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The Department and its Students

The field of American Studies emerged in the 1930s at a number of United States colleges and universities as an effort to combine literary and historical methods to analyze the complexities of American culture and society. Harvard University awarded the first American Studies PhD in 1940.

Today there are hundreds of American Studies departments and programs throughout the United States. Related institutions and organizations have been established in more than sixty countries across the globe. China alone has nearly two-dozen American Studies centers or institutes.

Accompanying that expansion, the field itself has grown richer, its interdisciplinary scholarship now embracing such concerns as film and media, gender and ethnicity, politics, cultural studies, and much more. In addition, many American Studies departments and programs now pursue their teaching and research missions within an explicitly transnational context.

This is something American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i has been doing for almost fifty years. Originally established as a research program in U.S.-Asian relations at the East-West Center, by the mid-1960s that program had become the UH Department of American Studies. Since then it has awarded a thousand BA and MA degrees and more than 150 PhDs along with scores of Graduate Certificates in Historic Preservation and Museum Studies, two especially strong programs in the department that are leading the way as we increasingly emphasize community outreach and public practice—locally, nationally, and throughout the Asia-Pacific regions.

In addition to many students from Hawai‘i and the continental United States, others from Sweden, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, India, China, Korea, Taiwan, Samoa, Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, and elsewhere have graduated from our various programs. Many of our graduates now hold prestigious academic, corporate, or government jobs in their home countries. Other alumni/alumnae are professional or political leaders (including the current Governor of the State of Hawai‘i), or are professors or administrators at colleges and universities throughout the United States.