Sean Bruna

Director of Graduate Studies, Associate Professor

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


2022 Equity and Inclusion Achievement Award, Western Washington University

Current Undergraduate and Graduate Students

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 PhD 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. 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 – research in development
  4. Daniel Hargrave, PhD. Candidate, U. of South Florida (Committee Member)
  5. Tyler Stodola, MA Candidate, U. of North Texas (Committee Member)

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. Brooke Jesperson, Honors Thesis. 2015

Research Interests

  • medical anthropology, chronic disease prevention
  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research
  • mixed research methods
  • 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. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.