First-Year Focus

Welcome! Below, you can find answers to some questions you might have about anthropology at Northwestern.

What is anthropology?

Anthropology draws upon the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to answer compelling questions about humankind:

  • How did the human species evolve? What is its basic nature, and in what ways is it manifested in different places and times?
  • How have biology, language and culture become the defining characteristics of our species?
  • How and why do cultures change over time?

Why study anthropology?

Today’s world is changing and shrinking. By studying anthropology, you will develop an understanding of cultures around the world and across time. Understanding cultural, biological, and linguistic differences and similarities is central to almost any career. Read about career paths and options.

What makes Northwestern’s Department of Anthropology special?

The Department is strong in a wide variety of fields:

  • African ethnography including research in West, South, and North Africa, Anglophone and Francophone Africa, Islamic and non-Islamic groups, and urban and rural populations.
  • In the Americas, we have a concentration in urban United States. Several faculty focus on political economy along with a comparative perspective on race, gender and youth culture.
  • Archaeology specialties in complex societies and urbanism, in subsistence and political economies, and in gender identity. Regionally the department is strong in Mesoamerica, the Caribbean and African diaspora and England and Europe (AD1200-1800).

Undergraduate students have access to:

  • The Laboratory for Human Biology Research, a state of the art laboratory for the study of human population biology. The lab supports primary research as well as the teaching/training of advanced undergraduate students. Members of the lab have ongoing research in Bolivia, Kenya, Siberia, Samoa, the Philippines and urban US. 
  • The Linguistic Anthropology Laboratory, where students in the Linguistic Anthropology concentration study language in society.
  • The Geography Program, which  is embedded within the Department of Anthropology and provides key resources for research in environmental studies, settlement patterns, geographic information systems, and map making.  

A partnership with the Chicago’s Field Museum. Students in this joint program can participate in the field and collections projects directed by Northwestern University and/or Field Museum anthropologists.

Get started studying anthropology

Explore your course options and take a class. Anthropology students also have opportunities to study outside of the classroom in a laboratory-setting or through field studies around the world.

Down the road, you may want to focus on anthropology by becoming an anthropology major or minor. You can also pursue a concentration in human biology.