What is American Studies?

American Studies is the oldest multidisciplinary course of study in higher education, with programs beginning in the 1930s. In 1951 the American Studies Association was founded, and its national journal, American Quarterly, along with a number of regional associations and publications, give coherence and direction to American Studies. Today, more than one hundred and fifty colleges and universities offer American Studies programs ranging from minors to doctorates. Over the years, American Studies has often been the first home for other interdisciplinary programs, such as gender, ethnic, and regional studies, that have in time emerged as academic programs in their own right. Perhaps the greatest growth of the discipline, however, is seen in the interest in American Studies world wide, with programs, associations, conferences, and publications in many foreign countries.

At the heart of the typical American Studies program is the goal of reaching some understanding of American culture as a whole. This can be done most effectively—and most enjoyably—by looking at that culture from diverse points of view. Thus the student will select courses from a variety of fields, such as literature, history, the fine arts, philosophy, and the social sciences. Ideally, an American Studies program is a flexible one that students can relate to their own personal and academic interests and needs.

What can I do with American Studies?

Surveys show consistently that employers value the skills that an interdisciplinary program such as American Studies promotes. These skills include critical thinking and analysis, the ability to synthesize diverse ideas, and the multicultural awareness and knowledge that such a program generates. More specifically, American Studies students report that they have found their experience valuable for a variety of professions, such as law, journalism, museum and historical society work, and archiving. In addition, secondary-level teachers who become involved in interdisciplinary or humanities courses receive excellent training in American Studies. Some American Studies courses can be used to fulfill teaching certification requirements in the areas of history, literature, and social science.

Offering students the opportunity to deepen their area of major concentration or to broaden their studies beyond the major. American Studies minor have the opportunity to consolidate and synthesize their work in General Education to form a cohesive minor program

How do I sign up?

1)  Make an appointment with Dr. Laura Henigman, American Studies coordinator (206 Keezell, henigmlx@jmu.edu).

2)  Login to MyMadison to declare the minor. See detailed instructions here. Enrolling early will allow you go receive regular updates on the minor from Dr. Henigman.

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