Undergraduate Student Led Research: An Applied Anthropology Course as a Community-Based Research Firm

  • Jason Miller Washburn University


Increasingly, undergraduate students desire hands-on learning experiences to prepare them for life after graduation. Research experience at the undergraduate level unlocks a key skill set students need and desire in terms of its anthropological value and also the value of transferable, critical thinking skills. This article explores the creation and continued development of my Applied Anthropology course which relies heavily on community-engaged research and community-engaged pedagogy. The course is structured as if participants are an independent, community-based research “firm” that has been contracted by a local community agency to undertake research on their behalf. Students manage every aspect of the project including developing data collection tools, seeking Institutional Review Board ethics approval, collecting and analyzing data, and ultimately preparing a technical report, policy recommendations, and presentation for the client. In addition, I will discuss the benefits to both students and community partners (including practical research experience and, in some cases, already implemented policy suggestions) as well as some of the challenges to this approach including time, capacity, and commitment. I conclude by reflecting on my role as mentor during this process and provide suggestions for those who would like to create a similar research experience for their own students.