This semester, American studies majors Maximilian Eyle ’15, Olivia Lowenberg ’15 and Morgan Mayer ’16 were inducted into Epsilon Alpha Kappa, the American studies honor society.
“As I often tell my students, American studies helps the fish see the water,” says Assistant Professor of American Studies Elizabeth Belanger. “All three of these students have risen to the challenge of viewing the world around them, a world in which they are part of, through a critical lens. They didn’t fall into American studies because of a vague interest in things American. They were drawn to and have embraced the challenge of interdisciplinary work and actively sought to cultivate connections between and among their courses here at the Colleges. It goes without saying that we — the American Studies program– are incredibly proud of what they have done and the precedent they set for future AMST majors.”
Eyle, a double major in history and American studies with a Spanish minor, works at WHWS-FM as a news anchor and co-host of a reggae show, “Around The Bend,” which is syndicated in Barcelona. Eyle also plays music in a student band on campus and works with Sodexo to improve sustainability for the dining services on campus. Having interned with an NPR affiliate in Syracuse, Eyle hopes to continue working in radio after graduation, ideally for public radio. Currently, Eyle is exploring the connections between his two majors in an Honors project that investigates the American Revolution through the writings of Benjamin Rush.
“Addressing American history through a cultural lens that critically analyzed the themes and tensions was a distinct methodology shift from other courses I had taken,” says Eyle. “We explored such ideas as the rags to riches phenomenon, the War on Drugs, and gun control, looking at the origins, truths, and contradictions that accompany them. Since then I have found it to be a useful and fascinating addition to my history major. My work with other American studies professors, such as my research with Professor Belanger, has greatly improved my scholarship. Being inducted into Epsilon Alpha Kappa is a very exciting introduction into the American studies community outside of this campus. I hope it will connect me with other scholars in the field and make me more aware of the American studies scholarship going on today.”
Mayer, who in addition to her American studies major is pursuing a minor in women’s studies (“and hopefully in history as well,” she adds), is active in the theatre productions on campus and at the Smith Opera House. After graduation, she hopes to attend law school and pursue legal work with marginalized groups, including women and children.
As for her interest in American studies, “I liked that it allowed me to study such a wide variety of subjects such as race, gender, and sexuality, all in one program. This induction means the world to me because I’ve struggled quite a lot with personal issues throughout my college experience, but my schoolwork was the one thing that really kept me going. Being inducted into EAK means that all of my hard work paid off, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Lowenberg, who is double minoring in political science and English, completed Honors in English this fall with a creative writing project comprised of six original short stories and a novella. She is co-director of HWS Votes and is interested in attending graduate school or pursuing a career in publishing after graduation.
“I was genuinely not expecting to be inducted into EAK, but as my major has meant a lot to me both personally and academically, I find it extremely validating,” she says. “The rich variety of interdisciplinary classes I have had the opportunity to take while at the Colleges has been so awesome.”
“It is a testimony to the increasing strength and popularity of American studies, as a program, that we were invited to have our students join EAK,” says Iva Deutchman, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the American Studies program.
“Not surprisingly, these students have demonstrated their commitment to collaboration and public engagement,” says Belanger. “Through its interdisciplinary nature and its commitment to social justice, American studies compels one to enter into dialog with other students, other scholars, other disciplines and other people. These students have shared their research with public audiences at undergraduate research conferences, community venues and through digital projects. They embrace, rather than shy away from, opportunities to engage in dialog and debate — in the classroom and in the broader community.”