Bachelor of Arts in American Studies
As an American studies major, you’ll engage with American culture, history, traditions and identity through an interdisciplinary lens.
You’ll explore the experiences and values of the American people and consider how Americas have shaped and articulated their nation's character in art, film, music and other forms of cultural expression.
Our program encourages students to take courses in a wide variety of fields, ranging from religion and politics, to media and ethnic studies, to journalism and law. Many Brandeis students double major in American studies and some other discipline, such as history, politics or sociology.
Graduates of our program have gone on to work in law, communications, business, education, public policy and the entertainment industry.
At Brandeis, American studies undergraduates have direct access to world-class faculty, often working as collaborators with their professors. Our program embraces a wide range of cultural expressions, including literature, film, music, art, theology, journalism, law, architecture and digital media.
Academics and Research
Our curriculum is designed to offer you broad exposure to the many perspectives informing American studies as well as depth in an area of your interest. You will choose a course from our Main Currents in American Studies group, which includes titles such as "Religion in American Life," "Hollywood and American Culture," "American Environmental History" and "Frontier Visions: The West in American Culture." You’ll also take two core courses that span nearly four centuries of U.S. history and culture. You may choose from a wide selection of electives from within our program or from approved courses outside it.
Students in American Studies have ample opportunity to do an individually designed research project one-on-one with a faculty member or to pursue a program of specialized readings on topics not covered in regular courses.
You might choose to write a senior thesis on a topic of your interest in American studies, whether for professional or personal reasons. Past thesis titles include “Analyzing the Failure of Integration in Education Through the Lens of Boston and Atlanta” and “The Dissipation of an American Ideal: Upward Mobility in the Face of Drastic Income Inequality.”
Recently, an American studies major presented a portion of her honors thesis, “Unraveling the Fabric of a Nation: Blue Jeans in American Culture,” at the New England American Studies Association’s annual conference.
Beyond the Classroom
We believe that a comparative approach illuminates the study of America. Our majors often study abroad for a semester or full year in countries such as England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia, China, Japan, India or Israel — and share their cross-cultural perspectives when they return.
Given the interdisciplinary nature of the American studies program, you’ll be equipped to pursue internships in government, law, publishing, the arts and more. Recent interns have completed performing arts internships at the Huntington Theater Company and a sports journalism internship at the Boston Globe. Our program sets you up not only for an enriching experience here at Brandeis, but also for a successful summer internship and career after Brandeis.
Many American studies majors are involved in campus clubs and activities, including serving as editors of student newspapers. Others have joined pre-professional clubs. Our program also offers activities for American studies students, including lectures, colloquia and field trips. Recent trip destinations have included the Jonathan Corwin House in Salem, the Whaling Museum in New Bedford and the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Careers, Alumni and Graduate Study
Our graduates have gone on to work for companies, organizations and government agencies such as PBS, Jewish Women’s Archive, the Supreme Court of Israel, the U.S. Congress and Atlantic Records.
Here's a snapshot of notable alumni of our program:
Stan M. Brooks ’79, a professor at the American Film Institute and past chair of the California Film Commission, produced the Emmy-award-winning miniseries “Broken Trail.”
Janet Domenitz ’80 is president of the Consumer Federation of America, executive director of MASSPIRG and a founder of Earth Day Boston.
Scott Feinberg ’08 is an awarding-columnist and podcast host for The Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles.
Alison Kibler ’87 teaches American studies and women’s and gender studies at Franklin and Marshall College.
Marc Tyler Nobleman ’94 is the author of more than 70 books, mostly for children of all ages.
Julieanna Richardson ’76 is the founder of The HistoryMakers, the nation's largest collection of African-American video oral histories on record.
With a major in American studies, you might choose to embark on graduate work in a related field such as history, media studies or cultural studies.