Cummings, Haury, and Thompson all served not only as Head of the Department of Anthropology but also as Director of the Arizona State Museum. Careful management of the resources of both units provided great stability and strength for the larger anthropological community at the University of Arizona. As both the Department and the Museum grew in size and complexity, so did the administrative burden. Haury recognized this problem as early as 1954-55 when he suggested that the separation of the administration of the Department and the Museum should take place "within the next few years." In 1980 Thompson stepped down at the end of sixteen years as Department Head, but continued as Director of the Museum. William A. Stini, a biological anthropologist, became the fourth Head of the Department and he and Thompson developed the policies, attitudes, and mechanisms that continued the long-standing cooperative and supportive relationships between the Department and the Museum into the new independent administrative environment.
William Stini assumed the leadership role during a period of declining resources and at the time of a major change in University administration. He successfully defended the resource base, continued the expansion of the faculty, developed computer facilities for both faculty and students, recruited new leadership for the Bureau of Ethnic Research, which became the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, and facilitated the establishment of the Laboratory of Traditional Technology. A biological anthropologist, Stini is the only non-archaeologist to serve as Head. He forged strong ties in both teaching and research with several departments in the College of Medicine, fostered the development of a strong program in medical anthropology, and spearheaded the establishment of a University program in gerontology. He also worked closely with the College of Engineering and its Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the development of the cooperative Culture, Science, and Technology Program. Stini relinquished the headship in order to continue his research and writing.
William A. Longacre, a member of the faculty since 1964, became the fifth Head of the Department in 1989. An archaeologist and former Director of the Archaeological Field School, he began his tenure by launching a series of activities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Department.
These activities reinvigorated the Department, increased its resource base, established new ties to its alumni, reaffirmed and enhanced its status within the University, and created new energy and momentum for the years ahead. He continued the process initiated by Thompson and Stini by overseeing the hiring of a number of key faculty appointments. Under his leadership, younger scholars in sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics joined the faculty, several of them women and minorities who have added strength to anthropology at Arizona. The joint Ph.D. program in Linguistics and Anthropology is one result.
John W. Olsen assumed the departmental Headship in July 1998, having previously served as Acting Head in 1994-95 during Dr. Longacre's sabbatical year abroad. Olsen joined the University of Arizona faculty as Assistant Professor in 1982, after receiving his Ph.D. at the University of California Berkeley in 1980 and pursuing postdoctoral training and research in England and China.
An Old World prehistorian by training, Olsen has devoted his career to the understanding of early Stone Age adaptations in the arid lands of Central Asia and China. Currently co-director of the Joint Mongolian-Russian-American Archaeological Expeditions and the Zhoukoudian International Paleoanthropological Research Center, Olsen's research agenda includes continued Paleolithic field studies in Mongolia as well as in Tibet, Siberia, and several of the newly independent Central Asian republics.
In his role as Department Head, Olsen stressed the importance of reconfiguring anthropology in the 21st century. In particular, he shared the faculty's belief that an integrated, synergistic approach to teaching, minimizing the methodological and theoretical distinctions among anthropology's traditional subdisciplines, is the most effective way to prepare students for careers in anthropology and to invigorate future directions in anthropological research. He stepped down as Head of the Department of Anthropology in 2008 to focus on his research and teaching.
Barbara J. Mills became the seventh department head in 2008 and was the first woman to serve in that role. Mills came to the University of Arizona in 1991 as an Assistant Professor to take on the directorship of the University of Arizona Archaeological Field School. For 12 years she directed excavations and survey in east-central Arizona and established the Silver Creek Archaeological Research Project. Her research specialties include Southwest archaeology, ceramic analysis, archaeologies of inequality, migration, identity, and social memory. As a PI on the Southwest Social Networks Project, which brings together data and a talented group of scholars to apply social network analysis (SNA) to archaeological data to the Southwest, Mills continues her exploration into the dynamics of social relations from a multiscalar perspective. In addition to the Southwest she has participated in archaeological projects in Guatemala, Kazakhstan, and Turkey.
As Department Head, Mills spearheaded a plan with heads and directors of the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA), Arizona State Museum (ASM), and Department of Classics to bring together faculty and programs with common interests in anthropology. With administrative backing, and Faculty Senate and Arizona Board of Regents approval, the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona was established in July 2009 and Mills was appointed Director. Mills oversaw the transition from department to School, leading a faculty of 49 and a graduate program numbering almost 150 students. She stepped down as Director in 2013 to devote more time to research and university-level service.