International Center And Undergraduate Major Will Focus On Understanding
America From Many Viewpoints
March 28, 2002-- The University
of Virginia, home to rich resources in American history, society
and culture, is establishing an International Center for American
Studies to strengthen teaching and understanding worldwide about
America. The University also will launch a new interdisciplinary
major in American Studies next fall. The undergraduate major will
offer a broader range of courses than any other U.Va. program.
growing interest at home and abroad in American issues -- an interest
intensified after last falls terrorist attacks -- the center
will aim to make U.Va. a main exchange point for research, discussions
and teaching about America, said William B. Quandt, Vice Provost
for International Affairs. Both the international center and the
new interdisciplinary major will be directed by Stephen Cushman,
the Robert C. Taylor Professor of American Literature and a noted
scholar and writer.
begin to develop connections among American Studies teachers throughout
the world, the center will bring a group of leading foreign scholars
to U.Va. in May to discuss plans and possibilities for the effort.
Countries represented include China, Turkey, Israel, Mexico, England,
France, Italy and Germany.
U.Va.s close association with Jefferson and other American
founders, its renowned library holdings of rare American texts and
documents, its highly rated faculty, its proximity to Washington,
D.C., and its leadership in using new technologies to make its resources
widely available, "we have the potential to become the central
place for international scholars to look to for American Studies,"
center, established by U.Va.s Vice Provost for International
Affairs office, will encourage the work of foreign scholars in their
home countries as well as that of American scholars teaching abroad.
"We also want to deepen our own awareness of the many ways
in which the United States is perceived and understood by people
beyond its own borders," Cushman said. "It is important
that we ask, What do we look like to you?"
many possibilities for the American Studies center would be traveling
fellowships for foreign scholars to use the library and to lecture
here, international conferences, more faculty and student exchange
programs and new scholarships for foreign graduate students studying
new American Studies concentration within the Universitys
interdisciplinary major, approved March 27 by the Faculty of Arts
& Sciences to start next fall, will have as one goal "to
teach students to think of the United States as a country held together
in argumentation and discussion about different stories of nationhood,"
Cushman said. "We will encourage a comparative perspective
of these national narratives as they have emerged over the last
than 180 courses on American themes will be offered initially from
17 departments: Afro-American and African Studies, Anthropology,
Architectural History, Art History, Economics, English, Environmental
Sciences, Drama, Politics, History, Music, Philosophy, Psychology,
Religion, Sociology, Studies in Women and Gender, and Technology,
Culture and Communication.
program will accept 15 students a year at first and aim to eventually
have 60 in the major, "without sacrificing the benefits of
a small learning community," said Cushman. "It will be
an ideal major for students interested in America and a wonderful
double-major, complementing much of the work in individual disciplines."
has offered an American Studies concentration for English and history
majors since 1975. Arts & Sciences Dean Edward L. Ayers said
the new major will build on the success and popularity of that program,
which has been directed by English professor Alan Howard.
will continue to direct the popular M.A. program in American Studies.
The M.A. program, with its emphasis on electronic scholarship, has
helped make U.Va. a leader in integrating new technologies into
the humanities and in establishing a global reach through the Internet
for the vast resources in the University Library. Howard will go
to China later this year to give a presentation on electronic scholarship.
absence of a full American Studies major has been glaring at an
institution so closely associated with many aspects of American
society, politics, government, history, literature and the arts,"
new major, planned by an advisory committee of faculty from numerous
departments, will require 30 credit-hours and 10 courses in an individually
designed program of study. One of its goals will be for each student
to demonstrate an ability to transcend disciplinary boundaries.
"Although we affirm the necessity and integrity of individual
disciplines, we want our American Studies students to understand
the assumptions and methods of several of them," Cushman said.
Sept. 11 both the international center and new major "seem
to me more urgent than ever," he said. An aim of both will
be "seeking a realistic and informed understanding of America
and of the effects we have around the world."
Ken Kipps, (434) 243-8960 or Bob Brickhouse, (434) 924-6856