The Anthropology Program was established shortly after USF opened in 1960, offering classes across the subfields, and becoming a department in 1967, with archaeologist Roger T. Grange as Chair.

The department grew rapidly, collecting seven new full-time faculty members, including Gilbert Kushner, elected Chair in 1971. Three years later, Kushner and fellow faculty, including Michael V. Angrosino, Paul Edson, Edgar G. Frazier, Roger T. Grange, Evelyn Kessler, J. Jerome Smith, Patricia Waterman, Curtis W. Wienker, and J. Raymond Williams, established the M.A. graduate program in Applied Anthropology, which was the first such program in the U.S. An M.A. track Public Archaeology was added in 1974 as part of the national movement toward professionalization of archaeology and recognition of its role in applied anthropology – again, the first in the nation. Since then, USF has become the leading institution in the state for producing Florida archaeologists.

In 1984, the department created the nation's first Ph.D. program in Applied Anthropology—both applied degrees provided the template for the many applied training programs that now exist across the country. USF's key role in applied anthropology has been recognized through several awards to our pioneering faculty. Gilbert Kushner received the 2005 Sol Tax Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology, given in recognition of " long-term and exceptional contributions" to the discipline. Michael Angrosino was recognized with the same award in 2011. In 2014, Alvin Wolfe was recognized by SfAA with a special Life-Time Achievement Award, only the second scholar to receive this distinction.

Since the early 1980s, the Department has been led by a number of distinguished applied anthropologists: Michael V. Angrosino (1985-1988), Roger T. Grange (1988-1991), Susan D. Greenbaum (1991-1997), Linda M. Whiteford (1997-2003), S. Elizabeth Bird (2003-2009; 2012-2014), Brent R. Weisman (2009 -2012 ), David A. Himmelgreen (2014-2020), and Antoinette Jackson (2020-present).

Today, in addition to maintaining thriving M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs in Applied Anthropology, the department offers a concurrent degree with the USF College of Public Health, through which students can earn an M.A. or Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology along with the Master’s in Public Health (M.P.H.). In 2020, the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses consolidated into one Anthropology department.

Photo of an old postcard from USF