By Drew Brown, Editor
CONSULTING CHINA: PLU Professor Greg Guldin (MIDDLE)
in front of the famous Shaolin Temple in North Central
China, along with other consultants and (FIRST ON LEFT) a
representative of the Chinese Ministry of Finance.
The day after May finals, Greg Guldin was doing
the same as most PLU professors—grading papers.
The only difference was that Guldin was grading
his on a plane to Beijing, ready to put his teaching
of applied anthropology into practice. He is often
hired as an anthropological consultant.
Guldin’s newest project has him working for
the Chinese Ministry of Finance. He was hired by
the ministry as its international consultant (with a
team of four Chinese consultants) to investigate
why the anti-poverty funds are not effectively getting
to the households of China.
“This is what applied anthropology is all
about,” Guldin said. “Taking academic knowledge,
seeing how it is useful, and applying it to help
make lives better.”
Guldin, who has been at PLU since 1979, has
been an integral force in developing the subject of
anthropology. He helped professor Laura Klein
establish an anthropology department in the early
’80s. Then about 10 years ago, Guldin started
working as an applied anthropologist—a profession
that turns academic anthropology into real-world
practice. The most recent result is a class called
Applied Anthropology, which specifically explores
the uses of the anthropological approach in improving
“What we do here is at the heart of PLU’s mission,
to educate for lives of service,” he said.
Guldin’s own Jewish tradition of “living and working
to make the world a better place” makes the
program and philosophy at PLU a perfect fit.
One way Guldin is making the world better
has been his consultation for the Washington State
School Directors Association. For five years,
Guldin has worked with the association on
multicultural education, organizing training workshops,
improving test scores among ethnic groups,
helping lessen the negative impact of poverty on
learning, and solidifying policy on state/church
separation issues in the classroom.
Guldin also has been involved with the environmentally
and socially sustainable development
division of the World Bank in China. When the
World Bank needs to assess the impact of a proposed
project on people’s lives, or cultural conflicts
arise within a company that requests assistance,
Guldin is brought in. He also uses these same concepts
at home—Guldin recently worked with rural
Washington state police departments in how they
handle situations, especially with migrant workers
from Mexico and Southeast Asia.
“I take the material I teach in Introduction to
Anthropology, and make it accessible to outsiders,”
Guldin said. “A lot of it involves the same things I
teach my students: observe, listen, interview, and
More important than consulting is the teaching.
One of the fundamental reasons he is at PLU
is it’s a university where he can help give students
skills needed to apply learning to the world outside
“Parents should be concerned with whether
their children are learning to write, collaborate and
think independently and analytically,” Guldin said.
“That is more important than the major.”
Guldin also believes that since doing his applied
work, his teaching has improved significantly.
“If you emphasize skills in context, the skills
will last,” Guldin said. His wealth of experience
proves how and why applied anthropology is so
Along with teaching and consulting, he is also
a writer. His latest book, “What’s a Peasant to Do?
Village Becoming Town in Southern China” was
published in December.
Guldin’s experience has not only given him
great opportunities, but the ability to bring the
global community into the classroom.
“I appreciate a school like PLU that allows a
teacher to have a full commitment to students
while being able to consult and write,” Guldin said.
“It’s great having the opportunity to bring my experiences
back into the classroom.”