Dear Queens College Student,
It is a pleasure to greet you at the beginning of the century and of the millennium with information about a field of study that may be new to you. American Studies is not really new, as it has been developing in the academic world since the end of World War II, but like all lively enterprises, it changes all the time to reflect fresh scholarship and shifting political and social perspectives.
Presently, when we refer to American Studies, we do not limit ourselves to discussion of the United States, but widen our view to take in the histories, societies and arts of all the countries of the western hemisphere. This does not mean that we are interested in colonizing other fields, but that we have recognized that U.S. history, society and culture is an integral part of a larger geographical area. In research and scholarship in the many sub-fields that our program addresses, we encourage a comparative method. We reflect, in our course offerings and program activities, a strong interest in ethnic and cultural diversity within and outside the borders of the U.S.
As you explore our Web site, you will see that American Studies is interdisciplinary. That means that we bring to bear on a chosen subject, such as modernism or home life or environmental issues, the methods and insights of more than one "discipline" or set of theoretical approaches. We have absorbed the methods of historians gathering written documentation of events as well as the methods of sociologists and anthropologists who take to the streets to develop statistical models, interviews, or ethnographic analyses; we use the insights of art historians and critics of literature and music. We are bold and creative in our willingness to turn and return to our subjects from different disciplinary points of view. In that modernism example I cited a few paragraphs back, students used literary texts as well as visits to a great art museum to better define their discoveries. Interdisciplinarity is risky, but rewarding. The ability to come at a subject from different perspectives is a critical thinking skill our program develops.
The ability to use the strategies of more than one discipline to articulate issues and address problems is a life skill. As an American Studies student you gain critical thinking practice that will be useful in a variety of careers in education, government, law, public service, social work. American Studies will help you to think about the work you want to do in the world and the different routes you might follow to reach it. Through the introduction American Studies provides to history, sociology, anthropology, verbal, plastic, and performing arts, and environmental science, you can gain a true liberal arts education that you shape to satisfy your own intellectual curiosity.
Chances are that your combination of courses will be unique to you, a personalized major reflecting your intellectual growth and your commitments. You may receive graduation Honors in American Studies by keeping a high grade-point average and developing a senior honors essay.
At every step of the way, I stand ready to help with advice and support. Just call 718-997-4633 and leave a message with a convenient call-back time. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to meeting you!
Bette S. Weidman
Director, American Studies Program