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American Studies

The American Studies Program at the College of Staten Island is designed to give students a comprehensive background in the understanding and history of American culture, with an emphasis on the literature, arts, and ideas that make up the rich fabric of American civilization.

American Studies programs exist at colleges and graduate schools across the country and around the world, and the program at the College of Staten Island is an institutional member of the national American Studies Association. Programs in American Studies rest on the belief that a nation's culture is a unified whole, so that the student's studies must not be restricted to the boundaries of any one discipline. American Studies programs therefore draw on the talents of Americanists in all academic departments. They encourage students to explore courses on American topics no matter where they may be found in the college catalog.

Students at the College of Staten Island may pursue a major or minor in American Studies, Whichever they choose, they will find American Studies an enlightening and enriching experience.

They begin with an introductory course (AMS 101, America: An Introduction) that investigates a selection of the most important themes in American civilization: unity in a pluralistic nation; Blacks and whites in American history; men and women in American society; and the individual in the modern world.

After the introductory course, students take full-year surveys of American literature and American history, offered by the English and History departments. Finally, students choose electives from the American Studies Program's own offerings. These include courses in American film, painting, popular culture, international relations, humor, myths, and literature. The program also offers each semester an advanced seminar designed to let students pursue in-depth research under the direction of a recognized scholar in the area of investigation.

Whatever their major, students with an interest in American culture should also give serious consideration to a co-major or minor in American Studies. If they have already taken courses in American literature or history, they will find that they have already completed a portion of the program's requirements.

Whether selected as a major or minor, the American Studies Program will provide a solid foundation for graduate study in the Liberal Arts and the professions. And whatever a student's major, an American Studies course will help enrich and broaden the college experience.

Contact Information

Bill Bauer


Building 1P Room 206
Email Bill Bauer

 The American Studies Program at the College of Staten Island/CUNY is dedicated to the serious study of the culture in which the students and graduates of CSI work and live. The program provides an excellent interdisciplinary education about America and its culture. It defines "American" as meaning the United States as both a cultural and national identity, and focuses on America both on its own internally as well as in its regional, international and transnational contexts. It aims to produce majors who have developed intellectually both within the content area of American Studies and as liberal studies scholars with outstanding critical abilities. Within the content area of American Studies, the program as a whole addresses the past, present, and possible futures for the United States. Through courses which use interdisciplinarity as a method for focusing students’ critical abilities, the Program sets out to produce graduates who are able to address a broad range of cultural genres and forms within multiple contexts using analytical approaches gleaned from multiple disciplinary traditions. More broadly within the College, the Program provides a key forum for cross-departmental faculty development, creating a wider intellectual environment on the campus than departmental communities can provide. The present goals of the American Study Program are:

    1. To facilitate the interdisciplinary education of students at The College of Staten Island in order to foster the development of critical thinking skills and their application to the culture and society in which they live;

    2. To foster a deeper understanding of the complexities of American culture in the past, present, and future, in order to encourage the deeper participation of students and graduates in the issues which affect them;

    3. To create a space for discussions and examinations of the development of America and its cultures and in which to address the challenges presented by a pluralistic and diverse society and democratic state;

    4. To provide the opportunity to examine the place of America in the larger world; 

    5. To foster faculty and student development by increasing possibilities for students to take part in active research in the Humanities and Social Sciences;

    6. To facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and intellectual development among students and faculty who would otherwise be sequestered within a discipline-based department;

    7. To build the American Studies major and minor and increase enrollments through clarifying the purposes and benefits of American Studies to an audience of students within CSI;

    8. And, finally, to continue to develop AMS course offerings and faculty involvement to fit the current standards of scholarship and teaching within the field as practiced in the twenty-first century.

    Articulation with the CSI Mission: CSI's 2011 Mission Statement states the college is "dedicated to helping its students fulfill their creative, aesthetic, and educational aspirations through competitive and rigorous undergraduate ... programs." In emphasizing interdisciplinary scholarship, the American Studies Program seeks to apply that rigor in ways which emphasize the interrelatedness of creative, analytical, aesthetic, and experiential and research-based knowledge. Further, CSI sets out to "embrace the strength of our diversity, foster civic mindedness, and nurture responsible citizens for our city, country, and the world." The American Studies Program seeks to encourage students (and the college community) to think critically about the complex American culture in which we live, to understand its historical and linguistic origins, and to take from that understanding a commitment to the betterment of our community. Further, by encouraging an understanding of the diverse populations of the United States and the complicated ways in which American culture has shaped and been shaped by the human and technological exchange across borderlands, we intend to make our graduates better informed citizens of the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (Mission statement adopted 2012)

Academic Program Goal 1
Critical Thinking and Engagement: An AMS B.A. should be able to interpret and contextualize a wide variety of primary sources (including visual, literary, rhetorical, historical, filmic, and musical texts), engage in discipline-informed and interdisciplinary criticism, and evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, origins, and investments of such criticism.
        Objective 1.1: Interpretation/contextualization of primary sources
        Objective 1.2: Evaluation of interdisciplinary criticism

Academic Program Goal 2
Research and Writing Skills: An AMS B.A. should be able to pose a question for research, locate and evaluate primary and secondary source materials, and synthesize his or her findings into a coherently written interdisciplinary argument that is supported by appropriate evidence in the context of the highest standards of academic integrity.
        Objective 2.1: Research skills
        Objective 2.2: Argumentation with support
        Objective 2.3: Academic Integrity

Academic Program Goal 3
Interdisciplinary Contextualization: An AMS B.A. should be able to place the diverse elements of American experience into a variety of contexts, including historical, regional, intellectual, and social identifiers, using methodologies and theoretical orientations drawn from a variety of critical disciplines and from the interdisciplinary fields of cultural studies, gender studies, and, especially, American Studies.
        Objective 3.1: Interdisciplinarity
        Objective 3.2: Methods/Theories

Only a small percentage of American Studies majors go on to work in the field of American Studies; most go on, instead, to become lawyers, librarians, businesspersons, writers, archivists, researchers, teachers, politicians, and even entertainers. Leaders in every industry, from business to the arts, can point to their training as American Studies majors as the starting point for their success. Below is a brief examination of the sorts of skills developed by American Studies scholarship and various career options available to American Studies majors. By examining the varieties of approaches American Studies scholars use, the discussion below seeks to identify the advantages of the distinctive interdisciplinary approach of Ameircan Studies in fostering well-rounded intellectual development as well as developing valuable career skills in research, writing, analysis, argumentation, and documentation.

What are the skills one learns as an American Studies major?

Effective writing skills--vital to any job for which a college degree is a necessity, effective writing means the ability to successfully and precisely communicate one's ideas in text.

Critical analysis skills--vital to the decision-making process for any job, critical analysis means the ability to analyze a situation and come up with creative and practical solutions.

Research skills--vital to any job, research skills mean the ability to understand past practices and policies and to trace the roots of any issue, to find new information which bears on that issue, and to incorporate that information into one's analysis of an issue.

Interdisciplinary thinking and training--vital to any position, interdisciplinary thinking and training means the ability to think about a problem in a multitude of ways, to analyze it using multiple tools, and to provide solutions which draw from different traditions of thought.

Curiosity and inquisitiveness--vital to any position, curiosity and inquisitiveness mean the desire to learn more and to continue learning, to examine reasons beneath issues, and to come to understand them as part of a continual, life-long, education process.

What are some of the careers paths which American Studies majors commonly follow?

American Studies majors as Educators: Many American Studies majors go on to become educators, focusing on the communication of their ideas. Educators include teachers in Elementary and Secondary education. They also include Higher Education on many levels, including teaching at community and junior Colleges, undergraduate colleges, and universities. But educators are also important members of other educational institutions that you may not think of as immediately as schools. These include historic sites and museums, where history majors can become docents, education directors, curators, guides, and interpreters. In addition, there are other forms of teaching than standing up in front of a classroom. These include work as historical consultants, contract archivists, public historians, writers, and even filmmakers.

American Studies majors Researchers: Many American Studies majors go on to careers as researchers, emphasizing their skills in evaluating and analyzing documentary evidence. American Studies scholars as researchers include public historians as well as policy advisors, who serve as planners, evaluators, and policy analysts, often for state, local, and federal governments. In addition, American Studies scholars often find employment as researchers for museums and historical organizations, or pursue additional specialized training to become professionals in cultural resources management and historic preservation.

American Studies majors as Writers and Editors: Because success as an American Studies majors depends upon learning to write effectively, many American Studies majors become writers and editors. They make their living as authors of historical books, or more commonly, they work as editors at a publishing house. Many American Studies majors become print and broadcast journalists, and others become documentary editors who oversee the publication of documents such as those produced by government agencies.

American Studies majors as Information Managers: Because American Studies majors must learn to deal with documents, many pursue a one- or two-year graduate program in library studies (commonly, a Master of Library Science, or MLS, degree) or archival management and enter careers as information managers. With this additional training, they enter the fields of archives management, information management, records management, and librarianship.

American Studies majors as Advocates: Many American Studies majors find that the interdisciplinary nature of American Studies training makes a perfect preparation for Law School, as American Studies scholars and lawyers often do roughly the same thing--they argue persuasively using historical data to support their arguments, and they analyze and critique their opponents's counter-arguments. Many American Studies majors become lawyers; others undertake careers in litigation support as paralegals. Others enter public service and become policymakers, serve as legislative staff at all levels of government, and become officers of granting agencies and foundations.

American Studies majors as Businesspeople: Most people overlook the value of an American Studies major in preparing an intelligent person for a career in business. Yet, American Studies majors track historical trends, an important skill for those developing products to market or engaged in corporate or financial planning. Many American Studies majors enter banking, insurance, and stock analysis. American Studies majors also learn how to write persuasively, and this training gives them an edge in advertising, communications media, and marketing. Finally, many industries depend on an intimate knowledge of government policies and historical trends; thus, American Studies majors have found their skills useful in extractive industries and in public utilities.

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