben retired from Grinnell College in 1983–84. In honor of Ralph Luebben’s many contributions to the department, the Department of Anthropology solicited funds from colleagues and former students and established an endowment fund for the Luebben Prize. Ralph passed away October 19, 2009.

Emeritus Professors’ Student Research Fund

The Department of Anthropology honors the legacy of its distinguished emeritus professors, D. Douglas Caulkins, Ron Kurtz, and Ralph Luebben, through the Anthropology Emeritus Professors’ Student Research Fund. These competitive funds are intended to expand current student research opportunities when normal College funds are not available. The funds may be used for research or expenses related to travel to disseminate results of research (such as conference attendance). Applications will be reviewed by the department three times a year. Awards will be disbursed at the beginning of each semester for travel and research incurred during the academic year (up to $500) and one for summer research or travel (up to $1000).

All returning anthropology majors are eligible to apply for funds, pending availability. Students should consult with a member of the department before submission of their proposal regarding the nature of the project and requests for funds. After this consultation, applicants should submit a one-page description of their project as well as a detailed budget to Patty Dale. When applicable, copies of receipts and/or letter of acceptance to a conference should be submitted to receive funds.

Paul Simmons ’79 and Michele Clark International Research and Learning Fund

Fund Description

Paul Simmons ’79 and Michele Clark believe that the study of anthropology is critical to further understanding of the archeological, biological, cultural, and linguistic evidence about the forces that shape human development and behavior as well as our past, current, and future social order and communities. Through this fund, they want to help provide students with life-changing global exposure and equip them with the research, critical thinking, information literacy, data analysis, and problem solving skills that the world needs today and that the future demands.

To read more about Simmons and Clark and their thinking behind the fund, check out the story, “New anthropology travel fund allows students to examine foreign cultures.”

Funds may be used at the discretion of the department to support students. The fund will prioritize support for immersive and internationally based student learning and research experiences in the field of anthropology, including mentored research, independent fieldwork, and course-embedded travel.

When possible, preference will be given to funding (in order of priority):

  • Students demonstrating financial need, as determined in consultation with the Office of Admission and Financial Aid
  • Research and learning experiences geographically based in Latin America
  • Projects or experiences involving the study of agricultural communities

To Apply

Funds are available to all current Grinnell College students. Applications will be reviewed by the department on a rolling basis through the year. Proposals for summer projects should be submitted by the last Friday in April. Students may apply for up to $2,000 in funding during the semesters and winter break, and up to $4,000 in funding for the summer. Funding decisions will be based on the quality of the proposal and opportunity, the funding priority guidelines, and the availability of funds.

Interested students should first discuss the opportunity with their anthropology advisor or with the chair of the department. They may then submit a proposal of no more than two pages single-spaced providing the following information:

  • description of proposed project
  • brief explanation of how the project relates to the student’s academic or career interests
  • brief explanation of the student’s preparation to carry out the project
  • If the project will take place off-campus, what logistical or field support will the student receive? What permissions, if any, have been obtained to carry out the project at the proposed site(s)?
  • detailed budget

Fund recipients will be required to provide a written summary and personal reflection on the experience within two weeks of returning. Depending on the experience, recipients may also be required to present their work to faculty and students. Receipts from research activities must be saved by the recipients to submit for reimbursement through the award.

Funding Opportunities for Students

Last year the Center for Careers, Life, and Service launched two new funding initiatives to support students.

We now have a Senior Interview Grant to which fourth year students may apply for funding support to get to interviews.

Additionally, we now have a Professional Development Grant to which third-year and seniors may apply to offset expenses associated with either attending a professional conference (or related professional development program) or acquiring professional business/interview attire.

Additional information about the grants is available on GrinnellShare (login required).

Boren Scholarships

Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin American, and the Middle East.

More information: Boren Scholarships (login required)

Fulbright Grants

In general, there are two types of Fulbright grants:

  • an open study/research award, which funds one academic year of overseas study and/or research in one country
  • An English teaching assistantship (ETA), which funds one academic year of teaching English in one country

Additionally, Fulbright offers several specialized grants, including Travel-Only Grants (which are usually given to graduate students, and only for Germany), Fulbright/mtvU Awards, Critical Language Enhancement Awards, Fulbright Business Grants (Mexico, Spain, Finland), Fulbright Journalism Grants (Germany and UK), and country-specific awards to Australia, Ireland (Irish Language), Italy (Slow Foods and Deaf Studies), Mexico (Graduate Degree and Public Policy); and the Netherlands (Water Management).

More information: Fullbright Grant (login required)

Fulbright Grant Application

Gates Cambridge Scholarships

Gates Cambridge Scholarships are highly competitive full-cost awards for full-time graduate study and research in any subject available at the University of Cambridge.

More information: Gates Cambridge Scholarship (login required)

Gates Cambridge Scholarship Application

Marshall Scholarships

Marshall Scholarships finance young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom. Up to forty scholars are selected each year to study at graduate level at an UK institution in any field of study.

More information: Marshall Scholarship

Marshall Scholarship Application

Mitchell Scholarship

The Mitchell Scholarship Program, named to honor former US Senator George Mitchell’s pivotal contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process, is designed to introduce and connect generations of future American leaders to the island of Ireland, while recognizing and fostering intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to community and public service.

Up to twelve Mitchell Scholars between the ages of 18 and 30 are chosen annually for one year of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

More information: Mitchell Scholars (login required)

Mitchell Scholarship Application

Rhodes Scholarships

Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international educational fellowships, were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford.

More information: Rhodes Scholarship (login required)

Rhodes Scholarship Application

Organizations and Activities


The Student Educational Policy Committee, or SEPC, is a student-faculty liaison group which provides faculty with student input on professors, candidates, curriculum, and other departmental issues. It also organizes social events within the department.

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