Founded in 1969, the American Studies Program at Georgetown University offers an interdisciplinary major that encourages students to ask critical questions about power, identity, and American culture. The program provides a strong core of courses that help students develop new ways of thinking about the narratives and ideas that define this country. Students examine American ideals, such as equality and democracy, but they also consider how differences and conflicts challenge those ideals.
In American Studies, students consider how cultural artifacts and practices, ranging from art and pop culture to protests and political campaigns, reflect and influence social trends. In our courses, students might trace how eighteenth-century paintings comment on political divisions, how nineteenth-century dime novels challenge assumptions about gender and class, or how contemporary music responds to race relations, among other things. In addition to core courses in American Studies, students select courses from related fields – history, art, English, music, sociology, and more – to create individualized degree plans based on their own their interests. The major culminates with a year-long senior project. With guidance from faculty mentors, students develop the deep knowledge to construct insightful critical arguments that can take many forms, from a traditional academic thesis to a multimedia or artistic project.
Because the program is small and our courses emphasize discussion and hands-on learning, students develop a strong sense of community. This is enhanced by extracurricular activities, including field trips, social events, and lectures. Recent field trips have included a visit to a special exhibit of Thomas Cole’s paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a multi-site tour of Baltimore, and a visit to Mount Vernon. Every fall, the annual Richardson Lecture brings nationally-known writers, scholars, and artists to campus, and these events always include opportunities for students to talk in small groups with the speakers.
Half a century after its founding, American Studies at Georgetown University remains committed to challenging its students with a demanding curriculum that prepares our graduates for careers in a wide variety of fields, including law, journalism, teaching, government, museum curation, national security, new media and television, non-profit work, and business, as well as advanced study at the masters and doctoral level.