When I tell people that I majored in Communications and American Culture I usually receive a vigorous, understanding nod followed by a blank stare and the eventual question of, “So what do you do with that degree?” Or for the more straight forward, “What exactly is American Culture?” I’ve always taken the easy route of explaining it as essentially history with a strong focus on marginalized groups (though also examining contemporary problems) and how artistic mediums impact U.S. society.
I am not surprised people are confused by the name – it seems like an unfathomably broad topic. This video does a great job of pulling together a sense of what the American Culture department is about. It also shows real people from my school and program who have paying jobs in fields directly related to what we learned. While I don’t have specific career aspirations regarding my degree in American Culture, I 100% look back on the classes I took for my American Culture major and regard them as the most valuable classes I took in college. Were my Communications classes interesting and does the degree aid me in my career journey? Absolutely. Did I learn any life lessons? Sure, maybe. Maybe hard work, maybe business practices, and definitely very interesting and helpful information.
BUT, my American Culture classes straight up changed my view on the world. They expanded my understanding of this country and fueled my passion for racial and social issues. They helped me develop my own identity as a person of mixed race and to distinguish the life events that contributed to my feelings or confusion about who I was. I encourage everyone who has an American Culture program (also called American Studies) to at least take some of the classes offered. If you have a race and ethnicity requirement, don’t cop out with Anthropology (not that there’s anything wrong with Anthro) but take something that is specifically about the racial issues in your own country. It will make you a better person.