Business Anthropology on the Road

Business Anthropology on the Road is an initiative by the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology (COPAA) programs. It has a dual purpose:

  1. Provides training in business anthropology to faculty who want to learn about it, teach it, and develop expertise in preparing students for the job market

  2. Offers job market preparation for students who want to apply their anthropological knowledge, methods, and skills in business and/or in other organizational settings after graduation.

Conceptualized in spring 2018, Business Anthropology on the Road was designed to help fill a gap in colleges and universities with no dedicated courses on business anthropology and/or with limited ability to guide students in pursuing a business or organizationally-based career. This initiative addresses these gaps through on-site workshops on various aspects of business anthropology (e.g., scholarship, practice) and on career preparation, including the process of seeking internships, employment, contract, and consulting jobs that appreciate anthropological training. Faculty emerge with a plan-of-action for teaching business anthropology and creating practice-oriented opportunities while students gain skills in preparing for and presenting themselves in the job market.

COPAA has been conducting a pilot of this initiative to assess its long-term value and potential. Teams of at least two business anthropologists customize workshops in collaboration with departmental leadership. Domains covered include marketing/advertising, organizational culture and change, and design. Workshop activities incorporate an overview of the field of business anthropology, assistance in course preparation, small-group engagement in addressing actual case-study issues, and strategies for marketing anthropological skills in the workplace. Pilots took place at The University of Memphis and at Monmouth University in fall 2018; one additional pilot will occur at The University of Pennsylvania in spring 2019.

The scholar-practitioner presenters, Bob Morais and Elizabeth Briody, have sought to improve the workshop formats with each successive site visit. Perhaps not surprisingly, they have learned that interactive discussions with the presenters work better than lecture. They also have found that active learning opportunities, such as team problem solving, result in strong interest and engagement.

Once the pilots are completed and participant evaluations systematically analyzed, COPAA leadership and the workshop presenters will explore potential options for this initiative. Stay tuned!

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