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The discussion and understanding of the United States in an interdisciplinary context is important, and in wake of current events, increasingly relevant. Arizona State University's American studies master’s degree program is designed to give students a look into what the field of American studies is, where it comes from, and where it’s going.
The program, previously a part of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, is now offered through the School of Social Transformation. Sujey Vega, the faculty lead for the program, said this change gives students a perspective of history beyond a traditional historical framework.
“Students will have access to our (School of Social Transformation) faculty who are involved in American studies as well as other faculty at ASU who want to take part in critical conversations regarding American studies topics. More specifically, the degree also offers interdisciplinary conversations that move beyond history as the central framework,” Vega said.
The principal categories of the program are race, ethnicity, class, gender and space. The curriculum studies debates, themes and problems that have shaped the perception of the United States, domestically and abroad, and gives students the opportunity to think critically and discuss through local and global contexts.
Students are given the option of writing a traditional thesis, or doing a creative project that could assist the needs of an existing organization, or act as a response to a problem identified by the student. Vega said a student's interest in modern events could easily be applied to construct their final thesis or project.
The program also takes a look into how the ideas and systems in the U.S. have also shaped other cultures inside and outside of the United States, and analyze those differences and outcomes. Vega said the location of the program in the Southwest can give students a unique perspective on the curriculum.
“The American studies MA includes critical explorations of power, empire, settler colonialism and justice. Given our geographical location in the American Southwest, our program values an exploration of diasporic and transnational influences in U.S. cultures and social/political history,” Vega said.