Jon A. Poehlman, Ph.D.

poehlman_jon_510.jpgJon A. Poehlman (Ph.D. University of South Florida, MA Georgia State University, BA University of Virginia) is an applied anthropologist and Director of the Social Marketing and Communication Strategy research program at RTI International, a non-profit research institute.  In his role at RTI, he conducts ethnographic and participatory research to inform the design and development of social marketing campaigns and community-level health and social programs. Methodologically, his work pulls from cognitive, cultural theory to understand and promote social and behavior change activities.  He is an experienced project director, having led several large-scale projects for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research.  His recent project work includes developing a campaign to prevent Zika virus infection among pregnant women in Puerto Rico, creating and testing financial education messages and tools using design thinking, and evaluating a social media campaign to address gender-based violence in India.  

Dr. Poehlman has been a Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology since 2007 and previously served as a member of its Student Committee. He also has held a leadership position in the Society for Anthropological Science. He has a number of peer-reviewed articles and recently received RTI’s award for mentorship. 


It would be an honor to serve on the SfAA Executive Board and to be able to give back to the Society. Having worked outside of academia in my career, SfAA has served as an important professional and intellectual home for me. It is also my experience of working as a professional researcher, often being the lone anthropologist on a team, that inspires me to be a part of the SfAA leadership and I would like to support its efforts at advocating the application of anthropological science across a broad range of professions, careers, and work settings.    

One area of interest is the engagement of the Society with the organizations that fund research, particularly U.S. Federal agencies.  Beyond being an important employer and funder of applied anthropologists and social researchers, federal agencies also play a significant role in setting research agendas and establishing accepted research practices.  I would like to help continue SfAA efforts to promote the concept of culture and the role of anthropological theory and methods amongst these agencies through advocacy and outreach. 

Whenever someone comes to me with interest in working outside of academia, the one piece of advice I share with them is that being able to demonstrate an understanding of a broad range of methods is key to being competitive.  Given the spread of ethnographic methods to other disciplines, showing our expertise, as well as offering critical thinking about the methods we use, is more important than ever.  Whether through the support of programs training the next generation of applied anthropologists, or providing opportunities for professional development for its members, I would like to see methods training become one of the cornerstones of the Society’s mission.  The Society has always been welcoming to students, many who go on to contribute to its success; providing them with the tools they will need to be successful in their careers is an important way that the Society can give back to them.

Probably like most anthropologists, I like to gather information and look at issues from multiple perspectives, to inform my perspective and support decision-making.  I am also a believer in the power of consensus and creating shared agendas.  I would hope to bring these approach to working with leadership and the other members of the SfAA Executive Board.