Evaluating Graduate Student Diversity in Forensic Anthropology

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Elizabeth Erhart
Kate Spradley


In this paper we explore why graduate programs with a focus in forensic anthropology typically lack racial and ethnic diversity. Specifically, we ask how application and enrollment data from our MA anthropology program at Texas State University, a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), compare to census data and national data sets. We further compare diversity in 2020 applications in the Texas State MA anthropology program to the programs at California State University, Chico, which is also an HSI, and at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, which has multiple forensic anthropology faculty and a highly regarded forensic anthropology research center but is not an HSI. Our program had a greater percentage of White students and fewer underrepresented minority (URM) students compared to U.S. population data. However, compared to a nationwide 2007–2008 survey of anthropology MA programs, our program had a higher percentage of enrolled URM students, especially Hispanic students, and fewer White students. Our program also reached parity with 2017 data on nationally awarded anthropology MA degrees. In terms of race and ethnicity in 2020 application data, the HSIs (Texas State University and California State University, Chico), were similar to each other. Finally, we found that the majority of students who applied to and enrolled in our program wanted to study forensic anthropology, including the majority of URM students. We suggest that many factors contribute to graduate student diversity, including state demographics and university strategic plans that strive for a welcoming campus environment. Our study serves as a starting point to assess general trends in graduate student diversity within forensic anthropology programs.

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