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American Studies Program
Steven James Wurtzler
Major in American Studies
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American studies is an interdisciplinary major that enables students to explore the complex interactions of peoples, cultures, social structures, and political institutions that have shaped the experiences of those living in the United States. In addition, our students are invited to explore questions of the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world, and the migrations of people, resources, and cultures both to and from the United States.
American studies courses make up the core of the major, but history and literature are also crucial components. Students take “Introduction to American Studies” in the sophomore year, the “American Studies Proseminar” in the junior year, and the "American Studies Senior Seminar" in the senior year. Other courses are chosen from an approved list in administrative science, anthropology, art, economics, education, government, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, science and technology, sociology, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies. Majors choose a theme around which to cluster courses from several disciplines in order to fill out their major cultural analysis. Ethnic Studies, Visual Culture, and Popular Culture are popular concentrations.
Many students "double major" in American studies and one of the traditional disciplines, thereby achieving depth and breadth simultaneously. Students have often combined American studies with majors in English, history, government, psychology, art, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies, although other combinations are both possible and valuable.
Colby's American Studies Program encourages majors to broaden their perspectives by studying elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad. Majors have studied at Pomona, University of Pennsylvania, Skidmore, Howard University, University of Michigan, and the University of Alaska. Recently American studies majors have spent junior years abroad in France, Spain, Italy, Ghana, and Nepal. Many others have chosen to study at British universities such as Oxford, London, Sussex, Edinburgh, and East Anglia. Nearly 50 percent of each junior class has studied abroad or in Washington, D.C., on the "Washington Semester."
American studies graduates of the past few years have entered graduate programs in American studies, English, education, library science, film, social work, and history, as well as in museum administration and historic preservation. Many are in law school; almost as many are in media fields like journalism, publishing, or advertising. Several are teaching in secondary schools - both public and private - while others have served in the Peace Corps, in business, and in restaurant management. One graduate is working for the Justice Department in Washington, while one runs a Ford dealership, and another owns an organic farm in Maryland. Still another spent his Watson Fellowship climbing the New Zealand Alps before earning a Ph.D. in English.
Professor Katherine Stubbs is directing the American Studies Program during the 2009-2010 academic year. Professors Margaret McFadden, Lisa Arellano, and Laura Saltz share the responsibility of advising student majors, some of whom are selected to serve on the American Studies Committee that meets several times each year to oversee the program.