Outstanding Undergraduate Club Exceeds Expectations
The Undergraduate Anthropology Club at the University of Minnesota is not your average student group. Equipped with officers, scheduled weekly meetings, intellectual discussions spanning across all fields of anthropology, and an annual conference completely put on by the members, the term “exceeding expectations” doesn't seem to do the club justice.
Undergraduate Advisor Peter Harle, who has been with the Department of Anthropology for 12 years, says the club does "a remarkable amount of stuff." He helps anthropology students with questions about classes, major declarations, and the logistics of study abroad and field schools. What he doesn't do, is regulate the club—student officers do it all on their own.
In addition to weekly get togethers, the club has gone on field trips to museums and archaeological sites, hosted Paleo Picnics—an event open to the public demonstrating ancient tool use—and organized fundraisers, such as bake sales and silent auctions, said Harle. "Understanding how to put events like this together, the logistics and the process, is a life skill," Harle said.
The Undergraduate Anthropology Club is also known for hosting an annual conference bringing together undergraduate and graduate students, professors, speakers from across the country, and the public. This year, for the 38th annual conference, the topic was "The Anthropology of Humor."
Club members vote on the conference themes and organize the event themselves—the all-day event was entirely created by students, complete with free breakfast and lunch, guest speakers, and student presentations.
According to Megan Bauer, this year's club president, past themes have included "Anthropology of the Supernatural," "Anthropology of the Apocalypse," and "Anthropology of Extravagance and Excess." Bauer has been involved in the club since her freshman year.
A senior double-majoring in political science and cultural anthropology, Bauer explained that club members write grants themselves, to organizations such as Office for Student Affairs and the Student Unions and Activities Office. Additionally, the fundraisers they organize completely support activities such as renowned speakers to talk at the conference, hosting movie nights, and providing a free space for all students interested in anthropology at the University of Minnesota.
Amber Jaeger, a junior studying human and ape evolution, spoke at the conference about her research project for which she recently received an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program award. Her presentation was titled "They Grow Up So Fast: Assessing Life History Variables in Hominins Through Ontogeny."
Senior Kate Batman is studying human evolution with an emphasis on australopiths and has been in Anthropology Club for two years. Her presentation, "Why Ireland Made Me Drink: Archaeology in Ireland," described her field work on Achill Island, Ireland. She excavated buildings at a site where villagers took their livestock in the summer and planted crops on the soil that was less-used than the mainland.
Giving presentations is another skill that students obtain at the conference, and something not many other undergraduate clubs offer. "The conference itself is great for students going into academia," said Harle. Club member can network with faculty, alumni, and guest speakers. Many many times students find opportunities by talking to them, said Harle.
"I've had alumni come up to me at the conference and say, 'I was in the anthropology club!'" Harle said. The conference and the above-average work the club does has put out a "good word out there about our university," said Harle.
The Anthropology Club at the University of Minnesota has been around for years—Harle estimated that the first undergraduate anthropology group started sometime in the 1950s, as he recalled that one alumni mentioned being involved that long ago.
Not only are all events and meetings free, they are open to everyone. Jaeger joined the club her freshman year and was elected vice president this year. Her favorite parts of Anthropology Club include game nights and weekly discussions. "I love hearing opinions and perspectives from people with majors other than anthropology," she said.
Batman's favorite parts of the club include "talking to people who know what you're talking about," she said. "Not a lot of people get excited about these types of things."
Bauer said her favorite part of running the club is getting people, from undergrads and graduate students to faculty who have done field work, to come talk to the group. The club is a great way to hear about others' experiences. "Students want somewhere to go where they can have intellectual conversations, have people support them, and ask questions," said Bauer. "And Anthropology Club is a great place for that."
Harle admitted that some students have even changed their majors after attending Anthropology Club meetings.
"I've found it so rewarding to be connected with them," he said about the club. This level of engagement, dedication, and maturity is what he described as "the envy of many other departments."