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Masters in Critical GIS and Public Anthropology

Eastern's MA in Critical GIS and Public Anthropology prepares students for critical and applied research and analysis in a range of fields including health care, education, environmental protection, and cultural resource management. In this program, students engage in a variety of critical social, cultural, geographic, economic and regulatory issues, particularly as it affects community organizations, non-profit/non-governmental institutions, and government.

The program is a two-year course of study. Students work together in peer groups to enhance collaboration and learning as well as take courses designed to provide them with practical training in their area of concentration.

Students do coursework in a shared core and in one of three focus areas:


The Critical GIS track is a hands-on approach that intertwines geographic information systems (GIS) with elements of critical social theory. Through theoretical and applied work, this degree track highlights the relationship between GIS and society, power, and politics. It mobilizes GIS in ways that facilitate greater (and more equitable) access to geographic data and technologies in the name of social and environmental justice.

Learn how to use GIS technology and about the social, political, and economic forces within which this field is situated. Critical GIS students ground their exposure to critical social theory in coursework including GIS concepts, data structures, analytic techniques, and programming as well as research methods and design, research ethics, and grant writing.


This degree track prepares CRM students for a career as a professional in the field: state and federal government and in the private sector. Coursework provides knowledge of the wide range of CRM activities, including laws, regulations, and practice.

We expect students to experience fieldwork with our faculty, with the Archaeological and Historical Services (AHS) component of our department, or by collaborating with agencies in our area. This valuable experience strengthens students' professional skills. Field experience is an important component of the program, with laboratory analysis during the academic school year.


In the public anthropology track, students use anthropological tools to study social and political policy and practice within our own society. Graduate students in our program do anthropological work with and in response to the needs of community partners with the goal of taking positions as masters-level professionals in local organizations and agencies.

Learn how to use GIS technology and about the social, political, and economic forces within which this field exists. Anthropological and spatial methods allow a rich understanding of how communities experience problems and creative, collaborative problem-solving. Students have gone on to work with nonprofits in the Spokane community as well as within higher education.

 The program culminates with an independent research project that covers most of the second year; this can be a thesis or a more applied research product.

We encourage students with a variety of backgrounds to apply; students with varying amounts of experience in GIS and anthropology thrive in this program.

Our students have gone on to work for government agencies, CRM firms, and the non-profit community in the Spokane area. While most of our students go on to work in the Spokane region and Pacific Northwest, our program prepares our students for success regionally, nationally and internationally in careers in GIS and anthropology.


This program is a collaboration between the anthropology and geography departments:




For more information, contact the program director:

Dr. Julia Smith,, 509-359-7958



What will I study?

In this program, students combine skills in Geographic Information Systems, ethnographic, and/or archaeological techniques to investigate social problems from a critical perspective. Most of our student's projects focus on the Pacific Northwest, especially on the Spokane metro area.

First Year

Students build the tools to develop a research project in their area of specialization. At the end of the first year, students present their research project to the faculty.

All students are provided with a solid foundation in GIS and critical theoretical perspectives through their first year courses as well as work in their focus (Critical GIS, Cultural Resource Management, or Public Anthropology), totalling 35 credits.

By the end of the first quarter, students will have selected one of three tracks: Critical GIS, Cultural Resource Management, or Public Anthropology. Each track requires additional coursework (at least 15 credits) beyond the core, to be determined with the student's primary faculty supervisor.

Second Year

Through the second year, as students do more independent work they will be mentored by faculty as they develop a thesis or applied project. With both thesis or project-based masters, an oral defense is required for graduation. The project will be conducted with the written results of the research presented in the form of a thesis, site report or policy paper.

Learning Outcomes

Students pursuing this degree willbe able to: 

  • Analyze and solve problems through participatory and applied research
  • Demonstrate proficient knowledge of critical social theory and engaged community practice in geographic information systems, cultural resource management and/or public anthropology
  • Design and conduct applied public research that is disseminated to appropriate stakeholder communities
  • Forge effective relationships with community partners in order to address social, cultural, geographic, economic and regulatory issues
  • Synthesize the relationships between critical social theories and anthropological and geographic methods through engaged community practice
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