When I came to Barnard in the fall of 2008, I knew roughly what I wanted to major in: religion, history, psychology, sociology, or maybe even anthropology. As I progressed throughout my first two years here, I went back and forth on which field to study, one day thinking I’d made up my mind only to change it again the next. Then I discovered the American Studies discipline, which lets me combine a little bit of all of them. The interdisciplinary approach of American Studies actually encourages me to consider a subject with all perspectives in mind, not merely a historical understanding or a religious perspective, but a unique interweaving of the two. My current concentration, slave religion in antebellum America, developed during a class I took to fulfill an American Studies history requirement. The American Studies department has given me the flexibility to pursue an issue of interest from a wide variety of perspectives, and I look forward to delving even deeper into these matters as I write my senior thesis.
Lauren Del Valle
If Barnard students know anything about the American Studies major, they know that it gives you academic choices unlike any other program on campus. What people might not know is that all that exploration becomes incredibly focused in the senior thesis as you use every intellectual angle there is to look at that topic that inspires passion in you. For me, the American Studies major has meant my personal analysis of the effects of affirmative action on identity politics has historical, sociological, and even literary perspectives. Inasmuch, I feel that I can graduate college in May knowing that I have truly made the most of my interests and contributed something truly dynamic to my field of study.
As an American Studies major, I really appreciate the vast array of classes and other opportunities available to enhance my overall understanding of American history and culture. Drawing from the theoretical foundations set out in the junior colloquium, I look forward to writing a thesis that synthesizes my interests in immigration, ethnic identity and dance/theater performance. I am also a student in the Double Degree Program with the Jewish Theological Seminary, where I major in Talmud and have taken Jewish history classes that relate back to my work in American Studies. Everything builds to a common intellectual goal, and I’m always discovering new connections and ideas for how to understand and (re)interpret the past.
Born and raised in New York, Lindsey always had a predilection for local politics. American studies brought together her political interests by providing a cultural lens through which to analyze the impact of political rhetoric on history and the present. Her concentration is in media and popular culture, and her thesis is on the development and framework of abortion legislation in New York City prior to 1970. American Studies as a method has enabled her to analyze the past through rhetoric, imagery, and experience. It has helped her to understand cultural works for their political, social, and economic worth in greater society. It has also provided a greater understanding and knowledge for assessing everyday life.
I chose the American Studies major because it afforded me, a premed student, the rare opportunity to simultaneously explore and combine my interests in history and medicine. Using the academic foundation that American Studies provides in both American history and American culture, I have been able to explore the ways in which historical events have influenced the dynamic between the State and its citizens. Specifically, the American Studies major has allowed me to explore this dynamic through a senior thesis on the evolution of New York City vaccination programs in the twentieth century. The major has been a joy. While not pursuing my academic interests, I spend my time volunteering in the Bellevue Hospital Emergency Department and going to museums throughout the city. The American Studies major has been a joy, and I am proud to say that it pushed me to grow both intellectually and academically.
I am an enthusiastic American Studies major in the class of 2012, concentrating on Family and Kinship during the 20th century. The American Studies major has allowed me to discuss, write, and theorize endlessly on such a diverse array of my interests: from Modern Family to Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Ben Franklin's autobiography, and beyond. Having the opportunity to take courses from different departments every semester is something that I cannot imagine living without, and American Studies allows me to do that to the fullest extent. The junior colloquium also broadened my horizons both by exposing me to my intellectual classmates' expertise in their respective concentrations and fields, and by introducing me to a slew of theoretical thinkers and their take on our unique curriculum. Though I have yet to graduate (thank goodness!), I know that my transition to the post-college "real world" will be made much smoother (and more enjoyable) by what I've learned as a major in this wonderful department!
I have chosen a joint American Studies and Human Rights major for its unique interdisciplinary approach and strong emphasis on civic engagement. My research focuses primarily on the religious motivations of the Civil Rights Movement, and I am most interested in documenting the stories of lesser known political leaders and activists. I am fascinated by civil rights protests and legislation, and I hope to write my senior thesis on the civil rights protests of St. Augustine, Florida in 1964, which resulted in the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history. Through oral histories, I hope to bring to life many of the lost narratives of St. Augustine in order to recreate a historical moment too often overlooked by the history books.
As I explained to my advisor, Professor Kassanoff, the first time we met about joining the department, "I want to be an American Studies major because I love America!" The major lets me explore all aspects of United States culture from unique and also critical lenses. I am concentrating on the American West in the nineteenth century, and I'm looking forward to crafting a thesis topic around the lure of the West in popular American culture. When I am not studying cowboys, I am also a Spanish & Latin American Studies major. I host a classic country music radio program on WKCR and I am the president of the Columbia University Wind Ensemble. I am also a Barnard RA, so consider me a fire safety expert.
In one of my first American History classes at Barnard, our professor told us that history is more than just an accounting of what happened in the past—it is an argument about the meaning of things that happened in the past. As an American Studies major, I have the unique opportunity to examine the meaning of historical events through an interdisciplinary and cultural lens. I believe that culture of all forms—be it literature, music, theater, or film—provides us with the greatest understanding of our past and of what defines an “American” identity. I have developed a particular interest in studying the political nature of performance, and hope to write my senior thesis on the Federal Theatre Project in the 1930s. When not pursuing my academic interests (which include a minor in Ancient Studies), I work as a lifeguard and enjoy dancing, exploring the city, and serving as Vice President of Columbia’s Science Fiction Society.
I am an American Studies and Dance double major from Massachusetts focusing primarily on American culture, art, and media—and especially on the spaces where these realms intersect. I was attracted to the American Studies program at Barnard because it offered greater opportunity to analyze and acknowledge the complexities of American history to help me come to a more sophisticated and layered understanding of the contemporary United States. I’m particularly fascinated by performance studies and ways one might look at particular “American audiences.” How does the cultural material people watch, listen to, read, and participate in reflect their identities, ideologies, consumer tastes, and human needs? Currently, I am focusing on the development of site-specific modern dance in the twentieth century as it intersects with American memory and other American traditions of site-based public history.
I found American Studies almost by accident when I stumbled into Professor Elizabeth Esch's "The United States in the World" in my sophomore year. I realized quickly that it was exactly what I wanted - a department that combined history, literature, cultural studies and a constant reevaluation of theories and ideas. I am writing my thesis on Robert Frank's The Americans, Life magazine, and their relationships to each other and to American exceptionalism during the 1950s. American Studies has given me a new framework and new tools with which to look at history and the world around me.