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American Studies at Miami University

Map of US constructed out of state license platesHistory

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:

  • Introduction to American Studies
    (AMS 202, a one-semester sophomore seminar)
  • Senior Capstone in American Studies
    (AMS 401-02, two-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) and is currently a joint appoint in American Studies, the Department of History, and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and serving 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 and was recently appointed to the Department of History at Brown University
Peter Williams (REL) (1992-2002)
who has served as the chair of the Department of Comparative Religion and is a University Distinguished Professor.

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