I plan to major in cultural anthropology. How strong is Smith as far as anthropology? Are there any research opportunities?
What areas of cultural anthropology is Smith strongest in and who are the best professors?
Also, I was wondering which languages Smith is strong in.
I'll answer the second bit. While Smith per say isn't strong in any of the languages i'm going to talk about, there is the five college mentored language program(I'm currently in it) which offers languages like Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, Swahili, Indonesian, Pashto, Persian and Yoruba. It's quite possibly the most ideal way to learn a language in the US. If you take the 4 credit class, you're with a native speaker in an either one on one(mines one-on one) or at most one teacher for 3 students setting for 2 hours of conversation a week. You also have 1 hour of one-on-one tutorial to ask questions.
IT's absolutely AMAZING
I'll just add that I think languages is one of those things where having an additional 4 colleges nearby is REALLY beneficial. Smith offers most of the languages you'd expect an LAC to offer, and many of them are intensive at the intro and/or intermediate level, meet daily, and are generally very intense and helpful. And you can, as r6l pointed out, take a whole bunch of other languages at one of the other colleges or through a 5-college program.
Language departments I'd say are more intensive (whether you think that's good or not), based mostly on hearsay from friends taking various classes, are French, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. I've also heard good things about Italian, and I really like the Russian department personally.
I personally love the Anthro department here - they are so warm, approachable and helpful. Intro classes are capped at 30, so you really get into discussions and get to know the professor. I loved my intro class and it made me want to be an Anthro major (mind you, I started off thinking I would be a Biochem major!). The program is strongest in cultural anthro rather than physical anthro, but between the Five Colleges the Anthropology program really is incredible.
As for what areas of cultural anthropology are the strongest, I really can't answer that, but if you go to the department page you can get a sense of what the professors specialize in in their research. If you take Intro to Anthro here, I would recommend looking up the professors (there are usually four or so sections) and go with the one who matches up with your interests the most because they'll inject a lot of their research into Anthro classes. My favourite professors so far have been Professor Joralemon (medical anthropologist, did a ton of research in Peru and now studies organ donations, actually wrote the textbook on exploring Medical Anthro), Professor Gottschang (also a medical anthropologist, specializes in East Asia and especially China- I kind of want to be her when I grow up), Professor Melly (socio-cultural, I think she specializes in Africa) and Professor Klarich (archeology, specializes in South America). I haven't had the chance to take classes with many of the professors, but from major events and talks they've given, they are incredible.
As for research, professors are so approachable about things like Special Studies - you can approach a professor with an idea of what you want to research and depending on the length of the product, it would count for 2 or 4 credits in the semester. They're committed to making what you are interested in possible, and again, they are SO helpful, so never hesitate to talk to them. You could even email a couple of professors now, or if you plan on visiting/doing an overnight you could sit in on a class or stop by their offices to talk to them. I hope this helps somewhat!
I think in the Romance languages, Smith is very strong. It's helped along by the fact that those languages were the traditional focuses of not just elite colleges but also prep school educations in the past, so they've had the benefit of being strong from the beginning of Smith. As for languages that have come into focus more recently, or languages outside of the Romance fold, I think it can depend a lot on the department. Some departments have strong intro and intermediate offerings, but not many offerings for advanced study, some are more balanced. But having the five college language center right at UMASS is a major boon, because it makes a lot of things available (like Swahili) that just normally could not be at a school Smith's size.
Yo, Russian Literature. I was looking at things across the site, and it seems like even though there isn't a set Russian study abroad program, the department makes a lot of different study in Russia programs (like the Middlebury schools) known, and according to one of the pages on financial aid concerning going abroad, just in recent years (...as recent as the site was last updated...) someone got a (n up to $2000) scholarship to study in Russia. Which I think is pretty boss.
There seem to be a lot of opportunities available for intense language study if you want to take advantage. Also I read a few books by some of the profs that teach Russian Lit at Smith and they're honestly incredibly insightful. I'm sure the faculty is knowledgeable. And I'd be surprised if the professors teaching other culture stuff (so eloquent) weren't around that same plane/level/area.
Oh, and I was looking at information about Fulbrights and within some amount of years there have been a fair amount of people from Smith who got to Russia and other Slavic countries on Fulbrights. I don't know if that's something you're interested in, seems like an amazing opportunity for research to me, but yeah that's... there.
AND UMass has Polish courses. And Holyoke has Russian Lit courses that seem to be more focused on contemporary Russian lit-- judging by past courses Smith's tends to focus on traditional/canon. So it's kind of the best of both worlds. (Did you guys know Hannah Montana is as old as other class of 2015 kids? What the what.)
I didn't look up much information on other languages, but if there are that many opportunities for learning frigging Russian (I feel like it's a random language compared to say French or Spanish) then I can't even imagine how much is available for the Romance languages. Sorry this is horribly organized-- haven't slept in a few days.