Founded during the 1968-69 school year, the American Studies Department at UC Davis stands apart as the only department of its kind in the University of California system. In its 50 + years on campus it has been dedicated to creating an interdisciplinary space for students to connect their personal curiosities and concerns to broader public issues, histories, and materials.
What is American Studies?
When you hear the phrase "American Studies," you might think of classrooms decked out in red, white, and blue; classes that feel just like your 10th grade U.S. history class; and images of Uncle Sam and Captain America. If you walk through our wing on the second floor of Hart Hall, you'll see that's not the case. The American Studies Department at Davis (AMS at UCD) looks at American culture as a compilation of things that can be questioned and analyzed. And it uses many lenses to understand the complicated, messy, and diverse lives people live in both in the United States and in an interconnected world. As an interdisciplinary department, AMS at UCD pulls from several disciplines (history, literature, environmental science, food science, sociology, and more) to explore phenomena in and related to U.S. culture. The faculty study food, prisons, the environment, artificial sweeteners, music, militarized culture, and much more. Each of them asks questions and teaches classes to help all of us make sense of the world we live in. So, in American Studies classes at Davis, you'll find folks asking questions about drones, thinking about the boom of diversity in comics, studying the California rodeo, analyzing the role of gossip in specific communities, wondering what needs to happen to save our planet, how to tie social science justice to academic research, and more.
Why study American Studies at Davis?
AMS at UCD has spent the last 50+ years grappling with questions of American-ness. The department isn't afraid to shy away from the personal and the political. You'll find that many of our faculty study topics that are near and dear to their hearts. AMS at UCD is a place for rigorous study and "making sense" of what's important to you. It's a place to ask big (and sometimes hard and scary) questions to better understand the world.
Our alumni are now lawyers, teachers, social workers, urban planners, marketing professionals, software engineers, filmmakers, professors, professional writers (and comedians) and non-profit staff and leaders. If this appeals to you, you might fit well in our community. If you have questions or curiosities about the diverse cultures that make up the U.S., AMS at UCD might be for you. If you want individualized attention, a major that lets you explore multiple disciplines, and the chance to study topics that are important to you, take a class with us or reach out to our major advisor and our undergraduate faculty advisor.