Why you should consider a minor in American Studies

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Contrary to popular belief, American Studies is not an indoctrination scheme created behind closed doors in the Pentagon, nor is it a winning the hearts and minds campaign from the Vietnam era. It is merely the study of the United States through its literature, philosophy, history, poli­tics, music, art and pop culture.

The term "American Studies" encompasses a vast range of dis­ciplines, all of which examine the multiple cultures found within the United States. As a result, classes are taught by professors from the humanities and social sciences departments.

American culture and political influence is so pervasive that no course of study should go without a critical examination of the related role that the United States has played. In addition to studying financial theory, it is important to study the American financial sector, in which modern finance was born. In study­ing international relations theory, it is important to understand how American foreign policy is crafted, especially if one hopes to criticize it. Any student of these fields and many others must ask why American influ­ence has been so extensive through­out the 20th century.

As more and more graduates opt to work in careers that do not directly relate to their degrees, organizations consistently seek candidates who possess "transferable skills." These skills are acquired through classes, extracurricular involvement, expe­rience, and hobbies that are appli­cable to virtually any position. The skills developed in an American studies minor are highly transferable. Students in the Arts and Humanities participate in a rich curriculum that develops their critical thinking, problem solving, and hard knowl­edge skills, making them extremely marketable and valuable to potential employers.

Furthermore, in embracing the lib­eral arts model at AUC, the American studies minor can be tailored to meet the strengths and interests of any AUC student. Due to American studies being a relatively new field of study, deciding to choose a minor in American Studies shows both aca­demic institutions and companies that you are an individual looking to apply traditional disciplines and con­cepts in an abstract environment.

For those looking to further their academic career with a master's degree: Most institutions look favor­ably on students with a background in American studies. An American Studies degree can be shaped to fit a variety of disciplines and the broad skill set acquired allows one to apply knowledge in many contexts. Students and employers have found American Studies programs and courses to be particularly valuable preparation for graduate study in the humanities and social sciences or for professional careers in private indus­try, law, government and politics, journalism, research, and teaching. In completing the minor, students will have access to the resources of numerous academic departments and courses, as well as the opportu­nity to develop relevant technologi­cal skills.

Undergraduate degrees are meant to be an introduction to the tools and perspectives needed to excel in the wider world. But more than that, in a competitive job market pursuing a minor is a way of distinguishing one­self. This is why I believe American Studies is a great candidate for this purpose.

Kareem Captan is a research assis­tant at the Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) and is minoring in American Studies.

The views expressed in this com­mentary piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Caravan.