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 150 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 worldwide, 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.

How do I sign up?

1)  Make an appointment with Dr. Laura Henigman, American Studies coordinator.

Dr. Laura Henigman
Associate Professor of English and American Studies
Keezell Hall, Room 206
E-mail: henigmlx@jmu.edu
Phone: (540) 568-3752

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.

More about American Studies

The American Studies Association

What can I do with American Studies?

Surveys consistently show that employers value the skills 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 law, journalism, museum and historical society work, archiving, and a variety of professions. In addition, some American Studies courses can be used to fulfill teaching certification requirements in the areas of history, literature, and social science. American Studies minor have the opportunity to consolidate and synthesize their work in General Education to form a cohesive minor program

Back to Top