Summer Reading Recommendations, Part II

Following up on last week’s reading recommendations, here’s advisor Kevin Seymore’s summer reading list, Part II:

6.) Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. This is an academic novel written in the form of letters of recommendation and is quite hilarious. As students you might have asked for letters of recommendation. If you become professors or academic advisors, you will certainly write them someday. Having been in academia nearly my entire adult life, I recognized a lot of what I’ve experienced, but Schumacher has given it a very humorous slant through her narrator, an aging English professor that has become quite the cynic, but still has a hint of idealism inside him to press on and write the next letter. However, some letters are doing the exact opposite of praising the person it is for, and those are often the funniest.

7.) Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams. This novel is a Western in genre, but a very metaphysical one that looks deeply into the American experience and our relationship with nature. Butcher’s Crossing is a frontier town in Kansas near the line with Colorado, and it is a town that exists because of the profit to be made out of killing buffaloes for their hides. A college drop out from Harvard comes West to experience the buffalo hunt, and ends up experiencing something like Moby-Dick on land. There’s a mad buffalo hunter that is very much in the mode of Ahab. Excellent prose, though the description is rather detailed at points, and the first third is pretty slow, but it builds and builds to a rather apocalyptic ending. [Dr. T says: If you like this one, try Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian].

8.) Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I am interested in art history, so I enjoyed this opportunity to look at the world of Vermeer through the eyes of a servant girl in 17th century Holland. Like Toibin, the author does a brilliant job of capturing a young person’s view of the world, the journey from innocence to experience. If you’ve taken a Gender and Women’s Study course, or an art history class, or a course in developmental psychology, I think you will bring a good deal to this short novel. And you’ll leave with I believe a greater appreciation for just how hard the twists of fate can be, and at the same time, how the remarkable can emerge from the seemingly ordinary.

9.) The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver. The more I think about this dystopian novel, the more I disagree with it, haha. But if you want a strange, tough, economic forecast of what the future of the country could look like, then this is the book for you. If you took an ECON course, such as micro or macro, then you’ll probably appreciate the long monologues about economic policy more than the average reader. If you identify as a Libertarian, you will feel like you are at home with Shriver and the travails she takes the Mandible family through, as America becomes a financial wreck where Nevada has left the Union and Americans experience Great Depression level poverty. NOT a feel good story! haha.

10.) The Circle by Dave Eggers. This novel is now a currently showing movie with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. I have not seen the movie, but I can testify to the book being very thought provoking. It too is a dystopian look at the future where privacy has just about completely disappeared thanks to the efforts of a giant media company (combination of google, facebook, youtube, amazon, twitter) that runs by the idea that nothing should be hidden from anybody. As good satire does, it uses an extreme to draw new light upon current circumstances. I contemplated leaving facebook a number of times while reading this story of  young May who goes to work for The Circle thinking she has made it, but discovers that she has to give up more than she expected. A much darker version of Eilis Lacey’s story. [Dr. T says: If you’re taking Dr. Gray’s Readings in the American Experience course on “Work,” you’ll likely be reading this in Fall (or possibly spring?)]

So there you have it. The theme of young people venturing out into the world seems to predominate this list, which I didn’t plan, but seems all the more fitting. One of the gifts that reading gives us is being able to feel less alone in the world. If you ever feel like you are the only one experiencing some thought, anxiety, emotion, loss, you name it, go to a bookshelf, and you’ll find that you are not alone at all – very far from it!

Best wishes, for all your reading ahead . . .


. . . via Dr. Takacs. Thanks, again, Kevin, for some timely recommendations]

Looking for Some Summer Reading Recommendations?

AMST’s Stillwater advisor Kevin Seymore always offers a wonderful set of recommendations for summer reading. He has graciously agreed to allow me to share them via the blog this year, so students in Tulsa can also partake. Here is part one of Kevin’s reading list…

At the end of each school year I like to send out some recommendations for further reading over the summer, and to encourage you graduates not to give up on reading once you’ve graduated. Staying intellectually alive and curious through books is well worth the time spent. Not being a fast reader, I average two books a month, and I keep an actual physical journal of what I’ve read. This is a really neat way to keep up with where my mind has been, and a source for me to draw upon when looking for the next author or subject to read. I’ve been keeping the journal since 1999! I realize that is nearly as long as some of you have have been alive, haha. I plan on keeping it until I am 99, if I am so lucky. : ) So, here are some suggestions. Would love to hear back from you if you take me up on any of these. And if you have a suggestion(s) of your own, I would enjoy receiving it/them:

1.)  Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. I read this volume of history over the 4th of July weekend last year. It is quick and easy prose, but insightful and very hip with its references to popular culture. Far from being a dry history text (!) Vowell, an Oklahoman, examines the Revolutionary period, and namely France’s contribution through General Lafayette. Without the French, we would likely be sipping afternoon tea and driving on the wrong side of the road, haha. They were crucial to our bid for independence. Ever hear of the Battle of the Capes? It was a naval battle that the French fought off the Virginia coast that insured the British surrender at Yorktown and our victory. So after you’ve shot your fireworks this 4th of July, pick up Vowell’s short history. Lafayette was just a teen when he sailed across the ocean to join Washington, and Washington always thought of him as something of an adopted son. [Dr. T says: “Vowell makes a GREAT audiobook if you’re driving anywhere this summer. So funny!]

2.) Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Junger is not a psychologist, but there is a lot of psychological insight in this book about human belonging and well-being. His basic idea is that Western society is so individualistic, competitive, and lonely that war and natural disasters offer people refuge inside a more tribal, we are all looking out for one another, existence that is much more in line with our evolutionary heritage. If you’ve enjoyed an anthropology course or Dr. Craven’s evolutionary psychology class, I think you would enjoy this slim meditation on what it means to be human in the modern world. [Dr. T says: one could argue, however, that we are already tribalized in debilitating ways; read this and contemplate. Let us know what your take is?]

3.) Listen Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People by Thomas Frank. I finished reading this one the day before Labor Day, 2016. And it is very much about the working class in America and how the Democratic Party has shifted since the 1970s from being the party of the people to being the party of the professional class, Wall Street, and the coastal urban areas. He points to Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as being leaders in this trend. It came out before the election, but you can certainly look at the election in a different light having read Frank’s take on the rise of the Clintons and the move to the center that they took the Dems. Bernie Sanders was a push back to this trend.

4.) Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. I was drawn to this book because I am a first generation college graduate in my family, and this is the story of a first generation student whose family is from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. He didn’t come from the best of circumstances, family wise, but had a very supportive, tough, grandmother who played a large role in his life. You follow his story as his mother gets involved with drugs and a revolving door of boyfriends. He manages to graduate high school, go to the Marines, then Ohio State, and most remarkably, Yale Law School. He writes of being often lost at college and law school because he has not been exposed to people who have had those experiences. His over-all take on class in America could best be described as a “conservative, I did it, others can do it too” tone. More emphasis on individual responsibility and less on societal responsibility. You might not agree with his politics, but I think many of you can relate to some of his experiences as a child, teen, and young adult. [Dr. T says: Students taking AMST3223 Theories and Methods of AMST will be reading this in Fall 2017, so good timing, Kevin]

5.) Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. There was a recent movie made of this novel about a young Irish woman immigrating to America in the 1950s. I first saw the movie and enjoyed it so much that I read the novel it was based on. I was not disappointed in either experience. It is a love story. It is also a story about how making certain choices not only open doors for us, but also closes other doors, and the sadness that can be found in that. It is about hometowns, leaving home, making a new start in a big city. Something which I believe many of you will be able to relate to. Read about Eilis Lacey, and I think you’ll find that you are reading about yourself in a lot of ways.

More suggestions coming next week! Thank you, Kevin.

2017-2018 Degree Sheets now available!

The new degree sheets are here! The new degree sheets are here! That includes the new Pre-Law Option. As always American Studies has reviewed and amended the elective course list to provide students with maximum flexibility and depth in the field. We’ve combed the catalogues so you don’t have to! Know what counts for the major or minor in one quick glance. Here’s a link to the new degree sheets. Scroll down to the American Studies options. And, for those who don’t recognize my opening gambit, it’s a paraphrase of Steve Martin in The Jerk,a classic of American comedy:Steve Martin, in _The Jerk_

The big change for next year involves foreign language requirements. The new requirements read:

The foreign language requirement for the B.A. may be satisfied by 9 hours college credit in the same language, which must include 3 hours at the 2000-level, or equivalent proficiency (e.g., passing an advanced standing examination; TOEFI exam; presenting a high school transcript which demonstrates the high school was primarily conducted in a language other than English; etc.). Computer Science courses may not be used to satisfy this requirement. Currently Arabic and Muskoke are not offered at the 2000-level at OSU.

If you plan to take your languages at TCC, check with your adviser to ensure you are meeting the new “2000-level or equivalent” threshold. The Department of Foreign Languages in Stillwater is in the process of reviewing and approving the equivalencies for TCC courses. I know the Spanish equivalence has been approved, but I’m not sure what else at this point. Be proactive and ask. Don’t assume your coursework will count. And please note that Muskoke and Arabic won’t “get ‘er done.” If you take those courses, it would be purely for your own edification.

Coming soon (we hope–pending approval) will be options for a BS and BS Pre-Law in AMST. Stay tuned! We’ll let you know when and if those options become available. We’re projecting a spring 2018 approval, but approvals can get complicated. Keep your fingers crossed, and knock ’em dead during finals.


What’s Doing with the Faculty (2)

UNT Postwar Colloquium (2017)Several of American Studies’ outstanding faculty were invited to present at a one day symposium on Postwar (as in WWII) Culture at University of North Texas.  Dr. Jeff Menne (Screen Studies, English) presented his work on Hollywood and the Postwar Corporation; Dr. Holly Karibo (HIST) presented new work on Federal Drug Treatment Policies in Postwar America, focused on a treatment facility in Texas; and Dr. John Kinder (HIST) presented his new work on zoos and rebuilding efforts in Europe after WWII. Keynote speakers for the conference were distinguished historians Laura McEnaney (Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday Life in the Fifties) and Thomas Doherty (Teenagers and Teen Pics, Projections of War, and Cold War/Cool Medium, among others).

We thank our colleagues at UNT for inviting us, especially Jacqueline Foertsch, Sean Griffin, Mark Hlavacik, and Laila Amine.

Dr. Menne chats with historian Thomas Doherty


Fall and Summer 2017 Course offerings

American Studies students in Tulsa and Stillwater have a variety of course options available for Summer and Fall 2017. Visit the Course Offerings page, or click on the links below to get the complete list:

Fall 2017

Summer 2017

Flyers for select courses are available in the carousel below or from the Course Offerings Page. I’m including one History course that may be of particular interest to Tulsa students, for it will be offered via simulcast from STW. There was also a late addition to the Honors College offerings (for those enrolled in the Honors College): ENGL1000 Lizzie Borden and American Culture.

AMST 2103 Intro to Am Studies (1)

Preparing for the Job Market III: What if I don’t get a job right away?

This is the third in an on-going series of posts about preparing for the Job Market.  In post 1, we discussed some ways to articulate your skill set. In post 2, we talked about making the most of the interview opportunities available. Today we will discuss what to do if no job is immediately forthcoming after graduation.

First, DON’T PANIC! It is quite common for Liberal Arts majors of all sorts, American Studies majors included, to struggle to land that first big job. Studies show, however, that Liberal Arts majors are quite competitive in lifetime earnings over the long haul. According to a recent story in Inside Higher Ed, “By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money [than] those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates.” So, once Liberal Arts students secure that first job, they do succeed and advance beyond their peers. Prepare to be in it for the long haul.

Second, clarify your goals. What is your dream career? What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What are you willing to settle for until you can identify your dream or make it a reality? What are you not willing to settle for? Once you have some sense of your long term goals, take stock of your skills and weaknesses relative to those goals, and . . .

Be willing to do some re-training with those goals in mind.

  • If you’d like to get a job in marketing, for example, what are your plans for learning about the industry and how it works? Are you willing to volunteer for an internship to get that vital on-the-job experience that will put you over the top. Note, again, you can get AMST credit for such an internship if you’re still in the coursework phase; ask Dr. Takacs for details, or see this blog post)?
  • If you want to be a writer, can you also construct a web page, run a blog, insert media into blog posts, etc.? Do you know how to code in Word Press or XHTML? Knowing how to write well is only part of what you need to know these days to succeed as a writer. You also need to be able to get your work out there. So, what can you do to learn the rest of the job? And how can you showcase what you’ve learned? (Go ahead and start a blog, for instance. It’s free, easy, and Dr. Takacs can show you how to do it if you take her Intro to Digital Humanities class in Spring 2018).
  • If you want to teach, you’ll need to get some training and experience in pedagogy, and you may need some additional content courses. Where can you get those skills or that knowledge? Hint: Graduate School in Education is one possibility, but so is Alternative Teacher Certification through the Oklahoma Department of Education. Are you ready to get that process started?

Finally, Professional Certificates are increasingly available from higher education institutions, like OSU, to allow people to specialize a bit more in a particular field. For example, you can get certificates in environmental studies, sustainable business management, customer interface excellence (i.e. sales), international competency, and other fields at OSU, and more are being developed all the time. Certificates may or may not signify excellence to employers, but they DO signify desire and commitment on your part. Better yet, they cost less in time and money than a post-graduate degree and will allow you to cultivate some additional human, cultural and social capital in the process. Translation, you will learn new job skills, gain more knowledge, and make connections that can help you find that first, great job.

In sum, while the job market for Liberal Arts majors remains a bit harder to enter, the good news is that “bachelor’s degree holders [of every sort continue to] earn 60 percent to 80 percent more on average than those without a college degree.” It is worth it, so hang in there, and let your professors in American Studies know how they can help you identify your goals and make useful contacts. We’re here to help.

Preparing for the Job Market 2: Meeting with Employers

In the previous post, we discussed some ways to articulate your skill set to employers. Today, we want to focus on practical strategies for making of the most of those brief contacts at the Job Fair (March 7 at OSUT Main Hall, 3-5pm) or with prospective employers.

Rule #1 : Come prepared

  • Have your resume and make sure you’ve had it vetted by Career Services or someone you trust. Typos and sloppiness signal a lack of effort and attention to detail. Your resume will be read as a reflection on your work habits and ability to communicate effectively! Bring multiple copies for prospective employers.
  • Dress the part. Wear proper professional attire or the closest thing you have to it. Borrow a suit or business casual dress for the event. Women do not wear too much make-up or high-heels unless you know how to walk in them. Men do wear a tie and jacket, comb your hair, and put on some dress shoes. For additional tips, see the Career Center Tips page, which includes a “Dress for Success” video.
  • Know thyself. Be prepared to articulate your skills and desires. Who are you, and what are you seeking from life/a job/a career? What are your strengths, intellectually and socially, and what are your weaknesses? What is your plan for redressing weaknesses—gaps in knowledge or skill—that might impact you professionally? (workshops, internships, additional course work, other?)
  • Know the Employer. Get a list of employers who will be at the Job Fair and do some research on them. What positions are they advertising, and what skills are required for those positions? Why might your skill set be better-suited to such a position than someone whose degree is more technically oriented? Show that you understand the employers’ needs.

Rule #2: Be a Savvy Interviewee

  • Focus your efforts. Given the list of employers, and jobs advertised, which employers should you target? Don’t bother with employers or jobs you are unsuited to. As an American Studies major, you will never be able to convince an airline that your degree has prepared you to fly a plane. If, however, the airline is also looking for ticket agents, customer service reps, or management trainees, your “soft skills” certainly are suited to those sorts of jobs. That’s why it is important to DO YOUR RESEARCH.
  • Prepare a mental script for how you will introduce yourself, your interests, and your skill set. Keep it brief and have an ice-breaker question about the job or employer prepared to ease the first contact: “I see you’re hiring for a sales position. Can you tell me a little about that?”
  • Be Sociable. This means making strong eye contact, shaking hands, repeating the recruiters’ name in conversation, and showing interest and enthusiasm.
  • Ask questions and listen carefully. Show that you have done your research on the job/employer, and are genuinely interested. Avoid questions about pay or benefits, and focus on those that involve the needs of the company and the duties of the position. Listen carefully and ask follow-ups as they occur to you.
  • Ask if an internship is a possibility. If the employer seems uninterested or unconvinced, ask if they have an internship program you might apply to. It shows that you are goal-directed and willing to work to redress gaps in your training. NOTE: You can get AMST credit for such an internship; ask Dr. Takacs for details, or see this blog post.

For more guidance on Job Fair preparations, see the information provided by OSU’s Career Services Office. Here are a couple of handy dandy handouts from the site: Before the Fair | During and After the Fair 

The next post in this series will discuss what to do if no job opportunity is forthcoming upon graduation. Where do you go from there?

Preparing for the Job Market 1: What is my skill set?

Liberal Arts majors of all sorts sometimes struggle to communicate the value of their training to prospective employers. American Studies majors are no exception. In part, this is the collective fault of the Liberal Arts disciplines, for professors in those disciplines do a poor job of helping you identify and articulate your skill set, and an even worse job helping you cultivate the “social capital” you need to get that first big job (we do, however, teach you what “social capital” is, where the term came from, and why it matters). The next two posts should be considered a modest attempt to rectify the failures outlined above…

What is my skill set?   

American Studies majors have been trained to think broadly and creatively. We know how to identify problems, conduct research that clarifies the history, context and parameters of the problem, and devise solutions based on best practice. More mundanely, American Studies students know how to:

  • Conduct Research
  • Analyze Information, and
  • Translate it into meaningful knowledge

Heck, we know there’s a difference between data and knowledge; your technically trained peers often do not. More specifically, we American Studies folk possess the “soft skills” employers are looking for. We are

  • Curious
  • Information Literate
  • Know how to speak clearly and write well
  • Play well with others, and
  • Respect diversity of opinion and experience

These are SKILLS! Not everyone has them. YOU DO! This is what you sell.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Forbes magazine:

The career options available to graduates of general liberal arts degrees are far more diverse and attractive than we usually assume. . . . Businesses value these graduates’ critical thinking skills, communication abilities, and creativity. The breadth of focus gives the students knowledge that can help them thrive in a wide variety of fields.

Or perhaps you’ll believe the employers surveyed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities,

93 percent of . . . [whom] said the ability for job candidates to think critically, communicate and problem-solve outweighs their undergraduate degree. Companies that traditionally have looked only for hard skills are realizing a coding guru isn’t that valuable if he or she can’t communicate effectively. (

Or maybe you’ll believe human resource directors themselves. According to US News & World Report,

survey of 400 employers conducted by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management found that applied skills such as oral communication, critical thinking, creativity and teamwork “trump basic knowledge and skills, such as reading comprehension and mathematics,” for career success.

In the same article, Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch NY, a New York-based advertising firm, clarified the rationale behind these survey results:

I find that liberal arts thinkers are the ones that try to problem solve and don’t just draw on experiences and skills from school . . . When interns tell me they’re majoring in marketing, I wonder if that’s the smartest thing. This industry changes so rapidly; I’m not sure what you’d learn as a marketing major would prepare you properly for what marketing will look like in the future. (Ibid)

Now this information should not be interpreted as a “golden ticket” to a job. Rather, it is designed to give you language to discuss your strengths. Tomorrow, I’ll post a follow-up discussing strategies for making the most of the contacts available at the upcoming Job Fair (OSUT: Tuesday, March 7, 3-5 pm).

Oh, and by the way, the best way to cultivate relations (social capital) that might be parlayed into a job is to do an internship!


Upcoming Events …

Upcoming events of interested to AMST students and faculty in Spring 2017:

Post for the film, The King's Speech


  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 5:30 pm in Stout 050 (STW), the History Club will be screening the film The King’s SpeechAll are welcome and snacks are provided.



  • Friday, Feb, 3, 8 pm in the Student Union Theater, the Allied Arts Series will host Native artist Bunky Echo-Hawk for a live visual art demonstration. This event is FREE and open to the public, but seating is limited; arrive early.


  • Photo of Arigon StarrThursday, February 16, 7 pm at OSU Tulsa’s Auditorium, Kickapoomultimedia artist Arigon Starr will perform in concert.  The event is free and open to the public. For info on Starr visit her website. AMST is a co-sponsor of the event. Contact for more info.


  • Thursday, April 13 around 7 pm at the Backstage performance space (100 E 7th Ave, Stillwater, OK ), creative Writer Author Kevin Brockmeier will give a reading from his recent work. The event is sponsored by the Creative Writers Association (CWA) and cosponsored by AMST. It will be free and open to the public. Brockmeier is a writer of sophisticated genre fiction, so if your bag is horror or sci fi, you might be especially interested. More info on Brokmeier can be found at:

    Kevin Brockmeier



If you know of, or are planning, other events of interest to AMST students and faculty, please contact Dr. Takacs with the details <>

On Immigration and Nativism, some readings…

Those of you who have taken AMST 3252 Globalization and American Culture, or addressed the history of immigration to the United States probably know a little of the history behind Donald Trump’s appeal to “Make America Great” by “Build[ing] That Wall” between the US and Mexico. In case you want to do a little more reading on the issue, however, I’d recommend the following materials:

  • UVA Professor Hector Amaya’s recent post to UC Santa Barbara’s “Global-E” Blog, entitled “The Citizens Have Spoken.” He says, among other things,

The old Greek tension between racial nativism and egalitarianism is the unsolvable riddle on which we have built our political world. Trump is not an aberration. Neither is nativism. Racial nativism in the United States today is the dark side of citizenship and an expression of core-periphery relations within a state, showing how coloniality continues to shape the nation form.

  • Aviva Chomsky, Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal, which examines the historical, political, legal and social discourses that have made the notion of “illegal” immigration a prominent part of the way we think immigration. As she shows, “illegality is lot more complicated” than it seems.
  • Matthew Frye Jacobson’s, highly readable Barbarian Virtues: The US confronts Foreign Peoples At Home and Abroad, 1876-1917, which addresses the intersection of US colonialism and migration patterns at the turn of the 20th century–a pivotal moment in US immigration history and a high point of Nativism in the US (until now?).
  • Roger Daniels, Guarding the Golden Door: Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882, which traces the modern production of US national identity to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and moves forward from there…

Immigration policy in Daniels’ skilled hands shows Americans at their best and worst, from the nativist violence that forced Theodore Roosevelt’s 1907 “gentlemen’s agreement” with Japan to the generous refugee policies adopted after World War Two and throughout the Cold War. And in a conclusion drawn from today’s headlines, Daniels makes clear how far ignorance, partisan politics, and unintended consequences have overtaken immigration policy during the current administration’s War on Terror

  • Ruben Martinez, Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, which follows one family’s journeys across the border…

The U.S.-Mexican border is one of the most permeable boundaries in the world, breached daily by Mexicans in search of work. Yet the migrant gambit is perilous. Thousands die crossing the line and those who reach “the other side” are branded illegals, undocumented and unprotected.

In Crossing Over, Ruben Martinez puts a human face on the phenomenon, following the exodus of the Chávez clan, an extended Mexican family with the grim distinction of having lost three sons in a tragic border incident. He charts the migrants’ progress from their small south-Mexican town of Cherán through the harrowing underground railroad to the tomato farms of Missouri, the strawberry fields of California, and the slaughterhouses of Wisconsin. He reveals the effects of immigration on the family left behind and offers a powerful portrait of migrant culture

Undocumented [book] Barbarian Virtues [book] The Golden Door [book] Crossing Over [book]