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Field Schools

Learning in a classroom is important, but getting into the field and seeing that knowledge in action is just as vital for students in Saint Louis University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

The department hosts three field schools where you can perform fieldwork: the Cahokia Mounds Archaeology Field School, the Urban Ethnography Field School, and the Primate Behavior Field School in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Archaeology Lab

Students can extend their experience at the Cahokia Mounds Archaeology Field School with a supplementary course in the archaeology lab. 

Cahokia Mounds Archaeology Field School

Each summer, SLU conducts a four-week archaeological field school at the prehistoric chiefdom of Cahokia under the direction of Mary Vermilion, Ph.D. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Collinsville, Illinois. The site is integral to our understanding of sociopolitical complexity and how complex social systems come to power and decline.

Field school students receive training in various aspects of archaeological fieldwork, including site survey and mapping, excavation and recording techniques, artifact identification, analysis, processing and inventory. The number of students admitted is limited to ensure individual instruction and hands-on experience. This course is certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists.

This field school is four-credit-hour course (ANTH 4710) and open to SLU undergraduate students as well as visiting students from other institutions. No previous field experience is necessary. The field school meets Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. You must provide your own food and transportation to and from the site.

Following the field school, SLU offers a two-week, two-credit-hour archaeological lab analysis course (ANTH 4720) that emphasizes the scientific methods and procedures used by archaeologists to investigate, reconstruct, interpret, preserve and learn from artifacts, features and ecofacts. Students learn to process, inventory, analyze and interpret the archaeological record within both regional and site contexts.

This course meets Monday through Friday, 8 a.m to 3 p.m. in the archaeology lab in Morrissey Hall.

You can enroll for either or both courses.

For more information, contact Mary Vermilion, Ph.D., at

Primate Behavior Field School in Nicaragua and Costa Rica

During select summers, Katherine MacKinnon, Ph.D., teaches a field school on primate behavior in either Ometepe, Nicaragua or La Suerte, Costa Rica. When the course is taught at the Nicaragua site, the focus is on social behavior and ecology of the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata). When it is taught in Costa Rica, both howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) are studied.

This course is designed to provide students with a sound foundation in primatological concepts and field techniques, as applied in a tropical setting. The material covered is equivalent to an upper-level university course in primate behavioral ecology. The course is divided into five distinct categories: formal classroom lectures, informal field lectures, readings and critiques, group projects and individual research projects. In addition to the course mechanics, you will have the opportunity to interact with the local people and gain insight into the cultural histories of this Central American region.

Form more information, please contact:
Katherine C. MacKinnon, Ph.D.
Morrissey Hall, Room 1927

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Urban Ethnography Field School

SLU’s Urban Ethnography Field School connects your classroom experience to an internship in which you can critically observe the community dynamics of the city of St. Louis.

Directed by Bruce O'Neill, Ph.D., the urban ethnography field school trains students in ethnographic research methods including instruction on the art of conducting participant-observation, jotting field notes, recording formal and semi-formal interviews, taking field photography, and assembling qualitative data into an organized archive. Students then develop and refine their ethnographic skills while completing five hours of fieldwork per week at a pre-arranged internship with a community based organization. As the field school advances, the seminar experience shifts from instruction in the ethnographic method to discussing different approaches to analyzing the collected data.

This is a five-week, three credit hour course (ANTH 4930). In the initial week, the field school meets in the seminar room Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. For the remainder of the field school, students meet for seminar Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Students schedule their five weekly fieldwork hours at a mutually agreed time with their assigned internship.

The Urban Ethnography Field School is open to students enrolled at Saint Louis University. The field school also welcomes students from Washington University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis through the Inter-University Exchange Program, as well as other visiting students to Saint Louis University. Space in the Urban Ethnography Field School is limited to ensure individual instruction. No previous ethnographic research experience is necessary to enroll.

For more information, contact Bruce O'Neill, Ph.D., at

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