Starting this fall, University of Rochester students have had the opportunity to blend together a variety of disciplines that focus on the history and culture of the United States through the newly developed American Studies major, now offered through Arts, Sciences and Engineering's undergraduate College. Through the major, which was approved by the New York State Department of Education in July, students will master skills including critical reading, thinking, and writing, which will prepare them for careers in law, social service, teaching, art, and business, among other fields.
"The American Studies major will contribute greatly to the intellectual life of the campus," said Richard Feldman, dean of the College at Rochester. "From the enriching activities associated with the program to the expert faculty members coming from across disciplines to teach the courses, we believe this will be an appealing major to many students."
Joan Rubin, professor of history and program director of the new major, noted that for years students have created similar courses of study through the Individualized Interdepartmental Majors program.
"Now, with a formal major, we are able to provide students with a wide range of courses, giving them the opportunity to look at the experiences and values of Americans through many different disciplines," Rubin explained. "It is our hope that this major will create a conversation throughout the College about what it has meant to be an American, both in the past and today."
The program, which will be managed by the Multidisciplinary Studies Center in the College, requires students to take ten courses throughout the Humanities and Social Sciences. Introductory courses focus on American literature and American culture or thought, while a new course to be offered in the 2012-2013 academic year, The Idea of America, will be a required seminar. Students also will choose among three tracks: The Arts in American Culture, Identity and the American Nation, and American Thought and Institutions. There also is an international component to the major, which gives students the opportunity to select one course that examines the interaction of Americans with other cultures. Students who complete this major will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the College.
The major will be supervised by a steering committee of faculty, who will monitor the program's enrollment numbers and course offerings, and oversee internships, special lectures, and other opportunities that can enhance the student experience.
While the major is only several months old, the committee already has sponsored a three-part series titled Popular Music in America. In the first two installments, Daniel Beaumont, associate professor of Arabic Language and Literature, lectured on blues music in America, while John Covach discussed The Beatles and the British Invasion in America. In the last installment, Paul Burgett, University vice president and professor of music, will give his lecture, Black Nightingales: Lady Day, Ella & Sassy, at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, in Dewey 1101.
Additionally, the committee plans to host a lecture delivered by David Reynolds, distinguished professor of English at the City University of New York, in April. Reynolds, a prominent author, recently wrote Mightier than the Sword: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the Battle for America, which was included in the Christian Science Monitor's "The 20 Smartest Nonfiction Reads for the Summer" list.
Members of the major's steering committee include Rubin, John Covach, chair of the College Music Department and professor of Music; Margarita Guillory, assistant professor of Religion and Classics; John Michael, chair of the English Department and professor of English and of Visual and Cultural Studies; Claudia Schaefer, professor of Spanish; Ezra Tawil, associate professor of English; Allen Topolski, chair of the Department of Art and Art History and associate professor of Art ; and Sharon Willis, director of Film and Media Studies and professor of Art History and Visual and Cultural Studies.
For more information about the American Studies major, visit http://www.rochester.edu/college/msc/americanstudies.html.