The University of Alabama

UA’s American Studies Marks 50th Year with Anniversary Weekend

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s American studies department will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a weekend of special events Oct. 14-15.

The program has grown over the years from a small group of scholars to a fully-formed department of eight full-time faculty members, 60 undergraduate students and 18 graduate students. The department has also been recognized as one of the country’s most successful American studies programs.

Alumni and faculty of the department will celebrate its fifth decade with a return visit by the department’s founder, Clarence “Pete” Mondale, who is the brother of former vice president Walter Mondale and a professor emeritus of American Civilization at George Washington University. He will present the first Mondale Faculty Fellow in American Studies Award, a two-year fellowship intended to help support faculty members in furthering their research in American studies.

Other events include a concert of American music sponsored by the American Studies Undergraduate Club, which will be held Friday at the Green Bar in downtown Tuscaloosa. On Saturday, American Studies alumnus Cleo Thomas will give a talk about his collection of African American art. Thomas is a lawyer and a former UA trustee. After Thomas’ talk in the Ferguson Center Art Gallery, an American Studies alumni panel will discuss ways the program evolved through the decades and how it helped prepare them for their careers.

For more information about anniversary events, visit the department’s website at http://ams.ua.edu/50th-anniversary/ or phone the department at 205/348-5940.

Dr. Lynne Adrian, department chair for American Studies, said alumni who visit the department this year will find a warm welcome and a robust academic program that brings distinction to their degrees. One measure of the health and potential of a department is its graduate program, and American studies’ program has seen exceptional growth in the last three years. Adrian said she hopes to see that trajectory continue.

American studies is recognized for its uniquely designed curriculum, which encompasses insights and methodologies of literature, history, the arts, anthropology, geography and religious studies, among others. American studies’ interdisciplinary nature lends itself to new perspectives and methods of inquiry in gender studies, media studies and comparative culture.

Adrian said while the subject area is popular with students, it does not come with a built-in career track like education or law. The challenge with American studies is to help students envision the types of jobs for which it prepares them. American studies undergraduates and graduate students go on to jobs in publishing, government service, business, nonprofit organizations, music, law, historical preservation, public history, museums and libraries.

“Our program is very flexible and provides great preparation in a variety of areas; UA seniors often tell me they wished they had found the program soon enough to major in it,” Adrian said. “We hope to continue growth in our undergraduate program by having students take our courses and declare majors and minors earlier in their academic career at UA.”

American Studies is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.