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American Studies

At Mary Baldwin College, students explore the American way of life through a variety of lenses. American Studies examines, from several perspectives, the development and expressions of a national culture and subcultures, exploring diverse aspects of the American experience locally, nationally, and globally. American Studies considers life in the United States of America by encouraging students to analyze the American past and present, to synthesize their knowledge, and to develop the critical habit of mind needed for cultural understanding. Such skills are essential for the formation of a knowledgeable and politically engaged citizenry. The major is an excellent choice for aspiring teachers, journalists, community leaders, and public servants.


All students gain a foundation in American history, literature and politics and choose one of the following concentrations:

  1. American Studies for Educators: Virginia history, human geography, economics, the workings of government, as well as additional courses in literature and history.
  2. American Ethnicity, Culture, and Race: Religion, democracy and crisis, the American South and the American West, history and literature (Asian American, African American, U.S. Latino, Appalachian), the history of jazz, sociology, forensic psychology, poverty, inequality.
  3. Global America: Language and culture, foreign policy, diplomatic history, communication, anthropology, subcultures and politics.
  4. American Public Life: Law, politics, government, public history, poverty, culture and communication, social issues and movements.
  5. American Arts and Letters: American art history, film, and architecture; literature (including fiction and poetry), music (including jazz, folk and rock), Asian American, African American and Latino literature, culture, and theatre.


The minor in American studies pairs well with many majors and offers the same array of concentrations as the major. It requires a total of 21 semester hours including specific courses in American studies, history, English, political science, and two courses from one of the concentration areas.


The certificate in American studies will be of particular interest to international students participating in a one-year exchange program at Mary Baldwin. It requires 15 semester hours of credit (five individual courses), offers a breadth of understanding about history and culture of the United States, and results in a credential that will appear on your transcript.

American studies is available through the College for Women in Staunton and through the Adult Degree Program in Charlottesville, Rappahannock, Richmond, Roanoke, South Boston, Staunton, Weyers Cave, and Williamsburg.