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ACE Courses and Anthropological Research

Joe details their first experience with research through community-based learning at Carleton.

Joe details their first experience with research through community-based learning at Carleton.


Research at Carleton and ACE Courses

As a Carleton student, research opportunities are at your fingertips. Research is possible across disciplines and in and outside of the classroom. As a student interested in the humanities, I was excited by the numerous research opportunities in fields I did not typically associate with college research. These opportunities include one-on-one research with professors, internships and externships, and ACE courses. 

Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) courses allow students to complete a research project as part of a regular class. Done in partnership with the Center for Civic and Community Engagement (CCCE), ACE courses emphasize community-based learning as part of the education process. In these classes, you collaborate with a community partner to complete a research project based on the concepts you learn in class. The professor will guide you through every step of the research process, and you will have an ACE Teaching Assistant as an additional resource. 

A room of student presenting their research posters in the Weitz commons
A picture of the student research symposium

My ACE Experience

I took Anthropology of Health and Illness, my first ACE course, in the fall term of my sophomore year. The class combined anthropological methods with public health to examine diverse cultural conceptions of illness, medicine, and treatment. A major focus of the course was how social structures impact the health of individuals, as well as the potential conflict when differing cultural ideas of health interact. To analyze these topics, we read ethnographies about illness in disparate cultures and learned about anthropological concepts such as the socio-ecological model and social determinants of health. 

For the research portion of this class, I worked with four students and a non-profit free clinic called HealthFinders Collaborative. We studied how the switch to telehealth during the pandemic affected patient engagement and satisfaction with HealthFinders’ services. As a group, we explored these questions by creating a survey and conducting interviews with patients over the phone.

We also individually studied specific research topics for our final projects. My topic was “Trust and Telehealth: Navigating the Patient-Provider Relationship through Virtual Healthcare.” I conducted an anthropological literature review on definitions of trust, trust in the medical setting, and structural factors affecting trust. My group and I worked on our project over the ten-week term, working closely with HealthFinders staff and patients to explore these questions. 

A professor in front of a blackboard, speaking to a group of seated students

Final Results and Takeaways

For the final product of this ACE course, I completed a 60-minute group presentation to the HealthFinders staff and my classmates, with 12 minutes dedicated to my individual research questions and 5 minutes for Q&A. I also wrote a fifteen-page research paper describing existing literature along with my findings on telehealth’s impact on patient-provider trust. 

Anthropology of Health and Illness gave me a new passion for public health and inspired me to possibly pursue the field as a future career. As I take more classes, I become more curious about combining public health with sociology/anthropology and computer science, all fields which I discovered at Carleton. This ACE class was a wonderful introduction to anthropological research, and I valued the opportunity to do community-based learning and work closely with an organization in Northfield. This was my first time conducting social science research, and I look forward to doing more research in the future. 


Joe is a rising junior at Carleton from Chicago, IL. They plan on majoring in either Sociology/Anthropology or Computer Science, and enjoys studying public healthSpanish, and gender and sexuality. Outside of class, Joe is an RA on campus, and you can find them singing in Exit 69 A Cappella, doing makeup in their room, or drinking excessive amounts of coffee in Sayles. Meet the other Bloggers!