Posting Date: July 6, 2009
The Master's in American Studies program: Bridging a cultural gap through advocacy
By Vanessa H. Fardin
Imagine an educational setting where instructors and students collaborate to effect change in their community by understanding the social and cultural dynamics of their environment. Imagine the resulting interdisciplinary research studies sprouting into a legacy that remains long after projects are accomplished. This is the genesis of a utopian educational community. This is the first graduate program in American Studies in the state of Georgia, housed at Kennesaw State University.
KSU’s Master’s in American Studies program is among 200 graduate programs in the United States. It has been in the development process for the past five years and recently received its approval by the Board of Regents. The 25 graduate students admitted into the program this fall will study and research with members in cross disciplinary fields such as the African Diaspora, environmental movements, historical memory, regional studies, immigrant cultures, and LGBT studies. “We have a terrific group of students coming in this fall, and I’m looking forward to working with each of them,” says LeeAnn Lands, interim director of the MA in American Studies program.
The graduate program in American Studies at KSU prepares future graduates to question and evaluate their environment by keeping historical memory alive through the arts, literature, history, and theatre and performance. The MAST’s diverse is dedicated to raising awareness through advocacy in order to influence the community. “We will have graduates who observe and critique institutions and proceed to change the world around them,” says Ugena Whitlock, associate professor of education and gender studies.
The program is designed to integrate disciplines by creating and implementing research projects and allowing students to participate in study abroad programs such as the new community museum in Casablanca, Morocco in partnership with Hassan II University.
Another study abroad experience, led by Associate Professor of English Linda Niemann, in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico will provide students the opportunity to study Mayan culture, reside with host families, and take Spanish courses at the Instituto Jovel, which doubles as an opportunity for students to fulfill their KSU foreign language requirements. Whitlock also plans to design an ethnographic study of fundamentalists and LGBTQ forces in the southern United States as an alternative addition to the program’s various study abroad experiences.
Graduate research assistants will have the chance to get involved in such projects as Professor of History Alan LeBaron’s Education of Mayan Families in Canton, Georgia, Associate Professor of History Catherine Lewis’ Oakland Cemetery project, and Associate Professor of History LeeAnn Lands’ Oral History project. Through the department’s affiliation with non-profit organizations, museums, and the American Studies Association, graduates students like Jessica Killcreas will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in the field through practicums and internships in the spring of 2010. “I wanted to combine my English degree with history,” Killcreas says, “and this program allows you to get involved in community projects that will continue after our time in the program.”
Whitlock is excited about the coming semester’s crop of students that include current and future educators, administrators and museum curators. “They are the agents whose mindfulness and heart for social justice will change the world around us,” Whitlock says.