Why American Studies?
American Studies is dynamic and relevant
American Studies is a major for students who want to move beyond a single perspective and grapple with pressing questions and complex issues in dynamic, multifaceted ways.
What is America? What does it mean to be an American? What has it meant in the past? What might it mean now and in the future?
These kinds of questions are at the center of the American Studies major. The answers are contested, often contradictory, and never fixed or fully resolved. By examining these questions from multiple angles, tracing connections and forging conversations across time and disciplinary boundaries, you will gain new perspectives and original insights, as well as the ability to listen to and assess the viewpoints and positions of others.
“Only in American Studies can I grasp a solid understanding of US history and the evolving nature of American culture, while also studying current issues and trends that affect policy and society today. I have always been fascinated by the intersection of history and the current state of the world; American Studies provides me with the opportunity, resources, and intellectual space to [explore those intersections].” - Lindsay Lamont ’13
“I’ve often been asked by friends and family, ‘what exactly is American Studies?’ To me, American Studies looks at our nation’s past through not just the historical lens, but through the cultural and the societal. Understand the past, and you understand the present; understand the present, and you can shape the future.” - Jacob Nierenberg ’17
American Studies is individualized and flexible
Each American Studies major will develop and shape a unique thematic concentration with the support and guidance of an American Studies advisor.
American Studies isn’t just about America. It’s about you.
Through the major requirements, you will discover creative, innovative intersections and combinations that aren’t easily accommodated by disciplinary boundaries. You will take the initiative to mold your education to fit your interests, a skill you will use as you move beyond Stanford. And because we are a relatively small major, the program takes pride in its ability to give each student exceptionally personalized attention. American Studies advisors are eager to help you to identify and pursue your passions.
“I love American Studies because it has allowed me to study precisely what I want to study, and left me plenty of room to discover what that is exactly….We love flexibility and exploration!” - Isabela (Izzy) Angus ’20
“American Studies allows me to connect my interests among various fields of study. From Human Biology to English to the Graduate School of Education, I’ve been able to dabble in multiple other departments that interest me. My major is completely individualized to me and what I want to study.” - April Gregory ’13
American Studies is lively and diverse
The interdisciplinarity of our program and the diversity of interests and perspectives of our majors makes American Studies a site for vibrant, collegial encounters and conversations.
American Studies is just the beginning.
You will make connections not just across disciplines, but with fascinating faculty from around the university and with fellow students who are, like you, outside-the-box thinkers and doers. A robust and varied schedule of speakers, social events, and other activities means that you will also learn about and engage with communities and causes beyond the classroom.
“American Studies gives me the support and flexibility to learn about the intersections between identity, law, and inequality within the United States and the ability to apply that knowledge in the real world.”- Patrick Perez ’22
"I love meeting and learning from professors and other majors who have such a diverse range of interests and backgrounds.” - Ella Bunnell ’19
American Studies prepares you for a range of possible futures
The American Studies major helps you build an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and awareness as you also develop flexible, innovative approaches to problem-solving and equip yourself for the career of your choice.
The world needs nimble, informed, creative thinkers.
American Studies majors have achieved success in a range of different fields and endeavors. Whether you imagine a career as a lawyer, journalist, professor, entrepreneur, television writer and producer, artist, filmmaker, fashion designer, or professional athlete, American Studies can take you there. The question isn’t “what can you do with a degree in American Studies?” It’s “What can't you do?”
“I think my instinct when I was twenty-two that my American Studies major had prepared me for everything was in fact the right instinct. . . . The thing about an American Studies degree is it doesn’t give you all the answers, but what it does is it teaches you how to ask questions and understand issues in very complicated ways. The present is very complicated, and if you can’t understand how to approach it or question it in complex, interdisciplinary ways, you’re going to struggle. Having an undergraduate major that teaches you how to ask questions and understand problems in complex ways is going to prepare you for everything, and then you can learn the other stuff. – Lynn Mahoney ’86
What else do students and alumni love about American Studies?
“There is incredible freedom to deeply explore the connections between disciplines. No one subject is truly isolated, and I love that American Studies gives me the opportunity to study the spaces in between.” - Nihtawneemiw (Tawnee) Boham ’14
“American Studies allows me to personalize my study of art, literature, and activism, while also getting a breath of knowledge about American culture and history” - Caleb Martin ’20
“The opportunities for interdisciplinary study are simply unprecedented within the American Studies major at Stanford. There is truly something for everyone in the field of American Studies.” - Ellery Dake ’13
“I have benefited from the flexibility and latitude within the major to design a course of study that has proven challenging, stimulating, and exciting.” - Annie Kramer ’13
“I love the interdisciplinary nature of the American Studies major . . . .It allows me to explore such a wide scope of information from a variety of approaches, and thus to develop an integrative approach to a topic or challenge.” - Asher Kaye ’16
“American Studies encourages me to explore the intersections of seemingly separate facets of American life and history. I love the freedom and creativity the program allows and the modern relevance all of the classes hold” - Callan Showers ’19
“The opportunity to examine the country that I grew up in is special, and I appreciate continually supplementing my understanding of what it means to be American. I also love that so many of the classes that sound fun to me on ExploreCourses always happen to end up being AmStud.” - Kady Richardson ’18
“I like the flexibility of American Studies. The program pushes students to explore diverse academic interests, striking an excellent balance between specializing in a particular field and considering new realms of discovery.” - Chelsea Rosenberg ’16
"I love that American Studies is a small major and a close community. It enables me to explore multiple fields of interest and gives me the freedom to design my own concentration" - Kimberly Bacon ’15
“To me, the American Studies major captures the struggle to understand and create a 'more perfect union.'” - Allison Gold ’15
What I like about American Studies [is] the way that studying the same issues, thinkers, and history through different lenses gives a nuanced understanding that's hard to achieve through one discipline alone - Sophi Scarnewman ’13
“For me, American Studies is a continual rediscovery of home.” - Jordan Huelskamp ’17