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Graduate Program Brochure

A Guide for Applicants and Registered Students


A Guide for Applicants and Registered Students


The Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis offers the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology. Generally students are admitted for Ph.D. study only, and complete M.A. requirements in the normal course of the Ph.D. program. The archaeology program occasionally admits students who intend to pursue only the M.A. degree; please consult with the archaeology faculty before electing the M.A. rather than the Ph.D. degree program. The focus of the graduate program is the development of scholars who will contribute original and rigorous intellectual evaluation to the field of study through the Ph.D. program. The program provides a bridge between established research and new methodologies and approaches.

The UC Davis anthropology faculty is organized into two wings: Evolutionary Processes (E-Wing) and Sociocultural Processes (S-Wing): the former provides instruction in the subdisciplines of archaeology, human behavioral ecology, molecular anthropology, paleoanthropology and primatology (subsequently termed concentrations); and the latter in linguistic and sociocultural anthropology. Geographic and topical specialties of the faculty are available via the departmental website. There are about 70 graduate students currently registered in the graduate program.

New students are accepted for the fall quarter only. Applications for enrollment must be submitted online no later than December 15th: go to the Graduate Studies website to find application. l.

The online application includes all supplemental materials, including three letters of recommendation, a writing sample, Graduate Record Examination scores, (School Code 4834, Department Code 1701) and curriculum vita. Only academic transcripts should be sent directly to the department.

Each student is admitted to either the E-Wing or the S-Wing. While most requirements are uniform across the entire department, there are some distinct sub disciplinary requirements, noted in relevant sections under that heading.

All students, no matter the discipline, should be familiar with the handbook prepared by the Office of Graduate Studies.



A prospective applicant should address general questions to the Graduate Program Coordinator,Denise Besser, International students should visit the Services for International Students (SISS) website ( and the international student section of the graduate studies website ( Each student admitted to the Graduate Program in the Department of Anthropology is responsible for knowing the requirements described in the documents on the sites. Prior to admission, prospective students are encouraged to make contact with currently enrolled graduate students. Brief summaries of graduate students’ research interests can be viewed online. Prospective students are also strongly advised to communicate with faculty members in relevant areas of specialization.

We admit a limited number of applicants for graduate work in anthropology. Admission depends primarily on the student’s prior academic record as shown in transcripts, on the statements of purpose and research interests, and on letters of recommendation. The applicant is responsible for ensuring that all application materials have been submitted via the Graduate Studies online application by December 15th and that and transcripts have been received by the Anthropology Department by the same or earlier date. Upon reviewing the applications, the Department of Anthropology recommends admission of students to Graduate Studies and Graduate Studies then offers admission to applicants so recommended.



A. The Graduate Adviser. The Evolutionary and Sociocultural Wings have separate Graduate Advisers. The Graduate Adviser is appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies as the official liaison between students, the department and Graduate Studies. Ultimate responsibility for graduate education rests with the Graduate Council of the Academic Senate, but students should regard the departmental Graduate Adviser as the primary authority on all matters pertaining to their degree requirements. The Graduate Faculty Adviser must sign applications for examinations, candidacy for degrees, etc., and the Graduate Staff Adviser is responsible for maintaining accurate records of each student’s progress in the graduate program.

B. The Major Professor. A student’s Major Professor is normally the chair of the student’s dissertation committee and is therefore the faculty member who is most closely involved in the student’s preparation for research. When it is clear that one faculty member suits the academic goals of an entering student, that faculty member may be designated the student’s Major Professor. Otherwise, the Graduate Adviser assigns an interim Major Professor to the student when the student is admitted; the student may then change the interim Major Professor at any time during the first year with the approval of the Graduate Adviser. No later than the week preceding fall registration of the first year, the student meets with the (interim) Major Professor to plan a program of study. The student meets with the (interim) Major Professor in the first week of each quarter until coursework is completed. The student formally selects the permanent Major Professor by October 1 of the second year of study.

C. Individual Program Requirements. Individual program requirements will be established for each student by the Graduate Adviser in consultation with the (interim) Major Professor. Specific requirements will be set annually for the following year’s work and tentative plans of study will be projected for work in subsequent years on the Graduate Student Progress Report.

Upon entering the graduate program, students will meet with the Graduate Adviser in consultation with the (interim) Major Professor to discuss their goals, their previous training, needed training in the general field of anthropology, specific requirements of the graduate program, and available and desirable training within their subdisciplines. Based upon these discussions, the student and the (interim) Major Professor are expected to meet at minimum annually, in late spring to review the previous year’s work and to propose a tentative program for the year following that will lead to the completion of the degree. The program of study should be carefully formulated to provide the student with the best possible training in his or her area of specialization. It may involve course work in the other subdisciplines, in other departments on campus, or even at other campuses of the University.

The program requirements established for an individual are as binding as Graduate Studies or general departmental requirements. Changes in individual programs must be approved by the Graduate Adviser in consultation with the student and must have approval of the student’s Major Professor. A student entering without an undergraduate major in anthropology must complete all requirements leading to the M.A. by the sixth quarter, when he or she will be evaluated for continuing in the Ph.D. Students entering with an M.A. in anthropology may have some of the coursework waived with concurrence of the Graduate Adviser.


Students must complete the residence and unit requirements set by the Graduate Council of the Davis campus and described in the UC Davis Graduate Program Directory ( Students should pay close attention to the section, Requirements of the Advanced Degrees. The M.A. degree is granted through Plan II (examination) only and consists of 36 upper division or graduate units; 18 units must be in graduate courses and no more than 9 units may be for research.

A. Courses.

1. Core requirements: All students must take Anthropology 270 (the departmental colloquium) each quarter of the first year. All students must complete three of the following: 200 (History of Anthropology), 201 (Critical Readings in Ethnography), 202 (History and Theory of Biological Anthropology), 203 (History and Theory of Archaeology), 204 (Contemporary Issues in Anthropological Theory), and 205 (History and Theory in Anthropological Linguistics).

2. Subdiscipline requirements:

  • Archaeology:

Anthropology 112 (Comparative Linguistics) or 113 (Indigenous Languages of North America); 122A (Economic Anthropology) and 128A (Kinship and Social Organization); 152 (Human Evolution) or 156A (Human Osteology).

  • Biological:

There are no specific course requirements. Appropriate courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s Major Professor.

  • Linguistic:

Anthropology 220 (Field Course in Linguistics) or Education 249 (Discourse Analysis in Educational Settings).

  • Social:

Two evaluation courses* selected by the student, approved by the Graduate Adviser, and taken during the first three quarters in residence.

(Coursework taken at other universities may satisfy these subdiscipline requirements. The decision to accept previous course work for completion of the sub disciplinary requirements rests with the Graduate Adviser in consultation with the faculty in the subdiscipline responsible for teaching the required course(s) in question. Courses numbered 199 or 299 or their equivalent on other campuses will normally not be accepted to satisfy any of these requirements.)

B. Foreign Language Examination.

For the M.A., students must be competent in at least one foreign language. Most students will have satisfied this requirement as undergraduates before entering the M.A. program. If not, the student must take the equivalent of at least one year of one foreign language, equivalent to 15 units at UCD or demonstrate, by means of written examinations, competence commensurate with the completion of such a course of study.

C. The Preliminary Examination.

The Preliminary Examination is intended to assess a student’s command of the literature. The Preliminary Examination is normally administered only during the spring quarter (usually in May). It will be based on courses taken in the student’s first year and will be evaluated by the student’s wing faculty. Normally the Preliminary Examination may be taken only once. The Graduate Adviser, on the advice of the faculty of the student’s subdiscipline, will recommend to the Dean of Graduate Studies that a student who clearly fails the Preliminary Examination be disqualified from further graduate study in this department. If a student does not pass the examination, the faculty of the subdiscipline may, however, recommend that he or she be reexamined one time. If the Graduate Adviser concurs, the student will be reexamined no later than the following spring quarter. The Graduate Adviser will recommend disqualification from further graduate study of any student who fails the second examination. A student deemed deficient in a particular section of the written examination may receive a “conditional pass.” In such a case the student will be allowed to continue toward the M.A. after additional course work specified by the examiners.

D. Completion of the Master’s Degree. The Master’s Degree may be awarded after: 1) completion of the requirements of Graduate Studies as described in the UC Davis Graduate Program Directory; 2) satisfaction of the departmental requirements; and 3) successful completion of the Preliminary Examination.. The awarding of the Master’s Degree by itself does not imply that the student may continue in the Ph.D. program. A student may pass the examination but fail to demonstrate sufficient promise overall to continue to pursue the Ph.D. degree. Such a student will be recommended for the M.A. degree upon completion of all the requirements.

* An evaluation course may be any graduate seminar approved by the Graduate Adviser. The instructor is informed by the student at the beginning of the course that the student wishes the particular course to be an evaluation course; at the end of the course the instructor will write an evaluation of the student's performance which is included in the student's file for the end of the year evaluation.



Waivers of any of the requirements must be approved by the Graduate Adviser in consultation with the departmental Curriculum Committee. Requests for waivers should first be addressed to the Graduate Adviser, who will submit them to the Curriculum Committee.


New Students. Students will be formally evaluated by the faculty after completing the Preliminary Examination and again after completing all M.A. requirements. The student’s performance on the Preliminary Examination will determine whether or not the student may complete requirements for the M.A. degree. Students who pass the Preliminary Examination will be notified in writing by the Graduate Adviser and will be assigned Major Professors (if not already designated).

All Students. The entire faculty formally will assess the performance of all current students at the Graduate Student Evaluation Meeting, which is held annually near the end of each spring quarter. The Graduate Adviser and Major Professor will review the student’s progress; provide information about the satisfaction of Graduate Studies, departmental, subdisciplinary, and individual program requirements; and evaluate course work and other relevant aspects of the student’s performance. The Graduate Adviser will inform the student of the outcome of the review in writing by the end of the spring quarter. Students may wish to consult with the Graduate Adviser about the review when they meet to discuss the course of study for the following year.


All students in the Department of Anthropology are admitted with the expectation of pursuing the Ph.D. However, students must successfully complete the coursework for the masters degree and pass the Preliminary Examination in order to be considered for continuation in the Ph.D. program. After the completion of the masters, a student’s Major Professor in consultation with the rest of the faculty, will evaluate the student’s work and will inform the student whether or not he or she will be recommended for advancement in the doctoral program.


Students must know the university requirements for the Ph.D. degree as described in the UC Davis Graduate Student Handbook ( Students with background deficiencies or with M.A. degrees from other institutions who seek admission to the graduate program will be handled on an individual basis. This will be done by the student’s Major Professor and Advisory Committee in conjunction with the Graduate Adviser. Each subdiscipline will handle their own particular cases. A well qualified student is admitted directly to the Ph.D. program, however, the M.A. core requirements or their equivalent have to be met. Specific requirements for all students in the Ph.D. program are noted below, with the exception of the Qualifying Examination and the dissertation, which are covered in a separate section. In addition, there may be Individual Program Requirements, established by the student and his or her Major Professor in consultation with the Graduate Adviser.

A. Subdiscipline Requirements.

1. Biological Anthropology and Archaeology Ph.D. students must complete (with a grade of "B-" or better) an upper division or graduate level course in statistics before the Qualifying Examination can be scheduled. "S" grades are not sufficient.

2. Sociocultural Ph.D. students must take Anthropology 206 (Research Design and Method in Social Anthropology) by the spring quarter of the student’s second year.

B. Foreign Language. Students in the Ph.D. program must demonstrate competence in at least one foreign language. The language(s) chosen and the degree of proficiency to be achieved should be appropriate to the student’s particular course of study and research. The student will select the language(s) in consultation with his/her Major Professor and with the approval of the Graduate Adviser. In some instances, with support of the student's Advisory Committee and approval of the Graduate Adviser, the student may substitute a programming language or advanced analytical skill dependent on such languages (e.g., statistical programs, GIS). If the foreign language for the Ph.D. is the same as that chosen to fulfill the M.A. requirement, the proficiency demonstrated must be higher than the minimum required for the M.A., which is competence commensurate with 15 units of study in foreign language at UCD (see above). The student’s Major Professor, with the approval of the Graduate Adviser, will determine the manner in which proficiency beyond the M.A. level is to be demonstrated. The student will submit evidence of having achieved an appropriate level of language proficiency to his/her Major Professor prior to taking the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

C. Individual Program Requirements. These requirements are established by the Major Professor and the student in consultation with the Graduate Adviser.


Students in the Ph.D. program may apply to participate in a Designated Emphasis, a specialization that might include a new method of inquiry or an important field of application that is related to two or more existing Ph.D. programs. The Designated Emphasis is awarded in conjunction with the Ph.D. degree and is signified by a transcript designation (e.g., Ph.D. in Anthropology with a Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies). Anthropology offers the following Designated Emphases for the Ph.D.: African & African American Studies, Critical Theory, Feminist Theory & Research, International Nutrition, Native American Studies, Second Language Acquisition, and Social Theory & Comparative History. More information on the Designated Emphasis option can be found at:


A student who enters the graduate program in a particular subdiscipline (archaeology, social, biological or linguistic anthropology) normally may not switch to another subdiscipline before taking the Preliminary Examination in the original subdiscipline. After passing the Preliminary Examination in the original subdiscipline, the student may change subdisciplines with the approval of the Graduate Adviser and the faculty in both the old and the new subdiscipline. One of the latter faculty members must agree to serve as the student’s Major Professor. Having changed subdisciplines, the student must take the Preliminary Examination in the new subdiscipline no later than May of the next spring quarter.

With the approval of both a student’s current Major Professor and a prospective new Major Professor, and in consultation with the Graduate Adviser, a student who has passed the Preliminary Examination may change concentration within a particular subdiscipline. In such a case, the student must satisfy any new individual requirements agreed on by the Graduate Adviser and the student’s new Major Professor in consultation with the student. Major changes in areas of concentration within a given subdiscipline after admission to the Ph.D. program are discouraged, but are permitted under special circumstances. They require the approval of the former and new Major Professors, the Graduate Adviser and, if the student has already passed the Qualifying Examination, all members of the former and newly proposed Qualifying or Dissertation Committees.


A. Research Proposal. Before taking the Qualifying Examination, a student must submit a proposal for a Ph.D. dissertation project. The proposal must be suitable for submission to a funding agency such as the National Science Foundation. The application is to be submitted in duplicate and must be approved by the student’s Major Professor before the Qualifying Examination can be scheduled.

B. The Qualifying Examination Committee. Upon the recommendation of the Graduate Adviser after consultation with the student’s Major Professor and the student, a five-member committee, which normally includes the student’s Major Professor, will be appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The student’s Major Professor (who normally chairs the student’s Dissertation Committee) may not chair that student’s qualifying committee. Students in the Sociocultural Wing must have a proposal workshop (a working session to discuss the proposal) with their Qualifying Committee prior to the Examination.

C. The Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Examination is normally scheduled no later than the 10th quarter of residence. The examination consists of a nine hour written portion followed within three weeks (if the written examination is successfully completed) by a final oral examination. The Qualifying Examination will cover at least three fields chosen by the student in consultation with the Major Professor and the examination committee. Students in archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and social anthropology will choose: 1) a topical field from within the student’s subdiscipline; 2) a second topical field from either within or outside the discipline of anthropology that bears a demonstrable relation to the other two fields; and 3) a geographic area. Students in biological anthropology will be examined in research methodology and at least two interrelated topical fields.

The three fields must be approved by the student’s Major Professor and be acceptable to the Qualifying Committee. At the time of officially proposing the members of their Qualifying Committee, students must submit a two-to-three page paper describing the three fields, his or her research interests, and their interrelationship to all committee members. Students should indicate what aspects of their geographical area are particularly relevant to their interests, while bearing in mind that they will still be generally responsible for the entire area.

Suggested Guideline of Geographical Areas and Topical Fields for the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. The following are examples of the breadth expected in proposed topical fields.

Geographical Areas

Polynesia and Micronesia

Australia and Melanesia

Southeast Asia (incl.: Philippines, Malaysia, Indochina, Thailand, Burma, Northeast Assam, aboriginal Taiwan and Andaman Islands)

South Asia (incl.: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sikkim, Assam, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan)



Middle East (e.g., Iraq, Iran, and North Africa)

Europe (may be restricted to particular region)

Sub-Saharan Africa (incl.: Madagascar)

North America (incl.: Greenland, Alaska, Canada, United States)

Arctic (Circumpolar)

Central America (Mexico to Panama)

South America (south of Panama and the Caribbean)

Topical Fields


1. Paleoenvironmental Analysis

2. Chronological Techniques

3. Theoretical Archaeology

4. Historical Archaeology

5. Reconstruction of Prehistoric Culture and Society

6. Prehistoric Economy

7. Evolution of Culture

Biological Anthropology

1. Biological Adaptations of Humans and Non-human Primates (divisible)

2. Paleontology of Humans and Non-human Primates (divisible)

3. Comparative Primate Anatomy and Morphology

4. Primate Behavior and Ecology

5. Behavioral Ecology

6. Sociobiology and Behavior

7. Comparative Psychology

8. Evolutionary Biology

9. Evolutionary Theory

10. Molecular Anthropology

Linguistic Anthropology

1. Descriptive Linguistics

2. Historical and Comparative Linguistics

3. Ethnography of Speaking

4. Language and Culture

5. Sociolinguistics

6. Language and Gender

7. Writing Systems and Literacy Practices (divisible)

Social Anthropology

  1. Political Anthropology
  2. Anthropology of Law
  3. Kinship and Social Organization
  4. Economic Anthropology
  5. Ecological Anthropology
  6. Psychological Anthropology
  7. Peasant Studies
  8. Urban Anthropology
  9. Symbolic Anthropology
  10. Folklore
  11. Art
  12. Anthropology of Development
  13. Culture Change and Evolution (incl.: acculturation, cross-cultural comparison)
  14. Religion
  15. Gender Systems
  16. Ethnohistory
  17. History of Anthropological Theory

A last point: These areas are somewhat arbitrary subdivisions of interconnected fields of investigation. For example, no one can be knowledgeable about political anthropology without being familiar with basic work in the anthropology of law, and no one can be proficient in human paleontology without a good grounding in genetics.

Ph.C. The degree Candidate in Philosophy may be awarded to any student who has been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. in Anthropology. The degree is formally conferred by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

D. The Dissertation. After successfully completing the Qualifying Examination, the student may apply to be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. At this time, upon the recommendation of the student’s Major Professor in consultation with the Graduate Adviser, the Dean of Graduate Studies appoints a committee to direct the student’s research and to guide preparation of the dissertation. The signatures of these committee members on the title page of a dissertation submitted in the required format to the Office of Graduate Studies are the final requirement for the Ph.D.


Experience in teaching and research is a required part of the training program for advanced degrees in anthropology, whether compensated or not.


The department assists graduate students in obtaining financial support. There are few sources of support for graduate students in anthropology, however, and the competition for financial aid is keen. The problem of financial support is particularly severe for incoming graduate students, and applicants are advised that the department may not be able to obtain funds for first-year students. There are two principal forms of support for graduate students: fellowships and teaching assistantships. The other forms of financial support include research assistantships, readerships, and the Work-Study program.

Fellowships. The department encourages students to apply for University fellowships when applying for admission. Information and application forms may be downloaded from the Office of Graduate Studies web page, Applications must be submitted online no later than December 15th. Each year approximately twenty to thirty new and continuing graduate students in anthropology apply for graduate fellowships, typically one-third are funded.

Teaching Assistantships. Teaching Assistants conduct discussion and/or laboratory sections and assist the instructors in large undergraduate classes. Each year the department employs about 33 graduate students in anthropology as Teaching Assistants. Teaching assistantships are assumed to entail twenty hours of work each week and are, therefore, designated as half-time. Applicants for teaching assistantships must have a grade point average of 3.5 (A=4.0 points and B=3.0 points) and normally should have a master’s level of preparation in the subdiscipline of anthropology they are to teach. Thus, only the most highly qualified and promising of those students admitted are likely to receive teaching assistantships during the first year of graduate studies. All first year admits to the graduate program are entitled to apply for teaching assistantships. Teaching assistants register for eight units of instruction, plus four units of a Teaching Practicum with the instructor they are assisting, and must be working towards a higher degree.

Graduate Student Researcher. Occasionally research projects require the assistance of graduate students whose salaries are paid from research funds. These are negotiated through the faculty member who is the Principal Investigator of a project. Graduate students interested in such appointment should inquire within the department concerning ongoing research projects. In rare instances a student may find support entirely through a Graduate Student Researcher position.

Readerships. Each quarter several readers are appointed to assist instructors in reading examinations and papers for courses with large enrollments. Graduate students in anthropology are given priority in filling these positions in the department. Readers have usually taken the course for which they are reading.

Work-Study. Work-Study is a federally subsidized student employment program ( Funds are sometimes available for student employment in various projects and offices throughout the campus. The hourly wage varies depending on the employee’s qualifications. For details consult the Financial Aid Office, 1100 Dutton Hall, (530) 752-2390, or Interested students should also inquire at the department office to see whether such work is available within the department.

Tuition-Fee Fellowships. Tuition-Fee Fellowships are limited and competitive. The department provides a limited number of awards to out-of-state students covering out-of-state tuition and fees. U.S. citizens (and resident aliens) are expected to pursue qualification for California residency upon matriculation so that they will pay only in-state fees in the second and subsequent years. Foreign students are not eligible for California residency.


There are several hundred University-owned apartments on campus for married or single students. These are one- and two-bedroom units, some furnished and others unfurnished except for stove and refrigerator. You need not be officially admitted before applying for on-campus housing. General information and applications for on-campus housing can be obtained from the Housing Office, University of California, Davis, CA 95616 (530-752-2033), Most graduate students find accommodations in off-campus rooms, apartments, and houses in the town of Davis. Others commute from Sacramento or the Bay Area.

The University maintains listings of privately operated accommodations in Davis.

The University of California, in accordance with applicable Federal and State law and University policy, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, age, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a covered veteran (special disabled veteran, Vietnam era veteran, or any other veteran who served on active duty during a war or campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized). The University prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs and activities.

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Dept. of Anthropology

328 Young Hall
One Shields Ave.
University of California
Davis, Ca 95616-8522

Ph.  530-752-0745
Fax. 530-752-8885