Sean Bruna

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

Current Courses

Fall 2022

Anth 502: Theory in Anthropological Research
Anth 585: Essentials of Graduate Study in Anthropology
Anth 496: Portfolio Assembly
Anth 690: MA Thesis

Winter 2023

Anth 303: Qualitative Methods in Anthropology
Anth 586: Research Mentorship
Anth 690: MA Thesis

Spring 2023

Anth 303: Qualitative Methods in Anthropology
Anth 424/524: Medical Anthropology
Anth 586: Research Mentorship
Anth 690: MA Thesis


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. Prior to 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.

Some things you may not know about me:

  • I am married to a microbiology professor employed at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
  • I'm Latinx. My dad is a refugee from Cuba and my mother is from Mexico.
  • I grew up in Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia, then immigrated to El Paso, Texas.
  • In my free time I enjoy camping and sailing.


  • PhD. 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 Yselta Del Sur Pueblo
  • M.A. University of New Mexico, Cultural Anthropology, 2005
  • M.A. University of Chicago, Social Science (Concentration: Federal Indian Law), 2003
  • B.A. 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)


  • 2022 Equity and Inclusion Achievement Award, Western Washington University

Current Undergraduate and Graduate Students Advised as Chair

Dr. Bruna manages the Medical Anthropology Lab as a way to mentor and support undergraduate and graduate students. His students are now working in public health or the health professions, in global technology,  or are completing advanced research in MA/MS/MSc or Ph.D. programs. Listed below are current members of Dr. Bruna's lab, followed by theses completed by the group of students whose committees he chaired.

  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 – Latinx Idioms of Distress in Clinical Encounters
  3. Jessica Paredes Strong, M.A. Student, Cultural Anthropology – Resilience Among Sexual Assault Survivors

Master’s and Honors Thesis Advised as Chair

  1. Samantha Whalen. 2022. M.A. Thesis. "Gestational Carrier Bloggers: Key Points of Uncertainty in the Social Exchange with Intended Parents"
  2. Krista Schafte. 2022. Honors Thesis. "The Influence of Intergenerational Trauma on Epigenetics and Obesity in Indigenous Populations: A Systematic Literature Review"
  3. Kate Amos. 2022. Honors Thesis. "Gifted Genes: An Investigation of College Student Perceptions of Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Kits"
  4. Caitlin Millard. 2022. Honors Thesis. "Queering The Birth Experience: Documenting Queer Individuals' Labor & Delivery Experiences"
  5. Matia Jones. 2020. MA Thesis. "Ethnography of Urban Food Policy: Increasing Food Sovereignty in Bellingham, Washington "
  6. Cecilia Martin. 2019. MA Thesis. “The Amukura Water Project: Utilization of Photovoice to Examine Water Use and Needs in Western Kenya"
  7. Tori Bianchi. 2018. Honors Thesis. “Gender Discrepancy in Asexual Identity: The Effect of Hegemonic Gender Norms on Asexual Identification”
  8. Peter Miterko. 2017. MA Thesis. “Community within Single-Site Permanent Supportive Housing: Perspectives and Experiences from Staff and Residents at St. Mary’s House.”
  9. Isabella Ramos Miller. Honors Thesis. 2016. “Reworking the Structure of Sexual Education Sessions at Western Washington University”
  10. Megan Stephenson. 2016. MA Thesis. “Video Education For Nutritional Management Of Type 2 Diabetes In A Rural, Multiethnic Community In Molokai, Hawaii.”
  11. Jesperson, Brooke 2015. Honors Thesis. “Cultural Competency Accessible: An Anthropological Evaluation of Training Curricula for Primary Care Providers.” WWU Honors Program Senior Project.

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.