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Alumni Accomplishments

See what some of our alumni are up to now, as well as how they feel their degree has helped them.

Amani Morrison, '12, Ph.D. Student in African Diaspora Studies Program at the University of California Berkeley

Amani MorrisonQ: Why did you decide to major in American Studies?

A: I majored in American Studies because there was no African American Studies major or minor, and I was very interested in studying African American literature and culture. American Studies gave me the flexibility to shape my course of study---I was able to enroll in a wide range of courses across disciplines that pertained to my area of study and have those courses count toward my major. In this way, I benefited from learning about my subject matter from a variety of angles, not from one specific disciplinary focus. I took courses in English, Political Science, Theater, History, and Film Studies (which at that point hadn't yet been formalized on campus and was still in the English Dept.)

Q: Tell me about a particular project or paper that you completed within American Studies that impacted you.

A: In my final research paper for Dr. Dance's course, I brought together an archetype from African American folklore and a Spike Lee film, analyzing the resonances of the former within the latter. I went on to adapt the paper for a conference presentation the following year and had the opportunity to present that research as an undergraduate on a panel alongside a professor and a graduate student. The ideas and research encouraged by my professors enabled that opportunity to happen. A version of that paper also served as my writing sample for applications to Ph.D programs.

Ted Albrecht, '05, President at Bodley Group

Q: What was your favorite American Studies class and why?

A: This is so tough, there were three I recall absolutely loving….[One] was a class on Witchcraft. Sounds funny, I still get a laugh when I tell people it was one of my favorites. I recall I tried to fuse my quantitative business learnings into the class by creating a formula in Excel that explained why certain young girls were accused as a function of the size of property they lived on and distance from the town center. I spent hours and hours building it… but it didn’t work and wasn’t accurate. I think I got a merciful B on the paper from a professor that could sense the devotion.

Q: Tell me about a time when something your learned in American Studies was useful in your work.

A: In a more general sense, I learned that truly enjoying work has an enormous impact on your happiness. Further, it enables you to have greater longevity. If you are doing something for an extended period of time because you think you ought to you will lose steam. However, if the work lights you up and the subject is something you leap at discussing then take that as a sign you are on the right track. Being on the wrong track is deflating and quieting… you’ll know.

Q: Do you have any advice for current American Studies majors at UR who are looking to leverage their unique major as they apply for internships and jobs?

A: I really own my American Studies major and talk about it a fair amount more than my marketing major. Especially in a professional setting, I have found people are interested by it and my passion for the classes I took. What I know about finance, accounting, marketing, etc. I largely taught myself out of desire to succeed in my job and very very rarely do I call upon the lessons from the business school. Further, talking about marketing strategy in a professional networking setting sounds terribly boring. Be interesting. Do interesting things. Your American Studies degree establishes you as interesting.

Braden Boucek, '98, General Counsel and the Director of Litigation at The Beacon Center of Tennessee

Braden BoucekQ: Why did you decide to major in American Studies?

A: I was planning on majoring in English and minoring in history when I realized that I was awful close to having an American Studies major along the way. When I looked closer, I realized that the American Studies major offered me the chance to score what I really wanted to do in the first place – study America – albeit through an interdisciplinary rather than historical approach. Plus, it offered me the chance to take more classes from one of my favorite professors, Dr. Kenzer. I’m glad it came down that way because I think I gleaned more insight on the American character than I would have otherwise.

Q: How did your American Studies major impact your career path?

A: It was a good major for law school preparation. It was heavy on reading, writing, and critical thinking, all of which is directly applicable to law school.

Q: Do you have any advice for current American Studies majors at UR who are looking to leverage their unique major as they apply for internships and jobs?

A: Take advantage of the opportunities for externships. History is all around you in Richmond. Get off campus and take it in. I probably talk about working at the Museum of the Confederacy as much as anything I studied in college.

Teri Bilhartz, '03, Assistant Professor & Clinical Faculty at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine

Teri BilhartzQ: Tell me about a particular project or paper that you completed within American Studies that impacted you.

A: I wrote a thesis paper that mixed my interest in medicine with history and sociology. It was about the controversies surrounding a particular vaccine that had been removed from the market. I studied about the FDA and the complicated process of how medications and vaccines go from an idea on paper to being administered to patients. It opened my eyes to the intersection of politics, science, and money, and how you can’t trust everything on face value.

Q: How did your American Studies major impact your career path?

A: When I was being interviewed for medical school, they were always very impressed that I had a humanities background, and was not just a science major. It set me apart from many others that were med-school bound. I had several interviewers ask me specifically about my education in American Studies.

Q: Do you have any advice for current American Studies majors at UR who are looking to leverage their unique major as they apply for internships and jobs?

A: If there are any pre-med students out there who are looking to get a broad education in the humanities before going to medical school, I highly recommend American Studies. It allowed me to tailor my classes to my interests in health and medicine, while still receiving a varied education that taught me a lot about human nature.