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A Major Decision

Posted by on Friday, November 28, 2014 in Academics, Teachers.

The Fourth of July came early this year. And why is that you ask? Because earlier this semester I declared the most patriotic major of all!

Coming into Vanderbilt, I thought I was going to be a Public Policy major, but like most freshmen, my plans changed once I got here. I’ve always been interested in journalism, and coming into Vanderbilt, Public Policy Studies seemed like a great route to get a liberal arts background in subjects I found interesting while studying subjects that would be relevant to my future aspirations. As an interdisciplinary major, PPS lets students select from a variety of courses in different departments to fulfill the major’s requirements, and that was something that really attracted me to the program initially — however, once I got here, I realized that there were even more classes I was interested in taking than I originally had anticipated that didn’t quite fit into that major.

Realizing that, I began to look into options that could accommodate everything I was interested in while giving me ample time to explore different subjects and finish a minor in a business-oriented program as well (for that I selected Corporate Strategy within the Managerial Studies department, where I take courses in Management, Marketing, Advertising, Accounting, and more).

I thought for a while that I would create my own major, thereby taking control of my own program and developing something for myself, but after months of engineering my ideal program of study and seeking out faculty advisers, a story that the Hustler broke put a halt to my grand plans.

The administrative resistance to the self-designed Interdisciplinary major program coupled with one of my professor’s recommendation to check out her department pointed me towards something that I hadn’t originally considered: American Studies.

Through my extensive research (and I mean extensive — pages and pages of word docs are filled with majors and requirements and hours and courses), somehow this perfect little program fell through the cracks.

In it there are 36 required hours of coursework, split up among four categories:

1)   Core Requirements

  • The American Studies Workshop and Senior Project

2)   International Requirement

  • You get your pick of a number of courses in various departments, or an American Studies course, or you can fulfill this with a semester abroad + another elective

3)   Distribution Requirements

  • This is one of my favorite parts of the major. There are three areas (Humanities, Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs) and of the departments represented in these areas, American Studies majors are required to take a course in two different departments. So that means six total courses in six different departments. For these, I’ve picked a few courses that I’m really excited about:


  • ENGL 287: Special Topics in Investigative Writing in America- The Story of Climate Change
  • CMST 241 Rhetoric of Mass Media

Social Sciences

  • SOC 231: Criminology
  • PSCI 243: Political Campaigns and the Electoral Process

Interdisciplinary Programs

  • CMA 125: Introduction to the Study of Film
  • MHS 201: Fundamental Issues in Medicine, Health and Society

4)   Electives

  • This portion is a hallmark of the American Studies major — with Professor Beasley, the program director, students come up with a unique concentration for their program of study and get to take three courses in their specified interest.
    • My specific concentration within the major is Political Communication, and the courses I chose are CMST 244: Politics and Mass Media, CMST 294: Selected Topics in Communication Studies- Communication and the First Amendment and PSCI 247: American Political Culture.

Finally having a major is a huge relief, and that major being able to accommodate most of the things I’m interested in is truly incredible.

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