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Design Ethnography major Luke Martello and Anthropology chair John Ziker, for Focus Magazine. John Kelly photo

Boise native Luke Martello loves the insight anthropology offers him into human behavior. That made choosing anthropology as his major an easy choice.

“People and their cultures continually amaze me,” Luke Martello said. In his junior year at Boise State, he is helping to ensure his future job is in anthropology, too, by completing a design ethnography certificate, a relatively new, 12-credit online option at the university. The certificate introduces students to basic ethnographic skills, while preparing them to pursue advanced education or entry-level opportunities in business anthropology.

“My original goal was to become a cultural anthropologist. I had an image that my job would be observing indigenous people in the Amazon or paddling across the Congo River. However, ethnography can be done anywhere,” he said.

“Design ethnographers work in places people don’t normally expect an anthropologist to work, and that excites me. Design ethnography can be used to solve problems in a city park, office space or somewhere foreign.”

John Ziker, chair of the Department of Anthropology, agrees, noting that in both the U.S. and Europe college graduates with ethnography skills are helping private and public sector entities design new services, products, organizations and strategies. Organizations often hire liberal arts graduates because of their creativity, writing skills and critical thinking. The design ethnography certificate adds to these skills with an experiential program in qualitative research methods.

“People with this kind of training are ending up in companies such as Google, Ebay and Amazon, as well as smaller consulting companies and public entities.”

– John Ziker

For one of his classes, Martello observed a local park to find out where people gather at different parts of the day. The data he collected could be used by the city to optimize the space. He also recently studied abroad in Italy.

“I saw so many unique things that Italians do compared to Americans. By living there, I started to notice more subtle behaviors of Italians. Ethnographers do this, too, by researching the culture from the point of an insider.”

Luke Martello spent a semester in Italy as part of his anthropology studies.
The certificate also has a lot to offer people already in the workforce.

Michelle Headrick of Boise has worked in information technology for 18 years and currently is a business analyst and product owner for a leading distributor of animal health products. She will complete her bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies in May 2018 and has added a design ethnography certificate.

“This program perfectly dovetails in with UX (user experience) principles that I am working to implement for my employer. I would like to move the focus of my career from data to human-computer interaction.” 

– Michelle Headrick

“The skills learned as part of the design ethnography certificate are helping me now. I’m applying the principles learned throughout the program to a project I am working on, revamping my company’s customer relationship management application. My business partner and I are centering future development of that application around what our users need to do their jobs, and are able to prioritize development based on the features that will have the biggest impact for our salespeople,” she said.

A Harvard Credential with Boise State Credit (And Cost)

Megan Lacy, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, is studying in Boise State’s master’s program in athletic leadership.
She picked up a Credential of Readiness from Harvard’s Business School through HBX, a program that allows students to earn Boise State credit while pursuing the online Harvard credential. She believes developing a basic fluency in analytics, economics and financial accounting will put her a step ahead in her future management career.