Club explores American culture

Author: Sarah McCarthy

Senior Colin O’Neill, the president of the American Studies Club, wants students to know why he thinks American Studies is the best major at Notre Dame.

American Studies, O’Neill said, is more than just an interdisciplinary study of what it means to be American.

“It is understanding American thought and American behavior through our everyday experiences and things like [television], movies and books,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill chose American Studies as a major because he was not interested in studying one specific subject, and the interdisciplinary approach of the classes appealed to him, he said. As president of the American Studies Club, which is in its second year at Notre Dame, O’Neill hopes that fellow students, both majors and non-majors, will also be drawn to the interdisciplinary aspect and want to join the club.

“It’s an opportunity to take whatever it is you’re studying — economics, political science — and bring your expertise to a much broader conversation,” O’Neill said. “The club is all-inclusive and allows people from all majors to contribute to the conversation.”

On Sept. 13, the club hosted an event titled “Mediating Media: The Contemporary Face of American Journalism?” in which members gathered together to watch clips of “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show”. American Studies professor Josh Roiland, who also teaches classes in the Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor, facilitated a discussion related to the shows and their effect on politics and journalism.

O’Neill said the club hopes to hold similar events in the future where students can speak to professors in an informal setting about contemporary issues in American culture.

“We would like to let professors come in and talk about what their interests are,” O’Neill said. “We want them to share their thoughts on what they’re reading, watching and listening to, and then talk about how and why those things are American.”

O’Neill also said that the club officers are trying to organize a “Mad Men” marathon as a potential event. He said that he hopes fun events like these will keep people interested and allow them to learn more about the connection between contemporary American culture and American history.

This Friday, the club is sponsoring a lecture on the relationship between football and universities, entitled “The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education’s Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football,” at 3 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium. Preceding the lecture will be a football tailgate with food and flag football, O’Neill said.

“This event is a way for us to build awareness around something that is so relevant to us: football,” O’Neill said.

Ultimately, O’Neill said that he hopes students will recognize that the American Studies Club, besides being interesting, informative and engaging, can also be a fun and worthwhile use of their time.

“When people hear ‘American Studies Club,’ they hear the word study … but the emphasis of this club is to take our education and put it into something that is a part of our everyday lives, such as playing football on the quad,” O’Neill said. “There is something truly American about our everyday activities.”

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