The UAF Department of Anthropology was founded in 1935 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alaska. The first chair was Froehlich Rainey (1935-1942) and other notable chairs included Ivar Skarland (1942-1948, 1949-1965), J. Louis Giddings, Jr. (1948-1949) and Erna Gunther (1966-1970). Other early professors included Helge Larsen, James VanStone, Frederick Hadleigh West, Ernest Burch, Jr., Hans-Georg Bandi, Edward Hosley, William Loyens, Arthur Hippler, W. Roger Powers, G. Richard Scott, Anne Shinkwin, Richard Jordan, and John Cook.

The first undergraduate degrees in Anthropology were given in 1959, the first MA degrees in 1968 and the first PhD degrees in 1988. Since its inception, the Department of Anthropology at UAF has graduated 196 MA students and 33 PhD students.
 
We are the only anthropology program in the United States that maintains a holistic approach to circumpolar studies, providing instruction and research in all aspects of anthropology. UAF Anthropology offers programs leading to a BA, BS, MA, and PhD. We publish an internationally recognized, refereed journal, the Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska. UAF was recently home to the secretariat of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association.

The Department of Anthropology is a center for teaching and research in anthropology with general focus on circumpolar regions as well as research projects and instruction covering a variety of world areas (see Research). Departmental research and teaching covers all sub-fields of the discipline: archaeological, biological, social/cultural and linguistic anthropology. The undergraduate program aims at giving students a solid introduction to the discipline with the possibility to concentrate in sub-fields. The graduate program maintains an emphasis on empirical and applied studies in various parts of the world.
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