Rock Valley College
Panoramic view of tree covered mountains with clouds


“The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.” – Ruth Benedict

  • closeup of woman on beach
  • close up of graffiti art walls
  • female mongoose lemur
  • close up of gorilla
  • close up of weaving cooperative

Mission Statement

Anthropology is the comparative systematic study of humanity, with the goal of understanding our evolutionary origins, our distinctiveness as a species, and the great diversity in our forms of collective existence across the globe through space and time. The name anthropology derives from the Greek words for man and study, “anthropos” and “logos.” Combined, these words translate to the phrase “study of man.” Anthropologists at Rock Valley College share a vision to cultivate and advance the understanding of humans and our ancestors in the evolutionary past and modern-day present.  American Anthropology is typically divided into four subfields: Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, and Linguistic Anthropology. Each subfield offers a unique approach to the discipline within the holistic anthropological method. 

Anthropology is a vital component of the liberal arts curriculum, inspiring students to question their assumptions through a scientific lens while gaining anthropological knowledge and insight through theory, research methods and application. Alfred Kroeber described the discipline of anthropology as, “The most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities." Anthropology explores the captivating questions of: Who are we? What unites us? Where did we come from? The Department of Anthropology prepares students to be dynamic life-long learners and seekers, revealing a new perspective on the richness of our shared humanity. 

What Do Anthropologists Study?

Archaeologists study the ancient and recent human past by examining material remains in the fossil record to answer questions about human history. Biological anthropologists study human and non-human primates in terms of their biological and demographic characteristics. They may specialize in primatology, paleoanthropology, human variation, medical anthropology and forensic anthropology. Cultural anthropologists comparatively investigate how people live, organize and create meaning in social practices. Linguistic anthropologists study how languages and other systems of communication contribute to our understanding of culture.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Anthropology?

Anthropologists are employed in both public and private sectors, including colleges and universities, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, businesses, and health/human services. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of anthropologists is expected to grow 19% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.” These numbers suggest that anthropology is a robust career choice, growing at a significantly higher rate than the 11% growth forecast for all occupations.

The Function of Anthropology

Renowned cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead encapsulated the meaning of anthropology when she wrote, “Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment, and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess.” For resources, visit the American Anthropological Association and the Anthropology Careers and Employment (ACE) job board.

See which Anthropology courses are currently being offered.


  1. Woman selling oysters (Mahajanga, Madagascar)
  2. Graffiti art in the Cyahafi neighborhood (Kigali, Rwanda)
  3. Coquerel’s sifaka with 3-month-old infant (Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar)
  4. Mountain gorilla in Sabyinyo Group (Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda)
  5. Weaving cooperative (Ollantaytambo, Peru)

Photo Credits: Dr. Abby Ross