Program History

Since its inception in 1974 the Northwestern American Studies Program has successfully drawn upon the expertise of Americanist faculty and the intellectual curiosity of its students to become one of the most successful interdisciplinary majors in Weinberg College. The small seminar setting, flexible curriculum designed by each student, close working relationship between students and faculty, strong focus on writing, and year-long senior research project are all elements of the Program that have contributed to its continued success.

Growing on this success, in 2011 the Program underwent a major curriculum revision in order to respond to the evolution of American Studies as a discipline over the last few decades. Our new curriculum offers a course of study that reflects the intellectual project of American Studies as not only interdisciplinary but also intercultural and comparativist at root. We encourage study of the development and expressions of national culture alongside other cultures, and how they have changed over time. American Studies continues to offer its students small seminars and a close research relationship with a faculty adviser in the senior year. At the same time American Studies now provides students with the advantages of investigating from several perspectives the diverse experiences of Americans locally, nationally, and globally.

Our move towards a more inclusive American Studies makes prominent and essential inter-ethnic, racial, and socio-economic concerns. Each student must declare and define, with the Program director's guidance and approval, an area of concentration that is comparative or global in focus. We also encourage students to double major.

These changes help to formalize collaboration with other Americanist programs and departments that are on campus (African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Gender Studies, Latina/o Studies) and centers (Center for Forced Migration Studies, the Buffet Center, Center for Global Culture and Communication). These programs and centers have emerged as a focus on interdisciplinary scholarship has become the rule rather than the exception; and they have emerged in an effort to address faculty and student interests in pursuing interdisciplinarity in depth.

We are interested in actively helping American Studies majors become productive members of an increasingly diverse and globalized U.S. Through exposure to various cultural literacies and ethnic formations, and emphases on both written and verbal analytical skills culminating in the successful completion of an independent research project in the senior year, we plan on continuing to see our majors thrive in the 21st century world.