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American Studies

Critical and creative thinking

What is American Studies?

If you’re looking for a job called "American Studies Practitioner," you’re unlikely to find one. Instead, this major offers the flexibility that our rapidly changing employment landscape demands, as well as the creative, interdisciplinary thinking necessary to solve the problems facing our nation and world today.

The topics and methods of inquiry of American studies allow you to explore multiple academic fields, encouraging both critical and creative thinking, and introducing you to multiple methods of problem-solving. Through courses in history, culture, art, communication and politics, you will develop a broad base of knowledge and draw connections among subjects as diverse as literary theory, social scientific research and popular culture.  Exploring the relationships between identity, place and power, American studies prepares students for careers in fields such as education, communication, media, law, politics, social service, community and labor organizing, and business.

Whether you’re interested in the life of Malcolm X, religion in early America, or teenage rom-coms, American studies is a flexible major that will allow you to explore that interest and connect it to deep questions about what defines (and who gets to define) "America." In the words of scholar George Lipsitz, "Confronting [America’s] cruel contradictions and painful paradoxes has made American studies into a never completed work of living sculpture, a place where strangers can meet, where ideas are aired, where problems are diagnosed and where solutions are imagined, envisioned and enacted" ("What is American Studies? An ASA White Paper," 2015).

American Studies at Augustana

The major in American studies at Augustana was created in 2023 and is currently offered to students enrolled in the Augustana Prison Education Program (APEP) at the East Moline Correctional Center. Students at the Rock Island (main) campus who are interested in the major or minor should contact Brett Biebel or Jane Simonsen.

For faculty

If you are a faculty member who is teaching a course that you believe can contribute to the major or minor in American Studies, please contact Brett Biebel or Jane Simonsen.

Courses that contribute to the program should do at least two of the following:

  • Engage deeply (though not necessarily exclusively) with examples of American cultural expression, whether they are historical, political, or artistic.
  • Offer instruction on and opportunities for practicing research methods often employed in American Studies work (textual analysis, media studies, archival research, survey work, etc.).
  • Offer opportunities to practice American Studies methods through research-based creation of expressions of American culture and/or identity (art, film, podcasts, etc.).
  • Engage deeply (though not necessarily exclusively) with the role of power in shaping definitions of "America," whether in historical, political, or artistic/cultural contexts. This may be done through a focus on "out group" expression (for example, as in a course on African-American Literature).