Public Scholarship

The American Studies program’s emphasis on Public Scholarship is defined by two characteristics: scholars’ engagement with questions that arise from the problems of public life and scholars’ interests in communicating their work to the public beyond academic institutions. In both cases, we train public scholars to think of themselves as being in a conversation with the public, in a dialogue between equals. The audience we envision is a general public that is hungry for an informed perspective.

All students are required to earn 3 credits in public humanities in a research or reading seminar, internship or independent study. Students are encouraged to incorporate some work in public scholarship into their academic program, either by engaging in an “applied” or public project, by working with a public institution, or by participating in the several public programs developed annually by the institutes, centers, and academic departments on the Rutgers - Newark campus.

Thus, Master’s and doctoraly trained scholars can bring the full apparatus of their academic research to bear on topics that are of importance to public life. In the process, students engage in scholarly inquiry focusing on the theory and issues that arise from and feed back into their public projects.

In addition to scholarly work within their chosen interdisciplinary fields, those students preparing specifically for positions in public scholarship will explore the missions and goals of different public institutions, such as historical archives, museums, historical and cultural commissions, and the communications media, as well as the distinct methods and media utilized by these institutions. Their training will provide opportunities for collaborative work with professionals at these organizations, such as the curators, librarians, archivists, or education staff, all of whom are deeply engaged with making scholarly materials available to the general public.

Many students have opportunities to work closely with public institutions, often through internships, developing the language, skills, and expertise to bring scholarly research to the institutions’ public. Other American Studies graduate students receive training through workshops, colloquia, and university courses, where they encounter a range of methods and tools of professional, public scholarship such as oral history, collections development and management, hypertext and web-site design, exhibitions development, and education programming.