Skip to main content
Sign In


Advice for Graduate Students

Advice for Grad Students

Our advice for graduate students falls under several headings:

Your Advisor

All students are assigned an advisor when they are admitted to the program. The graduate director seeks to match students to faculty with whom they apparently share interests (this determination is based on your written answer to Part II, Item 6 of the application which asks you to write about your interests in anthropology, why you wish to come to UCD, and your long-term career goals). This is an initial assignment, and you are under no obligation to continue with this advisor if you develop a relationship with another faculty member. If you wish to change advisors, simply write a note or e-mail to the effect and send it to the graduate director.

What do advisors do? Your advisor serves as your personal counselor and guide through the graduate program. S/he will make suggestions regarding coursework, elective courses within and outside the department, and, ultimately, assist you in the selection of a thesis topic, should you choose the thesis option. Your advisor will also work with you in deciding whether the thesis option is what you should in fact pursue. The advisor can also provide guidance with regard to difficulties you may be having in the program, career planning, or selecting graduate schools for PhD study. Finally, your advisor will sign off on most of the major documents needed to graduate from the program.

Our advice is to talk with your advisor on a regular basis. It keeps us in touch with you, and keeps you integrated into the program. Your advisor is your support; s/he will not be uncritical, but will always be helpful, even though that help may not always take the form you hoped for.

Working and Going To School

All things being equal, and in a perfect world, you should not work and go to school at the same time. However, the world is not perfect, students do need to eat and pay rent, and the exigencies of real life in Denver may require that you work. Our more realistic advice is to think carefully about your family, work and academic responsibilities, and do not overload on any of them (and if you do overload, err on the side of family). Our experience suggests the following balance works for most students:

  • If you work full time, do not take any more than two courses a semester (one if it's a core seminar).
  • If you work half-time, you might be able to manage three courses per semester, but again, if one of these is a core, then drop back to two.
  • If you apply for and are awarded a TA-ship in the department, you should reduce outside work hours accordingly.
  • It is generally not realistic to take more than three graduate courses in any semester.

Financial Aid

The department has no influence over the financial aid provided through the university's office of financial aid. However, we do control access to three sources of assistance: TA-ships in biological anthropology and/or archaeology, research assistantships on particular faculty research projects, and a small scholarship fund.

Announcements regarding TA-ships are made each spring semester for the following year. The graduate director will send out a letter describing the application process, usually in mid-March.

Research assistantships are sometimes announced to all graduate students, but typically announcements are posted on the department's various blackboards, faculty doors, etc. We also endeavor to post notices of open positions on the main department Web site (go to the positions and field school opportunities page). Research assistantship positions are funded by grants given directly to individual faculty members, and will require working directly on a project. Individual faculty will establish the requirements for the job, the salary, and the hours of work.

The department maintains two small funds which it occasionally uses to help with a student's thesis research. The funds are intended primarily for use by students who need assistance travelling abroad. If you need such support, you should contact the graduate director. You will need to prepare a brief proposal.

The Thesis/Non-Thesis Option

We strongly advise all students to pursue the thesis option for the MA degree. Writing a thesis will prepare you for the general task of conducting and writing up an individual project, which is the one of the primary skills required if you work as an anthropologist after graduating. If you go on for a PhD, you will find that the MA experience will have given you excellent preparation, both intellectual and psychological, for writing a doctoral dissertation.

This said, there are occasions where a student is not able to complete a thesis, or where the extra hours (18) required under the non-thesis option will permit a student to acquire skills and expertise that they require for their chosen career. This choice needs to be made on a case-by-case basis, and in close consultation with your advisor.

Getting Through the Curriculum

The faculty has worked long and hard, through many years of meetings and informal discussions, to develop a curriculum that meets our main goal for you: to provide you the opportunity to experience and complete a rigorous program which covers multiple subfields of anthropology. We wish to produce students who are able to read, write and think critically at high levels, and we wish to produce students who are knowledgeable and can communicate thoughtfully about anthropology as an holistic discipline that covers the historical, biological and cultural dimensions of the human experience.

It is often the case that students come into the program with fairly fixed ideas about what it is they wish to do. This is expected and encouraged, but it should not limit your enthusiasm for, interest in or commitment to courses or subjects that do not fall squarely within your interests. To do so is to seriously reduce your opportunity to become a well-rounded and well-trained anthropologist.

So, please: no complaining about courses, requirements or subjects. We stand behind our curriculum. We believe it will prepare you well for your future career, whatever that career may be. Above all, it will provide you with the greatest of all intellectual luxuries: the ability to think like an anthropologist.

We have some practical advice for making sure you complete your requirements as efficiently as possible:

  • Required core seminars are taught every third semester. If a course is required and it is offered, take it. If you miss, say, Ethnographic Tradition, you will have to wait a full year and a half before it is offered again. Because you will need to complete this course before you take your comprehensive examination, you may be further delayed.
  • The required core courses are the most important courses in your graduate program. These courses will give you the knowledge and critical analysis skills necessary to successfully pass the comprehensive examinations. Take them seriously and put in the hours you will need to do the best job that you can.
  • We rarely offer more than one graduate course during the summer. Don't expect to make up units or time during the summer, except perhaps to work on your thesis or an independent study.