Applied Career Update

Sat, 11 Jun 1994 12:34:00 PDT

Dear Friends at Anthro-L,
Well, wouldn't you know it! Here I drop ANTHRO-L when I'm laid off in
January because I have to concentrate on getting my next job(s), and the
ANTHRO-L list gets around to one of my favorite topics -- applied anthro.
Sorry to not have been there for this one, but based on the
forwarding to ANTHAP of recent messages, Noel Chrisman, Eve Pinsker,
David Beer, and Carol J.P. Colfer have been feeding you good info.

My saga since being laid off from an administrative position at the CSU
headquarters has looked like this. First I did two weeks grunt work
compiling internal data on spreadsheets for Cal State, Hayward
followed by a week of turning it into graphs. That is known as "not
anthropology," but some of us have to do some of that some of the time,
anyway, and it was a lot more remunerative than unemployment insurance.
I so impressed the Cal State, Hayward, Director of Institutional Research
that she hired me for a month and a week to do a Service Area Profile for that
university. Now THAT was more like it. For those who don't know, a Service
Area Profile looks at the entire area which an institution (in this case a
University) serves, figures out what changes are happening, and what the
future is likely to bring. It requires being able to look for patterns in
data, how different trends fit together, how they relate to the organization,
and synthesize all that (i.e., take a holistic view and write up results) --
all things which anthropologists get adept at doing (even if it doesn't
involve ethnographic methodology). Two Vice Presidents at this U are just
waiting for the IR Director to put final cosmetic touches on this report and
release it (which should happen by June 15). This work may feed into a
strategic planning process, which I've also been involved in at other
organizations. The ability of anthropologists to figure out how "everything
is related to everything" is valuable and useful for this kind of effort.

Now I'm at San Jose State University analyzing "student success" for a
joint staff/faculty group, which had lots of ideas, but no time to implement,
and (in the manner of academic committees) difficulty in focusing. In
addition to doing a lot of computer work and data slinging, my major
contribution (based on a meeting last Tuesday) has been ability to analyze,
synthesize, and draw both conclusions and speculations from the quantitative
data. I talked about myths, stereotypes, assumptions, logical models, and
brought people back to considering the structures of the institution and how
it would influence student success, as well as the clear changes in ethnic
mix and gender mix in the student body. Also put forth idea of "through
whose eyes are you really looking at student success" -- the students (who
doesn't see a "stop out" or going to another U as a "failure" necessarily),
the University (for whom a "stop out" is a problem and a student going to
another U is a "failure" for the U he/she left), or the funding agencies
(in this case, state legislature, for whom too many "stop outs" lengthen
time to degree -- with a "four year degree" having achieved mythical status
and importance, even though it was one of those minimum "ideal" norms
honored in the breach even in the 1960s -- although faculty still talk about
a 120 semester unit degree as a "four year degree").
I concluded, by the way, that university students were behaving
very rationally, given the structural incentives/disincentives and their
different life cycle circumstances (since most were NOT entering as first-time
freshmen straight out of high school). Okay, so being able to take a step
back, be a "participant observer" or "professional stranger" and get a fresh
look at the social/cultural/structural/actual behavior interactions of an
organization is another thing that applied anthropologists can do well.

And being able to do that kind of thing is also why anthropologists are often
good at evaluations and "social impact assessment" work.

Until June 24 I am reachable at MAACKSC@SJSUVM1.BITNET. On June 11, 12,
17, 18, and after June 24 I am reachable at
should anyone want to talk with me. Sorry, I'm not going back on ANTHRO-L
just yet, so won't see your messages to the whole list unless someone
forwards them to me.

Cheers to all those who remember me when I was on ANTHRO-L. And a special
hello to Eve Pinsker, who might be interested in the National Research
Institute, Papua, New Guinea position....

Stephen C. Maack (Steve)
Ph.D. in Anthro (Columbia U.) and proud of it (I tell EVERYONE), applied
urban anthropologist, research analyst, planner, database manager, poverty
issues researcher, evaluator, U.S. expert and "wannabe" an Africanist again
(anyone need an African urbanist? -- have brains and skills, will travel --
available by fall since my next special project should happen in July/August)