Director's Letter, Fall 2016

Dear colleagues,

Welcome back! We have been enjoying a period of expansion and deepening community in AMCS, and we are eager to share some of the developments as we head into the fall semester.

First, let me extend a warm welcome to the newest members of the AMCS community, including our new Director of Graduate Studies, Peter Benson of Anthropology; our new Post-Doctoral Fellow in Inequality and Identity, Jasmine Mahmoud; our new Harvey Graduate Fellow, Daniel Fister (Music); our new Ph.D. Certificate Student, Steven Tran-Creque (Anthropology); and our new Harvey Undergraduate Scholars, Itzel Lopez-Hinojosa, Taylor Ohman, and Natalie Kirchhoff, who will join returning scholars Charlotte Jones and Billie Mandlebaum.

In addition, we are pleased to welcome some new teaching faculty, including Brian Woodman (Curator of Film and Media Archive, WUSTL Libraries), Tim Shenk (Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry), Christopher Hamilton and Willow Mullins (University College), and Olivia Marcucci (Ph.D. Candidate in Education) as well as many others who are returning to teach new courses in the coming year, among them Dale Kretz, Michelle Repice, Todd Decker, Peter Kastor, Allen Schwab, Peter Coogan, Kelsey Klotz, Vernon Mitchell, Noah Cohan, Linda Lindsey and our own Michael Allen and Máire Murphy. Our line-up of AY16-17 courses is shaping up to be very impressive!

Over the summer, Professor Decker (Music) taught a marvelous travel-based seminar (“On Location: Exploring America: “We’ll Have Manhattan”) in which students explored the geographies of entertainment on Broadway and elsewhere in New York City.This spring he will be teaching our “Methods and Visions” course on a related subject––popular culture and place (including Broadway and Hollywood) as expressions of the national imaginary and sites of creative production and, of course, business. If you are interested in proposing an AMCS-based course in the coming year(s), please let us know!

Faculty Program Initiatives: We continue to foster faculty research and collaboration through several cross-disciplinary program initiatives, including:

  • Modern Segregation, which recently received a Ferguson Academic Seed Fund grant to support a SP17 symposium showcasing research by faculty contributing to a book exploring “The Material World of Modern Segregation” in St. Louis, as well as a site-based course of the same name. If you’d like to know more about this project, contact Iver Bernstein (on research leave until SP17) or Heidi Kolk.
  • Race and Popular Music (RPM) is excited to be hosting speakers who will expand the initiative participants’ investigations geographically, musically, and culturally, moving the conversation about “race” beyond the black-white paradigm that commonly organizes such discussions. Their first speaker is Timothy Rommen (University of Pennsylvania). For more information on the activities of this collaborative group, contact co-conveners Pat Burke (Music) and Paige McGinley (PAD).
  • Visual and Material Culture (VizMat), with support not only from AMCS but the Sam Fox School and the Modern Graphic History Library, will be hosting a year-long faculty seminar on the topic of “Consumer Culture” with participants from wide range of fields, including arts, curators, and theorists. For more details on the seminar and related activities, contact co-conveners Douglas Dowd (Sam Fox School) and Heidi Kolk (AMCS).

If you have ideas for a new program initiative, we would love to hear them!

As we finalize our budget for this academic year, if you are working on events or other programming for which you are seeking co-sponsorship, please submit your requests ASAP using our online financial support request form.

MA Program: The University College program is expanding, with 15 new candidates currently pursuing cross-disciplinary studies in American cultural subjects.In SP17, we plan to introduce a new research methods course that will tie in with the Modern Segregation program initiative and provide a foundational experience for students. Michael Allen continues to provide outstanding leadership in this program, and we welcome your course proposals and input.

Undergraduate Program: The Major is also expanding! This year we have 26 seniors with richly diverse intellectual interests completing multidisciplinary Capstone Projects this year under the mentorship of faculty from a wide range of fields, including several outside Arts & Sciences.In this context of new growth, we are especially fortunate to have five senior Harvey Scholars (named above) serving as intellectual leaders and role models, and planning special events and initiatives for the undergraduate community. Scholars’ activities this year will include hosting a forum on journalism and the 2016 campaign with Tim Shenk and Slate correspondent Jim Newell (watch for an announcement soon!); mobilizing social media to increase AMCS’s presence on campus; developing a framework for peer mentorship; and participating in The Interdisciplinary Workshop in AMCS, a course that explores a diversity of questions, methods and objects central to cultural studies.

Ph.D. Certificate and Harvey Fellows Programs: We look forward to getting to know our new students in the coming months, and especially at our first dinner forum on 9/29. Look for an email soon from DGS Peter Benson about activities for the year.

Alumni: In the spirit of innovation and collaboration, we are looking for new ways to connect AMCS undergraduates with program alums. Local graduates will visit campus on October 1 to help us brainstorm about ways to create a community of Alumni that will provide mentorship and resources to our undergraduates. Our Majors express a strong desire to build relationships with AMCS graduates and we are eager to foster these connections.

Library Collaboration: We continue to be excited by our partnership with Olin Libraries, with whom we (and especially our Digital Technologist, Dave Walsh) are working to develop unique online collections and experimental user interfaces for inclusion in Olin's recently installed HYDRA repository technology. We hope to share the results of this partnership before long, including our work on a Material World of Modern Segregation project website and archive.

Please mark your calendars for the Annual Fall Welcome Back Reception: Tuesday, September 13 at 5:30 PM in DUC 278, Goldberg Formal Lounge. Check out our event calendar for the other FL16 programs.

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to working with you all this year!

Heidi Kolk, PhD
Acting Director, AMCS