Study the American Experience in all its Diversity

American Studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining the range and diversity of American experiences, identities, and communities.  Through its rich array of course offerings as well as opportunities for internships and preparation of an honors thesis, students study social, political, economic, and cultural processes within the United States as well as exploring the role of the nation in a global context. By placing the United States in a transnational and comparative framework, the major invites students to consider the relationship of different communities to the nation-state, which includes issues of colonialism and empire building as well as the effect of social protest movements. Courses investigate the American landscape and the built environment; they explore power, inequality, and agency through analysis of intersecting structures of race, gender, class, sexuality, and citizenship. Central to these studies are examinations of the relationship of theory and practice within historical and contemporary contexts.

American Studies is the oldest interdisciplinary major at Franklin & Marshall College.  Established in 1975, it is one of the most comprehensive majors at the college.  Students take core courses in American Studies as well as courses drawn from other nine academic departments. Students have developed individual concentrations in fields such as literary and cultural studies, social and historical developments, race and ethnicity, and gender. American Studies faculty members approach their work from many directions but share the desire to view America as a whole.

Because the American Studies curriculum helps students to develop their analytical skills and critical judgment, it is an invaluable foundation for a number of careers, including business, management, public policy, personnel, media, and education. Other former majors earn advanced degrees in graduate programs or professional schools in fields such as law, business, medicine, history, and museum studies. The interdisciplinary strength of American Studies prepares students to pursue personal interests and professional aspirations across their lifetimes.

American Studies at F&M

Students Speak:
Why I Am an
American Studies Major

  • Leah Brenner

Leah Brenner '15

I am an American Studies major because with the first AMS class I took, I fell in love with the unique way that American Studies views America and also the world. I love the opportunities I have had to study in various places within the United States and also abroad. I appreciate having close relationships with my professors, who have been instrumental in shaping my undergraduate career. I have also enjoyed taking advantage of opportunities to participate in research projects of great significance, such as my Hackman Summer Scholarship working on the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted.


  • Marcus Brown

Marcus Brown '15

Being an American Studies major has taught me how to question and observe the world as it happens around me. My whole life I have been naturally inquisitive. American Studies has taught me to utilize this and taught me how to ask the right questions to become better connected to my community and those around me.  

  • Courtney Rinden

Courtney Rinden '16

I chose to declare an American Studies major after realizing the discipline's diversity. True to the nature of liberal arts, American Studies encompasses history, social movement, arts, and popular media to examine the larger cultural narratives we tell about our country and its place on the global stage. I constantly find topics and ideas discussed in class at work in my everyday experiences. The framework for critical analysis of constructed meanings is an essential tool that I will use for the rest of my life to consider my place in both global and local communities. Plus, the professors are fun! 

The Pulse of AMS

March 30
event 3/30/2017

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

Mayser Gymnasium

Peggy Orenstein Writer Peggy Orenstein is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine...

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Story 1/9/2017

Students Examine Ways to Improve Effectiveness of Lancaster’...

Lancaster’s Central Market has been a point of community pride since the town’s earliest days – Franklin & Marshall College, in its earliest form, almost as long. Last summer, a group of F&M faculty...

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Story 9/21/2016

Greetings from the Department Chair

AMS Chair Dennis Deslippe reports on student and faculty accomplishments from the past academic year. 

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Story 9/20/2016

Congratulations, AMS Class of 2016!

Congratulations to the class of 2016! This story includes some photos from Commencement and the AMS Senior Reception as well as a list of AMS grads and a sampling of where they're headed in the...

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