Sean Bruna

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies


Dr. Bruna is on leave and not taking on any additional graduate students.

Sean Bruna, PhD. is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Western Washington University. Dr. Bruna holds degrees from the University of Chicago (BA, 1999, MA, 2003) and the University of New Mexico (MA, 2005, PhD. 2013).  His research has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Smithsonian Institution, among other organizations. Before entering academia he worked in student affairs at the University of Chicago where he advised students and developed new programs and partnerships between the university and prominent organizations.

Dr. Bruna uses community-based and collaborative mixed-methods to examine the intersections of identity and community health. His current research includes testing health interventions for other Latinx or American Indians living with chronic diseases, recreational drug use among college students, documentation of risky fieldwork practices, and COVID-19 management strategies employed by disabled peoples, among other mentored research.

As a Latinx scholar, Dr. Bruna is dedicated to creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for students in his lab, with colleagues in his department, and for the university. Dr. Bruna actively teaches 6 to 8 courses a year, advises undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, and maintains an active lab.  Many of his courses explore advanced methodologies and are graduate degree level courses, though he regularly teaches Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, a favorite course that welcomes students to Western Washington University and anthropology.


  • PhD. The University of New Mexico, Cultural Anthropology / Linguistics (Focus: Medical Anthropology and Health Policy), 2013
    Dissertation: "Sowing Seeds for the Future with Tigua History and Tradition”: Diabetes Prevention and Management at Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo
  • M.A. University of New Mexico, Cultural Anthropology, 2005
  • M.A. The University of Chicago, Social Science (Concentration: Federal Indian Law), 2003
    Thesis: Issues of Tigua Recognition: Negotiating Legal and Ethnic Identity on the U.S. - Mexico Border 
  • B.A. The University of Chicago, Anthropology & Latin American Studies, 1999


  • Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Anthropology
  • Associate Faculty, Honors Program
  • Affiliate Faculty, Institute for Critical Disability Studies
  • Affiliate Faculty, Center for Cross-Cultural Research
  • Board Member, Palliative Care Institute
  • Assistant Professor y (2014-2019)


  • 2018 Fellow, Society for Applied Anthropology
  • 2022 Equity and Inclusion Achievement Award, Western Washington University

Current Graduate Students Advised as Chair

  1. L. C. "Spike" Osadchuk, M.A. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology – Covid-19 Isolation Strategies Among Disabled Peoples
  2. Rhiannon Joker, M.A. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology – Failure and Scientific Research
  3. Jessica Paredes Strong, M.A. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology – Resilience Among Sexual Assault Survivors

Research Interests

  • Medical Anthropology
  • US Health Policy
  • Chronic Disease Prevention
  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research
  • Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Selected Publications

*Indicates publications co-authored with students/mentees

  1. Miterko, P.*, & Bruna, S. (2022). Reframing sense of community with photovoice: Perspectives from residents of a permanent supportive housing program who have experienced chronic homelessness. Journal of Community Practice, 30(2), 155–168.

  2. Stodola, T. J. *, & Bruna, S. P. (2021). Medical Anthropology Courses and Concepts Tested on the MCAT: A Content Analysis of 40 U.S. Course Syllabi. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 8, 23821205211010812.

  3. Cacari Stone, L., Sanchez, V., Bruna, S. P., Muhammad, M., & Zamora, M., Carmen. (2021). Social Ecology of Hypertension Management Among Latinos Living in the U.S.–Mexico Border Region. Health Promotion Practice, 1524839921993044.

  4. Yu, Y. J., Bruna, S., & McCarty, C. (2021). HIV Risk among trafficked women: A systematic review of the global literature. AIDS Care, 33(8), 1068–1078.

  5. Bruna, S. P. (2021). Review of Qualitative Research Methods (2nd ed.), by Monique Hennink, Inge Hutter, and Ajay Bailey. Teaching and Learning Anthropology, 4(2). 

  6. Miterko, P. *, & Bruna, S. (2020). Resident identified strengths and challenges of project-based permanent supportive housing program implementation in a small metropolitan county. Housing and Society, 48(3), 239–260.

  7. Bruna, S. (2020). Opportunities and Challenges to Data Sharing with American Indian Tribal Nations. In J. W. Crowder, M. Fortun, R. Besara, & L. Poirier (Eds.), Anthropological Data in the Digital Age: New Possibilities – New Challenges (pp. 109–128). Springer International Publishing.

  8. Bruna, S. (2016). Religious Gardens, Pilgrimages And Dancing: A Critique Of Translated Interventions In A Tribal Community, in The Applied Anthropology Of Obesity: Prevention, Intervention And Identity. Chad T. Morris and Alexandra G. DeLaricheliere, eds. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

  9. Stevenson, J. C., Rankin-Sunter, K., Maki, C., Bruna, S., Mosher, M. J., & Barrett, C. E. * (2015). Community Based Pilot Study of Diagnostic Paths to the Gluten Free Diet. International Journal of Celiac Disease, 3(1), 17–24.

  10. Sánchez, V., Cacari Stone, L., Moffett, M. L., Nguyen, P., Muhammad, M., Bruna, S., & Urias-Chauvin, R. (2014). Process Evaluation of a Promotora de Salud Intervention for Improving Hypertension Outcomes for Latinos Living in a Rural U.S.–Mexico Border Region. Health Promotion Practice, 15(3), 356–364.

  11. Bruna, S., Stone, L. C., Wilger, S., Cantor, J., & Guzman, C. (2014). The Role of Community Health Centers in Assessing the Social Determinants of Health for Planning and Policy: The Example of Frontier New Mexico. The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, 37(3), 258–268.


Courses Taught at WWU

ANTH 201: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 

ANTH 300: Independent Study (5 sections) 

ANTH 303: Qualitative Research Methods for Anthropology 

ANTH 361: American Indian Perspectives 

ANTH 365: Latin American Perspectives 

ANTH 400: Advanced Independent Study - various specialized topics (27 sections) 

ANTH 424/524: Medical Anthropology 
ANTH 454/554: Participatory Action Research 

ANTH 469: Internship 

ANTH 490: Community-Based Participatory Research Senior Seminar
ANTH 495: Teaching & Learning Process of Anthropology 

ANTH 496: Academic and Professional Portfolio Assembly 

ANTH 497r/597r: Advanced Qualitative Inquiry (includes NVivo training) 

ANTH 4XX/566: Computer Assisted Qualitative Analysis (includes Atlas.ti training)
HRNS 203: Colloquium in Anthropology 

HRNS 490: Honors Thesis Advisor / Senior Project 

ANTH 500: Graduate Independent Study - various specialized topics (5 sections) 
ANTH 502: Graduate Theory in Anthropological Research

ANTH 503: Graduate Research Design & Methods 

ANTH 585: Essentials of Graduate Study in Anthropology 

ANTH 586: Research Mentorship & Professional Development 
ANTH 690: Thesis