American Studies Beyond the Classroom
An excellent undergraduate program encourages students to actively engage communities outside of the academy and to apply what they have learned to real life. The Department of American Studies exemplifies this through an innovative seminar and field internship program developed with the Minnesota Historical Society. This program provides students with hands-on experience in their desired fields. The program places a special emphasis on providing opportunities for students from communities that are underrepresented in the museum and public history fields.
Jessica Hobson, an American studies alumna who now works as an inclusion & community engagement associate at the Minnesota Historical Society, took part in this program in the summer of 2010. She and other participating students received hands-on experience interpreting history as well as an opportunity to visit museums and meet with professionals in Washington D.C.
The Museum Fellows Program provides students with in-depth knowledge about history museums and public history at the same time that it offers diverse students real work experience in a major historical institution. The seminar meets weekly at the Minnesota Historical Society and includes a final project that examines the museum field as a whole. Students have a chance to look at rare archival collections, visit libraries, and learn directly from prominent guest speakers within the museum field.
Jessica especially appreciated the trip to Washington D.C. at the end of the semester: “It gave me experience networking with key figures within the museum industry, such as national archivists, and it gave me an opportunity to look through national archives.”
Jessica underscores the profound impact the course had on her life: “I learned a lot about my own strengths through this program. It really pushed me to explore my interests and gave me an opportunity to have direct engagement with communities as a result. I also would say that it really developed me as a young professional.”