American Studies

Saint Michael's American Studies

Where traditional academic departments represent specialized disciplines (think Biology, Psychology, or Math, for example), the American Studies Program represents all departments/disciplines at Saint Michael's that are most relevant to learning about America’s history and culture: History, English, Religious Studies, Political Science, Fine Arts, Sociology/Anthropology, and Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts.

The American Studies major, then, lets students experience a wide range of academic topics and fields and how they intersect in and inform the broad picture of America.

In the American Studies Program, professors in several departments blend their specialized knowledge in ways that boost your ability to learn about America. This interdisciplinary approach is valuable, and perhaps even indispensable, because America is not easily encompassed.  It has a rich history and culture that includes:

  • Puritans and Pawnees
  • African slaves and hip-hop artists
  • labor militants and Ku Klux Klansmen
  • the telegram and text-messaging
  • women as chattel and suffragists
  • Christian Science and public health medicine
  • the musket ball and the atomic bomb
  • Martin Luther King and David Petraeus
  • Emily Dickinson and George Lucas

Following an initial grounding in the basics (Introduction to American Studies) and overviews of American history and literature (US History before and since 1865; American Literature I & II), you will have the opportunity to explore in-depth courses on America as varied as Constitutional Law, Art since 1945, American Catholicism, the American Renaissance, Genres: Film, the Blues, the History of Native Peoples, and the Cold War, just to name a few.  Add a course on American Studies theory and methods.  Then you complete the major with a capstone course where you can show that you have learned how to take a particular problem in American Studies and, using the interdisciplinary methods you’ve been practicing, produce a solid research study.

Finally, although an American Studies major can be a wonderful opportunity to gain a liberal arts education (a worthy goal in its own right!), we all have to think about how to earn a living after college.  The good news is that American Studies can help give you the tools to do just that.  Our majors have gone on to varied careers as lawyers, museum directors, sales reps, bankers, EMTs, teachers, librarians, public historians, university administrators, government officials, and more.  See some of their stories in the profiles section of this site.

Maura D'Amore, PhD

Assistant Professor of English
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Ph.D., English (specialization: American Literature to 1900), with a five-course minor in American Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill
B.A., Classics and Literatures & Cultures, Brown University

Areas of Expertise:

literary geographies, print culture, gender studies, and American Studies.

Kristin Dykstra, PhD

Distinguished Scholar in Residence
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M.A., Ph.D. SUNY at Buffalo
B.A. Amherst College

Areas of Expertise:

Literatures and Cultures of the United States, US Latino/a Literatures, Transnational Exchange in the Americas, Cuban literature, Literary Translation, and American Studies

Courses I Teach:

  • Foundations of US Latino/a Literatures and Cultures
  • Introduction to Cuban Literatures and Cultures
  • Spanish 101

Nathaniel Lewis, PhD

Professor of English and Environmental Studies Coordinator
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Ph.D. Harvard University
M.A. University of North Carolina
B.A. Yale University

I teach courses on literary theory, environmental writing, and multiethnic literatures. I have written on western American literature, literary aesthetics, and nature writing.

Robert Niemi, PhD

English Department Chair, Professor of English
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M.A., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst
M.S. Columbia University
B.A. University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Areas of Expertise:

American Studies; American literature and cultural history; film studies; critical theory; popular culture studies

Courses I Teach:

  • Advanced film courses
  • American literature surveys
  • Critical Theory
  • Genres: Film

Susan Ouellette, PhD

Professor of History
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B.A. SUNY Plattsburgh
M.A., Ph.D. University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Areas of Expertise:

Early America, including the first settlement up to the American Revolution period; Native Americans; Immigration history, especially the experience of Francophones in the Northeast; Textiles history; Women’s history; diaries and memoirs.

Courses I Teach:

  • The Age of American Revolution, 1763-1815
  • American Society and Culture to 1865
  • History of the American Family
  • Native Peoples of North America
  • The Roots of American Society, 1607-1763
  • Senior Seminar
  • Topics in Women's History and the History of Gender
  • United States History to 1865
  • Women in American Society

My Saint Michael's:

I value the opportunity to work closely with students in the classroom as well as in internship and independent scholarship.

One of the unique opportunities that students at Saint Michael's have is the ability to use the physical world they see around them to study history; I like to incorporate local places, documents, structures, and people to bring class work to life. For instance, a short trip down into Winooski can give students a rare view of early industrial sites; a look at the Mill museum is a chance to imagine life in the beginning of the industrial age.

Raymond Patterson, PhD

Religious Studies Department Chair, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
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Ph.D. The Catholic University of America
M.A. Yale Divinity School
B.A. Dartmouth College;

Courses I Teach:

  • American Catholicism
  • American Protestantism
  • Celtic Christianity
  • Saints and Holiness
  • Sacraments, Worship, and Ritual
  • Religion and Film
  • Varieties of Christianity

My Saint Michael's:

Saint Michael’s graduates look at their time in Vermont as a special time in their lives -- many spend the rest of their lives trying to find ways to get back here!  I like the size of the community, which has allowed me to develop strong working relationships with students, staff and other faculty.

Lorrie Smith, PhD

American Studies Program Director, Professor of English and American Studies
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M.A., Ph.D. Brown University
B.A. University of Massachusetts-Boston

Areas of Expertise:

African American literature, especially poetry

Courses I Teach:

  • African American Literature
  • American Literature I and II
  • First-Year Seminar on Race and Culture
  • Genres: Poetry; Senior Seminar on various topics (latest: Literature and the Blues)
  • The Middle Passage (Transatlantic Slave Trade in History, Memory, and Imagination)

My Saint Michael's:

My classes offer the opportunity to engage students in discussions of race, racism, African American literature and history. I have worked hard to develop strategies for safely approaching what can often be loaded material that challenges students' comfort zones. I often incorporate experiences that combine classroom study with activities in the community. This includes overnight field trips to Charlestown, Massachusetts with my First-Year Seminar course and a three-week service-learning program in Ghana with students from my Middle Passage class. Through these cross-cultural encounters, students have a chance to examine and enlarge their own perspectives. I am also a faculty member in the college’s American Studies program.

There is a real commitment here to teach the whole student. I enjoy having a chance to shape hungry young minds and develop personal relationships with students. Saint Michael's students have open minds and good hearts. They are very empathetic, kind, and friendly, and many are interested in finding ways to connect what they learn in classes to the larger world. They also have a strong desire to contribute to the community through service. My favorite class to teach is African-American Literature and The Middle Passage, because it's a chance to introduce our students to a tradition they know little about, and to push their comfort zones.

You will work closely with an American Studies adviser to develop a program that is both interdisciplinary and that pursues significant themes or questions in depth. 

Our program's interdisciplinary approach is ideal for a future career in middle or high school education. As such, American Studies is an excellent choice of major if you are thinking about also pursuing a complementary degree in Elementary or Secondary Education.

Our study abroad program at Saint Michael’s also allows you to do a semester at another American college or university to explore a special interest in a topic or geographical area.

Not only will an American Studies major give you an in-depth knowledge of your country and culture, it will provide you with the skills necessary to excel in a variety of professions or to pursue an advanced degree at a graduate institution. Our majors have gone on to varied, successful careers as lawyers, museum directors, sales reps, bankers, EMTs, teachers, librarians, public historians, university administrators, government officials, and more.

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