Humanities Lecture Hall

American Studies gives students an interdisciplinary and historically grounded framework for studying the United States; its political, social, and cultural institutions; its position in the world as a political, economic, and cultural entity; and the diverse peoples who live within or pass through its borders. We encourage frames of analysis that remain within the borders of the nation as well as those that compare aspects of the United States with those of other societies. We seek to build among our majors a critical perspective on the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of being a citizen of the United States or residing within its borders in the 21st century. We also help students develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills so that they will be able to act effectively in an ever-changing, complicated, and culturally diverse world.

Our major curriculum provides enough flexibility to let students explore the aspects of American studies that interest them most. That said, we believe that all students of American society should possess certain critical thinking and communication skills, should be familiar with fundamental disciplinary theories and concepts, and should have a working knowledge of United States history. Accordingly, all majors are required to take a series of shared foundation courses that reflect the department's particular strenghts in historical inquiry, cultural analysis, and critical race and ethnic studies, as well as a course in the History Department. Building on this foundation, our students--in dialogue with their advisers--are required to take at least four upper-division courses that cohere around a particular area of study (e.g., Native American studies, technology and culture, 19th century literature and culture, immigration and citizenship, etc.). Finally, they are required to take the senior seminar, in which they write a research paper related to their selected area of study.

Because of their broad-based exposure to the history and culture of the United States, collective learning experience, and their ability to focus on topics of particular interest to them, American studies students find the major a useful preparation for careers in education, law, journalism, social work, community organizing, business, and government. Students intending to go on to graduate school, whether in American studies or some other discipline, are advised to bear such plans in mind as they settle on their individual areas of study.