What does it mean and look like to be an American?
What factors make something an aspect of American culture? American Studies is an interdisciplinary program that examines American society and culture, both past and present. Through a study of American history, literature, philosophy, religion, media, social science, and fine arts, students critically analyze the richness of the American experience. With a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from La Salle, you’ll become a cultural critic capable of making connections through an interdisciplinary perspective in order to draw conclusions about the American experience.
Courses in this Major
The American Studies major covers a wide range of topics across many disciplines. Some courses our students take include:
AMST 200: Themes and Topics in American Culture
This course focuses on one American theme or topic (e.g., “The Family in American Culture,” “The City in American Life”) and examines it from the perspectives of multiple academic disciplines. The course builds on and refines the analytic skills presented in AMST 100, and it provides opportunities for students to draw on, integrate, and synthesize content from AMST core discipline courses, as well as from AMST controlled electives. (May be repeated for credit as topic varies.)
Art 222: American Art: Native American to Modern
This survey course introduces American art through the study of selected artists and works of art, many of them in local museums. It traces the evolution of American art from Native American beginnings, through the Colonial and Federal periods, concluding in the World War II era and contemporary eras.
Sociology 312: Social Change and Social Movements
This course examines the dynamics of social change and of specific social movements, such as the environmental justice movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the health movement, and others.
History 329: The American Woman
An in-depth analysis of the experience of women in American culture is examined in this course. Special attention is given to the women’s rights movement, women in the Industrial Revolution, and women in World War I and World War II.
History 331: America’s Military Past
The impact of the American military establishment upon American society and the formation of defense strategy and foreign policy are the topics of emphasis in this course.
English 346: Studies in American Literature Since 1900
In this course, students intensively study American literature from 1900 to the present. Although topics may vary from section to section, this course concentrates on selected authors from this time period, examining them in the light of their historical and cultural contexts.
"America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine providence on behalf of the human race."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Blaze Your Own Path
When you’ve completed your degree in American Studies, you’ll be able to analyze the role of race, ethnicity, gender, and class in American culture. You’ll also be able to author evidence-based writings and be a self-directed learner. With transferable skills and an interdisciplinary perspective of the American truth, you’ll be able to enter such professions as:
For those students in the Education/American Studies dual major program, you’ll be prepared for Instructional I Teacher Certification and a specialized area of study.
By interning in your field, you’ll be able to gain valuable hands-on experience in your chosen industry. From this experience you’ll not only be able to build your resume, you’ll be able to determine what path you wish to follow. Our students have interned at places such as:
All students are required to create a capstone project presenting a research topic of their choosing. Because the major offers flexibility in regards to pursuing a double major or minor area of study, we allow students to choose research that aligns with their personal interests. The capstone project enables students to showcase their understanding of research-based writing, critical thinking, and the understanding of their content area. This research can be used when applying for jobs, graduate school, research grants, and more. The student work is then published in The Eagle’s Eye: The La Salle American Studies Student Review. Past capstone project topics include:
Football as the New American Religion
Counterfeit History: Myths, Untruths, and Omissions in American Historical Education
Life Magazine: 1950
Islamic Education for Young Children
A Woman’s Choice: Power and Individuality, or Marriage?
My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of every opportunity given to you. Entering the classroom for your first field experience can be incredibly terrifying. But, the most important thing I can say is to get to know your cooperating teacher and get involved with the students right away. They want to know you just as much as you want to know them.
Francis J. Ryan, professor of American Studies, is a cultural and intellectual historian of American education. He is also a former president of the Eastern American Studies Association. His research interests include the history of American education (particularly progressive education and Catholic education); American immigration and ethnicity; narcissism in American culture and literature; and the […]
My academic background and teaching experience have always reflected my belief in an interdisciplinary approach to course content and student learning. I earned my B.A. in English with a minor in Education from La Salle (1971), completing my secondary teaching certification (1972). I have masters’ degrees from Villanova University in English (1976) and Educational Administration […]
Major: Elementary Education (PreK-4)/Special Education (K-8), American Studies
Hometown: Long Beach Island, N.J.
La Salle University Ambassadors Vice President: Fall 2017
La Salle University Ambassadors Social Chair: Fall 2016-May 2017
Writers Matters Program Tutor La Salle University
La Salle University Mentoring Program
Co-Chair La Salle University Relay for Life
Active participant in La Salle University LIVE programs
Participant in Student Education Association
Participant in American Studies Association
Alpha Epsilon Alumni Honors Society
What helped you decide on your major? I feel as though all young children, at some point, go through a phase of wanting to be a teacher; playing school, pretending to be the teacher, “grading papers.” I see myself as the girl who really never grew out of that phase. Since I can remember I have wanted to be an elementary school teacher. When I was applying to colleges I entertained the idea of other majors, maybe speech pathology, or communication, but something always drew me back to becoming a teacher; making a difference in the lives of young children. Throughout my educational experience, I have had some amazing and incredibly impactful teachers. I hope to someday serve as that same inspiration for the young children within my future classroom.
What was your experience like at La Salle? Something that really drew me to La Salle was the reputation of their Education program. My experience with the program was nothing short of amazing. I was exposed to field experience starting the second semester of my freshman year, and had some type of experience every semester following. I was able to get myself into the classroom and observe the students and teachers to see if Education was truly the fit for me. I had the opportunity to work with a range of students from grades Pre-K through third grade, which has really given me great experiences to take with me.
Who has been the most influential member of the La Salle community on your life? The most influential member of the La Salle community on my life would have to be Kimberly Lewinski, Ph.D., one of the education professors here at La Salle. I had the opportunity to have Dr. Lewinski for three education courses, with each course better than the last. Dr. Lewinski brings her educational background and teaching experience into the classroom. Within her classes I always felt comfortable to ask any question I had, knowing no question was a dumb question. If you ever needed any type of resource for a lesson that you were teaching, or advice on how to teach something, Dr. Lewinski is always happy to help. My La Salle experience truly would not have been complete without her!
What is your advice to any high school students thinking about entering the Education program at La Salle? My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of every opportunity given to you. Entering the classroom for your first field experience can be incredibly terrifying. But, the most important thing I can say is to get to know your cooperating teacher and get involved with the students right away. They want to know you just as much as you want to know them. The more comfortable you make yourself, the more comfortable your students will be. Never let an opportunity pass you by because you were too scared to get involved!
Francis J. Ryan, professor of American Studies, is a cultural and intellectual historian of American education. He is also a former president of the Eastern American Studies Association. His research interests include the history of American education (particularly progressive education and Catholic education); American immigration and ethnicity; narcissism in American culture and literature; and the intersection of American history with American art and photography.
He is the co-author of Drowning in the Clear Pool: Cultural Narcissism, Technology and Character Education (New York, Peter Lang Publishing, 2002). He has published articles in Studies in the Humanities, The English Journal, Records of the American Catholic Historical Society, Vitae Scholasticae: Bulletin of Educational Biography, The Social Studies, Journal of Educational Thought, The Polish Review, The Clearing House, Educational Horizons, The British Journal of Educational Technology, The Education Digest, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Momentum, The ALAN Review, and The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.
My academic background and teaching experience have always reflected my belief in an interdisciplinary approach to course content and student learning. I earned my B.A. in English with a minor in Education from La Salle (1971), completing my secondary teaching certification (1972). I have masters’ degrees from Villanova University in English (1976) and Educational Administration (1978). I have taken doctoral level courses in Educational Leadership at Lehigh University, studied the use of technology in the teaching of writing at Temple University, and completed the requirements for the Pennsylvania superintendent letter of eligibility at Saint Joseph’s University.
Before returning to La Salle, I spent forty years in public and private education as a teacher, department chair, subject area supervisor, and principal at both the middle and high school levels. My experiences in each of those positions have proven to be invaluable to teaching at La Salle. Probably the most direct link from those years has been a team taught, interdisciplinary American Studies course that I co-wrote and taught with a social studies colleague. That course integrated content from the social sciences, the arts, and contemporary culture. My experience there, coupled with my time at La Salle, has confirmed the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in fostering authentic learning. In all of my courses I also provide instruction in and opportunities for students to develop their skills in various modes of written and spoken communication.
Beyond the Classroom
Philadelphia is home to over 65 historic landmarks.
La Salle is ranked in The Wall Street Journal’s Top 300 Colleges list.
83% of faculty hold a Ph.D. or the highest degree in their field.