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American Studies

In learning to make connections between a range of fields and disciplines from history to art, politics to religious studies, mass media to popular culture, among many others, students gain a multifaceted understanding of the United States in a global context. The program fosters flexible thinking, creative problem-solving skills, synthetic analysis, strong writing and oral presentation, an understanding of and familiarity with multiple kinds of media and texts, a broad understanding of social, cultural, and historical contexts, and intercultural awareness.

What is American Studies?

American Studies (AMS) offers an interdisciplinary major or minor that explores American culture from multiple perspectives.

As an American Studies student, you can:

  • Explore your interest in American culture—past and present—from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Design an area of concentration that fits your intellectual and professional interests.
  • Work closely with faculty.
  • Learn intercultural skills and gain a global perspective.
  • Study abroad and learn how people in other countries understand and perceive America.

Our Mission

The Program in American Studies at Miami University is an interdisciplinary program devoted to the critical analysis of the many cultures that come together in the United States. Bringing together faculty from a range of disciplines, the program fosters interdisciplinary research and dialogue.

The curriculum examines the diversity of American culture while also exploring how shared public cultures and collective histories and identities are forged within this diversity. We seek to provide students with scholarly opportunities to explore how they are shaped by American culture, as well as how they can shape that culture.

Our goal is to inspire informed, engaged, and socially responsible individuals and citizens by offering opportunities for collaborative and interactive learning that bring together students, faculty, and local communities. Through internships, community partnerships, and experiential learning, the program encourages civic engagement, public service, and social stewardship.

We are committed to offering teaching and scholarship of the highest quality, which explores the ongoing dialogue about America as a nation and an ideal. The American Studies Program achieves these goals by offering a major and a minor and by providing Miami Plan Foundation courses to students in all disciplines.

Our Major and Minor

American Studies offers an interdisciplinary major that explores American culture, in all its complexity, from a variety of perspectives.

Focusing broadly on American culture and society in a global context, the major and minor foster critical and creative thinking, intercultural awareness, interdisciplinary research skills, synthetic analytical skills, strong writing and oratory skills, an understanding of multiple kinds of media and texts, and a broad understanding of social, cultural, and historical contexts—skills necessary to succeed in professional work in any field.

Learning Outcomes

At graduation, we expect that our majors can master the following critical thinking skills providing a strong foundation for the other skill sets learned during your time as an American Studies major or minor.

Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of U.S. culture in a global context

Demonstrate an awareness of how American Studies frames arguments about culture by employing methods and sources from multiple fields and disciplines

Demonstrate critical self-awareness and the ability to articulate the relationship between culture and one's individual beliefs and values

Demonstrate the ability to identify and use analytical skills and knowledge necessary for engaged citizenship in a participatory democracy.

Alumni Career Spotlight

Our Program History

Miami was among the first wave of higher learning institutions to develop an undergraduate American studies curriculum.

In 1944, an Interdepartmental Field of Concentration in American Civilization was established by vote of the Arts and Science faculty.

In 1963, the Dean of Arts and Science appointed an ad-hoc committee to re-examine the major. The committee recommended the creation of a degree-granting interdisciplinary program in American Studies that included 3 courses in American Studies:

  • AMS 202 - Introduction to American Studies
    (1-semester sophomore seminar)
  • AMS 401-02 - Senior Capstone in American Studies
    (2-semester senior seminar)
These courses were listed under the auspices of the English Department and supplemented by a distribution of courses from related traditional disciplines.

Thus, in 1964, 20 years after its original founding, a formal program in American Studies was established at Miami with a curriculum based on the interdisciplinary intellectual history model developed at the 1957 American Studies Conference in Washington D.C. and presented in Robert Walker's 1958 survey, American Studies in the United States: A Survey of College Programs.

By 1970 the curriculum offered seminars for the full sophomore (AMS 201-202) and senior (AMS 401-402) years.

Over the past 38 years the strength of the program has extended from the dynamism and intellectual energy of a series of noted scholars who have served as directors of the program:

Robert Meredith (English) (1964-1970)
who went on to found the program in American Studies at University of California, Davis

Curtis Ellison (English) (1970-1974)
who has since served as Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (1981-1996), Interim Dean of the School of Education (1998-2001), Interim Dean of the School of Fine Arts (2003-2004), was a joint appoint in American Studies, the Department of History, and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and served as the Interim Director of the William Holmes McGuffey Museum

Judith Fryer (English) (1974-1984)
who moved on to the Program in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Elliot Gorn (History) (1985-1992)
who went on to the Department of American Studies at Purdue University, the Department of History at Brown University, and is currently Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History at Loyola University in Chicago

Peter Williams (Comparative Religion) (1992-2002)
who has served as the chair of the Department of Comparative Religion and is a University Distinguished Professor (emeritus)

Peggy Shaffer (History) (2002-2014)
was a transformation leader who, in 2006, secured a major NEH grant to develop curriculum related to the idea of public culture and to the specific theme of "Acting Locally"

Alumni Advisory Council

In 2015, the American Studies (AMS) Program at Miami inaugurated its first ever Alumni Advisory Council. The mission of the AMS Alumni Advisory Council is to engage Miami University's American Studies alumni in meaningful, sustainable conversations about how we might best prepare our students for the future and to develop a space and network for current AMS students to connect with AMS alumni.

Current Members

Tyler Bradshaw

Tyler Bradshaw is a 2009 graduate of the American Studies program at Miami University, earning the President's Distinguished Service Award upon graduation. Tyler continued his education at Miami, completing a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education in 2014. Tyler currently serves as the Assistant Director of Recruitment in the Office of Admission at Miami, coordinating the team's travel strategy for recruitment in over 1,300 high schools nationwide. Additionally, Tyler serves as a sports broadcaster and announcer for the Hamilton Joes, the city's premiere summer collegiate baseball team. Tyler also announces at sporting events for the Miami RedHawks and Hamilton High School. Additionally, Tyler serves on the Board of Directors for the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League, a baseball complex designed for players with physical disabilities.

Robert Goldwater

One of the most respected and innovative executives in the sports, entertainment and venue management industry, Bobby Goldwater has had a distinguished career in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Currently the President of The Goldwater Group consulting and management company, Mr. Goldwater was President and Executive Director of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission with the primary responsibility of leading the District of Columbia's efforts to bring Major League Baseball back to the nation's capital, a project that was successfully completed with the announcement in September 2004 of the relocation of the Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals. Prior to coming to Washington, Mr. Goldwater established a record of achievement at two of the most prestigious addresses in the business. He served 24 years at Madison Square Garden in New York City in a number of executive positions before leaving for STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, where he was Senior Vice President and General Manager and later was Senior Vice President, New Business. He is a graduate of Miami University in Ohio where he majored in American Studies, served as editor-in-chief and co-sports editor of The Miami Student newspaper, was vice president and a soloist with the Men's Glee Club, was the first Alumni-in-Residence with the Sport Leadership and Management program in 2012-13 and delivered the 2004 Senior Last Lecture.

Doris Holzheimer

Doris Holzheimer is co-owner of Vintner Select, an importer and distributer of fine wines headquartered in Mason, OH. She worked for 20 years at Procter & Gamble, primarily in organizational effectiveness, change, and development. Since 1993, Doris has been a Partner of The Partnering Group, an international consulting firm. Her volunteer activities include past president of the board of Women Helping Women in Hamilton County, OH; commissioner and vice chairman of the Captiva (Florida) Erosion Prevention District; and board member of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. In 2011, Doris received the Maria C. Blake Community Service Award from Women Helping Women.

Barbara Powers

Barbara Powers, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for Inventory and Registration for the State Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio History Connection, has 33 years of experience with historic survey and the National Register of Historic Places programs in Ohio. Powers serves on the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center Commission. She is the state coordinator for the Society of Architectural Historians online publication Archipedia Classic Buildings. Powers served as project manager for the Ohio Modern: Preserving Our Recent Past project that produced a statewide historic context for 1940-1970 and Dayton area history-architecture survey documenting more than 500 mid-century properties. Published works include "Ohio's Pride, the Art and Architecture of the Ohio State Office Building" in Timeline, a publication of the Ohio History Connection; "Louis Bromfield's Big House at Malabar Farm: Form Follows Fiction" in Re-creating the American Past, Essays on the Colonial Revival published by the University of Virginia Press and "The Architecture of the Ohio Governor's Residence" in Our First Family's Home published by Ohio University Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in American Studies from Miami University and a Master's in Architectural History with a certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia.

Jenny Sandel

Jenny Sandel started her career with Nestlé USA after graduating in the spring of 2011. Jenny's first role with Nestlé took her to Washington D.C., where she was a Retail Sales Representative covering the full Nestlé brand portfolio. Following her time on the East Coast, Jenny relocated to Nestlé’s headquarters in Los Angeles, where she worked on the Beverage Category and Shopper Development Team as a Shopper Marketing Associate, working with brands such as Coffee-mate and Nescafé. Jenny next relocated to the Bay Area, where she is a Customer Development Account Manager for Nestlé pasta, pizza, and ice cream brands. She is currently handling Nestlé’s accounts with Walmart and living in Arkansas.

Michael Yee

Michael Yee is a consultant in Deloitte's M&A Transaction Services group, providing financial due diligence to private equity and strategic buyers. He graduated from Miami in 2014 with a major in accounting.