California State University, Long Beach
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Anthropology Dept. Receives Gift from Emeritus Faculty

Published: January 15, 2009

CSULB’s Anthropology Department received a gift from emeritus faculty member Robert Harman to establish an endowment enabling the department to have a distinguished applied anthropologist serve in residence every spring semester to teach students in the master’s level Applied Anthropology Program, conduct relevant research and liaison with the campus and Long Beach communities.

The Robert C. Harman Visiting Scholar in Applied Anthropology fund, to be augmented in the coming years, will bring to the campus selected applied anthropologists with impressive credentials.

“Applied anthropology is the fastest-growing area of anthropology,” said Harman, who joined CSULB in 1969 and retired in 2005. “I have a passion for applied anthropology. I was active in the field from 1990 to my retirement, and I have no doubts that it is the field of anthropology with the most potential for training anthropology majors to find good jobs when they graduate from our master’s level program.”

The visiting scholar program should further stimulate interest in applied anthropology achievements within the department and on the campus. It may further enhance the department’s prestige, adding to its national reputation and facilitating the ongoing recruitment of excellent applied anthropology students, said Harman. “Many, myself included, believe wholeheartedly that the future success of the profession lies primarily within the practical, applied area. And I am pleased to be able to leave a contribution to applied anthropology and CSULB at the same time.”

Harman received his bachelor’s in anthropology from UC Santa Barbara and both his master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, the latter in 1969.

Harman taught for 36 years at CSULB, where he played a role in developing the applied anthropology master’s program. He developed and taught numerous courses that included Practicing Anthropology and Applied Anthropology. Harman frequently chaired the Applied Anthropology Faculty Committee. He is a member of the Society for Applied Anthropology and has served on boards and committees for that association as well as the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology and the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology.

Harman is delighted with the growth of the department and the development of the applied program. “Today, there are four active applied anthropology faculty members and the number of applied anthropology majors at the master’s level is growing rapidly.”

He points with pride to the program’s quality of instruction. “When our majors complete their degrees, many go right to work as applied anthropologists,” he said. “There continues to be a pioneering spirit among applied anthropologists, here and nationwide, because this specialization is still relatively new and exciting.”

Harman traces his initial interest in charitable giving to a letter to the editor he read some years ago in the Anthropology Newsletter. “The author of that letter wanted to give back to the profession and indicated he was leaving his estate to the American Anthropological Association,” Harman recalled. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘Wow! That’s what I want to do.’”

Although retired from CSULB, Harman continues to conduct research. His special areas of interest include aging, refugees and intercultural communication. Harman continues his work as a scholar and supporter with a commitment the Mayan immigrant community in Los Angeles. “In the area of research I’m interested in finding out about their lives, especially within the older population,” he explained. “Their daily lives here are so different than they were in the rural villages of Guatemala. Many had never seen a paved street, a television screen, an airplane or multi-storied buildings until they fled to this country. Older adults, and many younger ones, still place a high value on work, family, respect and tradition.”

Harman continues to publish including a recent contribution, “From Theoretical to Applied Anthropology,” in the volume The Tao of Anthropology.

Harman is pleased with his decision to give to the university. “It’s something more retired faculty members might consider,” he said. And as for spending 36 years at CSULB, he feels that was a good choice, too. “It is an outstanding university with first-rate faculty, and anthropology is an excellent department.”