American Studies: 50 Years of Interdisciplinary Connections
Created in 1969, the American Studies Program featured courses from eight departments, a junior colloquium, and a senior seminar and thesis. The first students had to pursue American Studies as a second major in addition to majoring in a more established field. But students signed up, anyway. As George Keating, one of the Program’s first graduates, wrote, “I realized that American Studies was worth the uncertainty of pursuing a still unofficial major. . . . The next two years confirmed that the risk was well worth taking.”
Faculty from across the College have worked with the American Studies Program, teaching courses, mentoring students, and providing leadership. Including those listed below, other notable faculty include Joseph T. Durkin, S.J.; Diana Owen; Ricardo Ortiz; and Ed Ingebretsen.
Pictured here are: Dorothy Brown; Hugh Cloke; Beth McKeown; Jesse Mann; Ron Johnson; Emmett Curran; Erika Seamon; Randy Bass
Reverend Joseph T. Durkin, S.J. played a pivotal role in developing and guiding the American Studies Program. He designed and taught a core two-semester American Civilization course and mentored many students over the years. The comments in this commemorative booklet make clear the importance of Durkin’s inspiration and encouragement.
Each American Studies student designs their own program, combining required core courses with electives and a thesis reflecting their individual interests and goals.
The Reverend Joseph T. Durkin, S.J. Book Endowment Fund was established in 1972 by Father Durkin's colleagues, friends, and students to honor his many years of devoted service to Georgetown. The fund supports purchases for the Collection in American Studies, which were personally selected by Father Durkin until his passing in 2003. Since then, each graduating senior has selected a book for the collection, often adding an inscription addressed to future American Studies students.
The American Studies major culminates with the thesis, a significant research project that gives students an opportunity to dig deeply into a topic or question that matters to them. The project requires independent thinking, creativity, substantive research, and hard work. Each spring, seniors present their thesis research to their peers, faculty, and family members.
Every semester, American Studies students, faculty, and alumni take a field trip to historical or cultural site. Whether touring an iconic home like Mount Vernon, the neighborhoods of Baltimore or Richmond, or a major exhibit on Thomas Cole at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, American Studies field trips complement classroom learning and provide opportunities for students, faculty, and alumni to interact informally.
Image on the left: Steve Jeisz, Martha Lawler, and Dave Small on a field trip to Baltimore.
Image on the right: Students and faculty visit the Clara Barton House in 2007.
In 1986, American Studies alumna Dora Richardson endowed an annual lecture series that brings scholars, journalists, and public figures to campus for presentations but also conversations with faculty and students. The first Richardson Lecture was given by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1987. Others have included radio host Diane Rehm, journalist George Packer, playwright Edward Albee, Senators Frank Keating and George J. Mitchell, and many American Studies scholars.
Based in seven different departments in the College, American Studies faculty teach and research about a wide range of topics. They continue the American Studies tradition of being curious, scholarly, and deeply committed to supporting but also challenging their students.