American Studies M.A. FAQ

Q: You describe this as a one-year program; what exactly does that mean?

A: It means that 1) you will be enrolled at The University of Virginia for three consecutive semesters, Fall, Spring and Summer, and will take your degree in August of the year after you enter the program. However, since the program also requires that you do some work -- mostly but not exclusively reading -- before you arrive, 2) you might consider this a 15 month commitment.

Q: What do students do after they leave this program?

A: This is a very new program; we have only a single class of six graduates to this point. But their experience was positive. One student -- despite a good deal of advice to the contrary from me -- went on to a good Ph.D. program in American Studies at another institution. The other students took jobs in the what used to be called the real world, primarily in publishing of one sort or another: a major New York trade publisher, two newspapers, a major weekly professional publication (The Chronicle of Higher Education), and an electronic publication of the United States Senate.

Their experience is also suggestive. It indicates that this program can serve as a bridge to further graduate training, certainly in the Humanities, probably in Law, Business, and Public Policy as well. It also indicates that private and public institutions, in effect anyone who is in the information business and is seeking information workers, should be interested in graduates of this program.

Q: How did the students find these situations?

A: It was a complex process, varying from individual to individual, so there's no easy or simple way to answer this quesiton. First, and probably most important, they hustled; they were aggressive, entrepeneurial, smart and relentless. The faculty helped them wherever possible, by suggesting avenues to explore, by helping them put together portfolios of their work to show to employers or admission officers, and by providing them with networking help. By and large, however, the student is responsible for finding the door and getting a foot in it; the faculty are responsible for helping ensure that the student, once there, has something of value to offer.

Q: I know very little about the new technologies about computers and such. Can I really be successful in a program that seems to require so much work on computers?

A: We try to compose a class in this program rather than to just admit a certain number of individuals. Our goal is a class whose strength is a product of its variety of backgrounds and range of skills. All will bring some kind of skill or training or knowledge that is unique to them; and all will lack something that someone else possesses. Some students will be computer-literate, some will not; only someone who is severely technophobic, someone, for example, terrified of their electric toaster, should avoid the program because of its technological component.

Q: Where can I get futher information about the Program?

Send your questions to Alan B. Howard.