The field of American Studies thrives through critique. Almost every president of the national organization has challenged practitioners to act as social critics of cultural assumptions so we can contribute to political debates and change. Most university programs attempt some version of this approach. At IUPUI, the American Studies program has made deliberate efforts at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to put critique into action. The program believes that through this combination of critique and action this outpost of American public higher education can contribute to and perhaps even advance the public good and the popular demands for justice, equality, and freedom.
At the undergraduate level, Tom Marvin directs the Certificate in Social Justice Organizing and the Masarachia Scholars Program. The Sam Masarachia Scholars Program Award provides full-tuition and fees scholarships to full-time IU School of Liberal Arts undergraduate students interested in working in the fields of labor, senior citizens, or community organizations. This program is made possible through the generosity of Sam Masarachia, a representative for the Steelworkers Union in Indiana and an effective advocate for the fields studied in this program.
At the graduate level, the AMST Ph.D. program recruits students into full-time and part-time academic tracks with applied aspects. I encourage anyone interested in applying to this program or supporting this program to see what our current students are doing. One example is the final assignment for the Spring of 2018 semester in AMST 602: American Studies in Practice. This was a project that critiqued recent studies by the Brookings Institution on the idea of inclusive growth. The point of this critique was to consider how we understand a place such as Indianapolis and how historical interpretations provide parameters within which policies are derived. This was the first cohort of AMST Ph.D. students in the program and at the conclusion of the course they presented their work at public forum hosted by the Kheprw Institute, a community empowerment organization.
The hope of this program is to leverage work done on campus with work done with the community. A key feature of IUPUI’s mission is to enable and develop public scholarship, or the co-production of knowledge between campus researchers and community stakeholders that can only be done outside of the campus. This particular course operates as a snapshot of the larger, longer-term ambitions of the AMST program.