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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IU Bloomington now offering bachelorís degree in American Studies

Aug. 27, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- After a "soft launch" a year ago, Indiana University Bloomington has begun offering students the opportunity to choose an undergraduate major in American Studies.

The interdisciplinary program within the College of Arts and Sciences explores the history, literature and culture of the United States and the Americas in the context of an increasingly interconnected world.

Matthew Guterl

Matthew Guterl

Print-Quality Photo

"We want our students to really think through what it means to have a culture that is rooted in the nation state and what it means to be citizens of the world, citizens of America, and citizens of the state of Indiana," said Matthew Guterl, associate professor and director of the American Studies Program.

Funding from IU's Commitment to Excellence program enabled the Bloomington campus to add faculty in American Studies, and the IU Board of Trustees authorized the Bachelor of Arts degree in November 2006. Even though the degree program was not heavily advertised until this year, two students completed enough requirements to graduate with a B.A. in American Studies in the spring of 2008.

"This new program highlights the advantages of interdisciplinary studies, because many contemporary issues do not fit neatly within the confines of traditional disciplines," said Bennett Bertenthal, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who has made interdisciplinary studies a cornerstone of a strategic plan for the College.

Students majoring in American Studies complete 30 credit hours in the program. In an approach that is unique for American Studies, all take 15 hours from a sequence of core courses, starting with an introductory course titled "What Is America?" and concluding with a senior seminar.

They also take at least 15 hours in a student-defined concentration area that provides a background for their senior seminar topic. Majors must demonstrate advanced competence in a single foreign language, equivalent to a third year of study of the language.

"We wanted the major to be simple and flexible, but we also wanted it to be intellectually ambitious," Guterl said. Of the 2008 graduates, one focused the senior seminar on the U.S. trade embargo and its effect on tourism and the economy of Cuba, and the other studied advertising and consumerism through product placement on the television show "Sex and the City."

The American Studies Program at IU Bloomington also offers an undergraduate minor (requiring 15 credit hours), a combined Ph.D. with various other disciplines, and a Ph.D. minor.

The program has eight core faculty members, most of them recently recruited by IU and holding joint appointments in departments including African-American and African Diaspora Studies, Communication and Culture, English, History, Religious Studies and Spanish and Portuguese. It also boasts a long list of active affiliated faculty members from across the campus.

"We have a faculty that is very energetic and very interested in connecting with students," Guterl said.

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