Anthropology program examines Parkland student body

Matthew Moss

Staff Writer


What makes the Parkland student body tick? That is what the Ethnography of the University Initiative at Parkland works to find out.

As part of their anthropology course at Parkland, students examine various trends or phenomena occurring at the college. Examples include hairstyle choices, cell phone usage and its effect on relationships, and the influx of Asian and Asian-American students.

Isabel Scarborough, a professor of anthropology at Parkland, utilizes the Ethnography of the University Initiative in her Anthropology 103 course.

Scarborough explains anthropology as being the study of humanity itself—it’s culture and how it operates. She said as the EUI looks at trends that exist in college and university settings, the initiative melds flawlessly with course material and gives students the opportunity to study their own environments.

“What we do as anthropologists is study cultures,” Scarborough said. “It fits well with our anthropology class.”

Utilizing the initiative in anthropology allows Parkland students to examine their own college student environment through a cultural and logical lens, identifying what traits the college environment has and forming testable hypotheses on particular traits, while fulfilling the course goals of Parkland’s Anthropology 103 course directive.

The initiative was born at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and had the same goal of analyzing and forming conclusions about how society operates within the context of higher education institutions.

“In EUI-affiliated courses, students use a variety of ethnographic, archival, and related methods to examine the university in the broader context of our social and political times,” reads the initiative’s introduction on the University of Illinois’ website.

While Scarborough was not the first professor who used the Ethnography of the University Initiative at Parkland, she is currently the only professor who does so.

Interest in the initiative and its work is not limited to Scarborough and Parkland’s anthropology sub-department.

Marsh Jones, a professor of history at Parkland, believes the program fills a valuable role in discovering what issues the student body is facing and/or cares about. He says the program will be useful to college administrators today, as well as in the future, to evaluate the issues important to their students.

Scarborough stresses the importance of anthropology not only to Parkland students, but students everywhere. She says the culture reflects on the individual, and the individual reflects on the culture; knowing the quirks of one’s culture is a vital aspect in the identity of oneself.

Sample work from students in Parkland’s Anthropology 103 course in the capacity of the Ethnography of the University Initiative can be found on the Parkland SPARK page, under the heading “Student Works,” then “Ethnographies of Parkland Student Life.”