The Department of American Studies at Brown University was founded in 1945 as a collaborative as well as interdisciplinary enterprise. The first catalog statement explained that it provided “the student with a more comprehensive and better unified knowledge of American Studies . . . than would be possible within the limits of a single department.” This rigorous interdisciplinary approach still informs the program's goal of reaching a better understanding of the diverse cultures, groups, and experiences that make up American Studies. Today, we work principally in three areas: American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Public Humanities.
The Department encourages students to take courses not only with our own faculty, but with faculty throughout the University and internationally. In addition to traditional research and publishing, faculty and students work in the community, in popular journals, and online to provide their research findings and skills to the public. Drawing deeply from the traditions of the liberal arts, American Studies at Brown is predicated on the ideal of a scholarly engagement with the public that enables its graduates to, as Brown's 1764 University Charter demands, "discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation."