Frequently Asked Questions Regarding
the Community Action Website Project

1. How does the project work?

2. Does the project really help students without increasing my work load?

3. As I understand it, I can select from one of three periods when my class will participate, with other classes across the United States and Canada, in the project. When are these three time periods?

4. What schools have participated in the project to date and what do some of the teachers who have participated say about it?

5. If I have a large class, can the TAs basically run the project with limited supervision from myself? What is the value of the project for the TAs?

6. You refer to the forthcoming WHY A PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY? What is the book about and why is it being used?

7. How do I learn more about Public Anthropology's Community Action Website project?

1. How does the project work?

Using the internet to draw students at various universities together into an intellectual community, the Community Action Website encourages students to consider ethical issues that lie at the interface of anthropology and the contemporary world. Participating in the Community Action Website project helps students improve both their critical thinking and writing skills. By actively addressing important ethical concerns, it provides students with a sense of engagement relating to the broader world as well as an understanding of how students from other universities, with different life-experiences, view the issue being addressed. Because students get involved in the project, it frequently leads to exciting class discussions. By connecting with students' own experiences, the Community Action Website makes anthropology come alive.

(1) Each semester (quarter or term) teachers select, from three options, a two and a half week time-period (termed an Action Period) for participating in the Community Action Website. The project is done outside class on a student's own time. During the two and a half week period of the project, students spend a total of approximately two to three hours on it.

(2) Students register for the project on-line at In registering, a student pays a ten dollar registration fee which allows the student to participate in the project, use the project's software, and receive a free on-line copy of WHY A PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY? (This spring, the book will be selling on-line for $9.95 -- so students have the advantage of obtaining the book plus participate in the project for the same price as the book itself.) This book constitutes the project's main reading and is used as a lens for exploring ethical issues within the discipline. Students focus mostly on the 43 page first chapter which places the ethical topic they will be addressing within a broader context. The reading is generally done the week prior to the website project and takes roughly an hour. No books need be ordered from the bookstore. Students can read the book on-line or print it out.

(3) Students write professional-style Op-Ed pieces that are then, if they desire, published on the web. Students then email various local, state, and/or national legislators, newspapers, relations or simply noteworthy individuals with a link to the published Op-Ed. The goal is to give students the experience of writing for a larger audience, beyond the classroom, beyond their school, in a way that attracts attention and serious consideration. It allows them to not only understand how democracy works through discussions in the public sphere but effectively participate in the process.

(4) The website provides students, TAs and teachers with the needed background information to facilitate this Op-Ed writing process.

(5) After completing their own Op-Eds, students anonymously evaluate four Op-Ed pieces by other students without knowing who wrote them or which schools they are from. During this peer review process, students are drawn into reflecting not only on the perspectives presented in other students' Op-Eds but on how they, themselves, performed in respect to the grading criteria. At the end of the evaluation process, students receive feedback on how other students viewed their Op-Eds.

(6) The Op-Ed pieces with the highest grades are declared model pieces. The students who wrote these Op-Eds receive iTunes gift certificates. Students who are ranked in the top 5% of the class get personalized certificates of recognition from the Center for a Public Anthropology.

Note: The project works best when it is a stipulated class assignment and constitutes perhaps 10% of the final grade. When students do the project on an optional basis, many do not complete it -- thereby affecting the peer review process of other students. Making the project an optional assignment is only allowed in exceptional circumstances with formal permission from the project's webmaster.

2. Does the project really help students without increasing my work load?

The focus of the project is on students engaging directly with critical anthropological issues and thinking through, for themselves, where they stand on them. A key part of the process involves students reading other students' Op-Ed pieces and seeing how these students address the same issue. The Op-Eds are graded through a peer review process involving students reading four Op-Eds and ranking them on the degree to which they meet five writing criteria. As with Calibrated Peer Review -- an evaluation system used by over 140,000 students -- neither teachers nor TAs are required to grade the Op-Eds.

Students who are upset with their grades have the option of requesting their teachers re-grade their letters. But to take advantage of this option, students must write a 100 word explanation of why they feel their letters deserve a different grade. Less than 2% of a class every choose this option.

The web pages are designed so TAs, especially in large classes, are able to oversee the project with limited guidance from the teacher. Because students are instructed on what to do when through emails, little direct supervision is required. All technical problems are handled by the webmaster.

3. As I understand it, I can select from one of three periods when my class will participate, with other classes across the United States and Canada, in the project. When are these three time periods?

Each of the three periods is termed an Action Period -- because, it is when the "action" takes place. For FALL 2010, the Action Periods are: (1) SEPTEMBER 20 - OCTOBER 6, (2) OCTOBER 11 - OCTOBER 27, and (3) NOVEMBER 1 - NOVEMBER 17.

4. What schools have participated in the project to date and what do some of the teachers who have participated say about it?

Schools That Have Recently Used the Community Action Website
in Their Introductory Courses

Agnes Scott College
Bloomsburg University
Brigham Young University
California State University, Northridge
Central Florida Community College
Eastern Washington University
Florida International University
Florida State University
George Mason University
Hamline University
Hawaii Pacific University
Hunter College
Indiana University
Kent State University
Los Angeles Pierce Community College
Macalester College
Montana State Univeristy
Plattsburgh State College
Rutgers University, Newark
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Southern Methodist University
Sul Ross State University
Syracuse University
University of Albany (SUNY)
University of Binghamton (SUNY)
University of British Columbia, Okanagan
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Barbara

University of Cincinnati
University of Delaware
University of Florida
University of Georgia

University of Idaho
University of Illinois, Chicago
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
University of Iowa
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Missouri
University of Montana
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
University of Nevada, Reno
University of New Hampshire

University of New Mexico
University of North Carolina, Charlotte
University of North Texas
University of Notre Dame
University of Oklahoma
University of Saskatchewan
University of South Carolina
University of South Florida
University of Toronto, Mississauga
University of Vermont
University of Windsor
University of Wisconsin, Madison
University of Wisconsin, Stout
University of Victoria
Utah State University
Utica College
Vassar College
Washington State University
Western Washington University
Wichita State University
York College (CUNY)
York University

A Sample of Quotes from Teachers
Who Have Participated in the Project

The students in my introductory cultural anthropology course became far more engaged with issues of ethics and global citizenship. It helped them think more broadly about the role of the social sciences in analyzing cultural and ethical conflicts occurring in the world today.
-- Julie Skurski, University of Michigan

The project challenges students to think beyond the traditional confines of a large introductory class and to critically examine ethical issues relating to the practice of anthropology and global citizenship. Many found it to be a deeply empowering experience.
-- Yin Lam, University of Victoria

For a large introductory course (with an enrollment in the hundreds), it is difficult to find projects that provoke students to actively engage with the fundamental ideas and ideals of anthropology. The Community Action Website did that for my classes this year. The project encouraged students to recognize the anthropological perspective as a morally-positive way of thinking and acting in the world. My students appreciated the opportunity to present their opinions on important ethical issues. They came to see anthropology as focused on subjects and ideas of relevance to their lives.
-- J. Dwight Hines, University of California-Santa Barbara

My freshman and sophomore students, mostly pioneer-college-goers, have really benefitted from participating in the Public Anthropology Website Project. The Project encouraged and empowered them to apply new-found critical reasoning and writing skills to real world problems, both globally and in their home communities.
-- Christina von Mayrhauser, California State University, Northridge

The Community Action Website Project allowed my students to exchan ge ideas with students from across North America on ethical issues and research relationships. Students appreciated the opportunity to see how peers craft their own informed perspectives. Students came to appreciate the power of anthropology to "make a difference" in today's world.
-- Karl Schmid, York University

Public Anthropology’s Community Action Website engaged my students with the potential of anthropology as an activist discipline. They loved it.
-- Carolyn Nordstrom, University of Notre Dame

5. If I have a large class, can the TAs basically run the project with limited supervision from myself? What is the value of the Project for TAs?

In large classes, TAs usually supervise the project. The value for TA's assisting with the project is that (a) they help foster an online intellectual student community that critically considers ethical issues central to the discipline and (b) they gain the opportunity to use a special "academic facebook" section of the Public Anthropology website that allows them to post papers, academic credentials, and intellectual reflections as well as draw professional attention to them via email lists. TA's who assist with the Project are able to use the "academic facebook" for two years. TAs who assist with the Project two or more times are able to use the "academic facebook" for up to five years.

TAs do not have major, time-consuming responsibilities. Their main responsibilities are (a) discussing the issue, when appropriate, with students, (b) encouraging students to read the directions provided and follow the specified deadlines stipulated in emails that students receive from the webmaster, and (c) requesting a student email the webmaster if the student encounters a technical problem.

6. You refer to WHY A PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY? What is the book about and why is it being used?

WHY A PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY? emphasizes the power of anthropology to change the world and, in doing so, acts as a foundation for Public Anthropology’s Community Action Website. In analyzing anthropology – as a discipline, as a social structure, and as a body of knowledge – the book emphasizes anthropology needs to grow beyond its present dynamics and styles. The book offers a strategy for moving anthropology from the treadmill of publications that few read to playing a major role in addressing public problems. It offers a means for revitalizing the discipline and realizing anthropology’s vision for improving the human condition through the understanding of human differences.

Chapter 1: Cultural Anthropology's Challenge

Chapter 2: The Power of Cultural Anthropology to Address the World's Problems

Chapter 3: How Has Cultural Anthropology Progressed as a Field?

Chapter 4: Is a Public Anthropology Possible?

7. How do I learn more about the Public Anthropology's Community Action Website project?

If you would like to have your introductory class participate in Public Anthropology's Community Action Website or if you have questions regarding the project, please email the webmaster at: To avoid last minute rushes (for you as well as the webmaster), it is best to email the webmaster as soon as you have questions or decide to participate.