American Studies considers what it means to be “American” by evaluating the ideals and realities of life in the United States. Through coursework and experiences such as internships or travel, the major explores the many ways our cultural ideologies are produced. Classes explore how American cultures are shaped by social structures and experiences such as class, ethnicity, gender, and race.
The major provides students with the tools of critical cultural analysis and communication which prepare them to work in the public or private sphere, whether creatively, educationally, politically, or organizationally.
Coursework in American Studies explores:
Representations of American cultural issues in the arts, social and political institutions, media and popular culture
Social inequalities of cultural systems through topics such as: gender, sexuality and parenthood, drugs and health, food and well-being, developing technologies, imagined futures, and the crossing of borders.
Critical theory from fields such as cultural studies, art and media studies, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political science, geography, etc.
In American Studies, students will increase their understanding of American systems, American lives, and American spaces through investigations, discussions, creative work and community-engaged projects.
Students take a total of 55 credits: 30 credits in American Studies Foundation courses and 25 credits in the Areas of Focus. Foundational courses lay the groundwork for a social, political and historical understanding of the United States’ cultural development. The “American Culture and Perspectives,” and "Topics" courses focus on American Studies' concepts and methodologies and draw on the interdisciplinary strengths of the American Studies faculty to examine the American past and present using a range of methods and subjects.
American Studies students have access to broad-ranging curriculum and the opportunity to concentrate their study in one of the three designated areas. Courses that offer an exploration into American political and economic thought, American philosophic traditions and United States legal institutions are housed in American Systems & Experiments (List A). The myriad ways in which individual and community experiences are expressed in art, literature and popular culture are explored in the contingent of courses titled American Lives (List B). Courses selected for American Spaces (List C) reflect either a geographical or a metaphorical exploration of the political, cultural economic or environmental terrain. Because courses are drawn from a variety of disciplines and cover a wide range of material, some courses straddle two lists, and students are welcome to use a course for either requirement. With the exception of courses that meet the Ethnicity/Race requirement, a single course cannot meet multiple requirements.
Students take five (5) Areas of Focus courses; one (1) from each list.
List A: American Systems & Experiments
(Political thought, systems of belief and philosophy and economy, and legal institutions as social experiments in the U.S.)
List B: American Lives
(Individual and community experience and its expression in art, literature, popular culture and other areas)
List C: American Spaces
(Geography, environments: urban, suburban, rural, natural, Inter-American or the U.S. in international contexts)
Of the 55 credits in the major, students must take one course that meets the Ethnicity/Race subject matter requirement. This may be taken within the credits of Areas of Focus or elsewhere in the major.
Demonstrate an understanding of the historical development of American cultures, nationhood and social movements in various social and political contexts
Demonstrate an understanding of how cultural meaning is created, and how studying cultural ideas and practices can provide us with multiple ways of making power visible
Situate American cultures and communities within a global context
Analyze and synthesize material from primary and secondary sources in order to create a coherent, evidence-based argument
Employ methodologies from the humanities and the social sciences to analyze a variety of historical, cultural, social and political questions.
As an interdisciplinary major, American Studies offers students flexibility and choice in a variety of subjects, disciplinary approaches and skills. Graduates are prepared for a broad range of careers in areas such as education, journalism, law, medicine, public relations, law enforcement, social work, business, community organizing, non-profit administration, museum curatorship, urban and environmental planning, library science and government.