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American Culture Program Goals and Objectives

The American Culture program enables students to study America from a variety of perspectives and through the methodologies of disciplines ranging from history, geography, anthropology and sociology, to art, film, biology, politics, and economics. "Culture," as used in this program, means the ways in which Americans understand themselves and interact with each other and their environment as well as the world at large. It includes their institutions as well as their literature, families, politics and economics, ideas and beliefs, and art and artifacts. The study of American culture at Vassar is the study of diverse communities, histories, and experiences.The program has three main purposes: (1) to familiarize both majors and non-majors with the dissimilar ways that various disciplines study culture and to educate them in the use of a multidisciplinary approach; (2) to give them a broad knowledge of various facets of American culture and the ways in which that culture is produced; and (3) to help them develop a more sophisticated understanding of one aspect of American culture tailored to the their particular interests.Although the emphasis varies with the training and interests of individual students, all students in the program should think of their study of American Culture as including some attention to American expression in the arts; American institutions—political, social, economic; American thought and beliefs; American history; and the American physical environment. The program also examines America's role in the world through its required intermediate course. Through its multidisciplinary coursework, the program provides American Culture majors with the opportunity to recognize different kinds of knowledge while stimulating integrative thinking. American Culture majors complete a multidisciplinary senior thesis or senior project, which permits in-depth exploration of a particular element of each student’s chosen cultural focus; in addition, all seniors complete the capstone Senior Colloquium in their final semester.