American Studies is a multi-disciplinary program that gives students the opportunity to create an individualized major. Its purpose is to study the unity and diversity, the consensus and conflict, and the continuity and change that characterize the many cultures and social structures of past and present United States. Students draw upon the strengths of several departments offering courses on dimensions of American culture, particularly Humanities (Interdisciplinary), Social Science (Interdisciplinary), History, English, Geography, and Art. Other departments contributing to the University's rich diversity of American courses are Broadcast Communication Arts, Dance, Music, Design and Industry, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Black Studies, Raza Studies, Political Science, Speech, and Women Studies.
Certain courses are required for the major, and a student's own interest governs the remainder of the major. He or she may, for instance, wish to concentrate on ethnic American cultures, on the American arts, on American cultural relations with another world region, or simply on American literature. Students are provided with worksheets on which to plot their total major programs.
Obviously this major calls for a considerable degree of self-direction. There is no central American Studies department and faculty, although the coordinator of the program is available for advising and administrative help. Students seek out the courses and faculty that will be most beneficial to them.
At the conclusion of the major-usually in the student's last term as an undergraduate - he or she is expected to choose a teacher in one of the American Studies departments and to propose and carry out a Special Study (699) course with that teacher. Here the student demonstrates his/her best self directive capacity in reaching an understanding of American culture. The topic and technique of this Special Study course will be of the student's own devising, with the teacher acting as friendly consultant and critic. This is what might be called an undergraduate thesis project, although the outcome is not formally a thesis.
The academic objective in this major is sound understanding of American cultural experience. In differing measures, each student should emerge from the major with a grasp of American history (and historians), a knowledge and appreciation of some of the American arts, a view of American social and political processes, and continuing interest in the changeful American landscape.
In preparing to enter the major-during high school or early college years-it is well to become versed in history, both local and general; social studies; art history and criticism; forms of literature including autobiography; and world regional diversity. Travel is valuable, as is mastery of another language.
American Studies is not primarily a career major. Rather, this many-sided program prepares men and women for personal paths of inquiry and for public engagements across a wide spectrum. No one should follow the major who is not inclined to discover and in some measure create his or her own career..
Teaching: By concentrating on courses in a specific credential field-English, history or social science-American Studies majors can qualify themselves for high school teaching in California. Or, by meeting requirements for the diversified elementary credential, American Studies majors may prepare for careers in self-contained classrooms and classes for adults.
Other Alternatives: A bachelor of arts degree in American Studies is good preparation for entry into several professions requiring advanced degrees. These include law, public administration, city planning, library and museum work, and the teaching of English as a foreign language. Fields of graduate study in the humanities and social sciences are available to those who hold the American Studies bachelor's degree. The master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees in American Studies-offered at many universities-may be pursued.
Independent careers-in writing, in the arts, in politics, and in business-often attract American Studies majors.
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