American Studies focuses on the cultural, social, and intellectual life of the United States of America. Its students analyze the American past and present from the perspectives of several disciplines, learn to synthesize their knowledge, and develop the critical habit of mind needed for cultural analysis. Such skills, we believe, are essential for the formation of a knowledgeable and politically engaged American citizenry.
One of the first institutions to offer courses in American Studies, the University of Texas began its long association with the emerging field in 1941, when Henry Nash Smith returned to his native Texas. Smith, an early leader in the field and the first to earn a Ph.D. in Harvard’s new American Civilization program, inaugurated a lengthy tradition of interdisciplinary scholarship in Austin. Since then, American Studies at UT has grown steadily over the decades in national reputation, in the number and interdisciplinary breadth of its course offerings, and in the influence of its graduates in a wide range of endeavors.