The university’s board of directors approved the proposal for the anthropology program to permanently split from the sociology department as its own department – the final step in its year-long push for independence.

On Aug. 25, University Provost James O’Donnell indicated to anthropology and sociology faculty members that he would “respect” the wishes of both parties to separate. One year before, O’Donnell had declined to support the independence movement, even though it had the backing of former College Dean Jane McAuliffe. The board vote was the last step in making the split official.

Susan Terrio, an associate professor in the Department of French and now the first chair of the anthropology department, said she is excited for what this means for the study of anthropology at Georgetown.

“The biggest thing with becoming our own department is visibility.

“We will get our own Web site, which is tremendously important in marketing ourselves,” she said. “Within a year and a half, we will have our own budget, office space and administrative officer.”

Terrio said that achieving independence marks the pinnacle of their efforts but also noted that they have been an autonomous unit within the sociology department since 2005. There were 17 graduates last year with anthropology majors, the highest number ever, and, Terrio noted, the growth has spilled over this year, as four students declared it as their major in only the last week.

For years, though, Terrio said Georgetown was far behind the curve when it came to anthropology.

“Georgetown was really out of step here – very few universities had joint sociology-anthropology departments. We only very belatedly created a minor in 1995 and then a major four years ago,” she said.

Five ordinary, or tenure-track, faculty members will join three non-ordinary professors as the faculty for the new department, Terrio said. Adding new faculty will be one of her primary aims and will be made significantly easier as an independent department.

While Terrio said the future for the nascent department may still be uncertain, she said she is committed to playing to its interdisciplinary strengths.

“Anthropology draws on a lot of different disciplines, like history, development and political economy,” she said. “We want to be building on our strengths as a department, and for us, that means looking toward more thematically organized courses and away from the more traditional regional history courses.”

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