2020 has certainly been a tumultuous year. As I write, the 2020 election remains undecided and the pandemic continues to wreak havoc here in Iowa and the world. Uncertainty has become a customary element of our everyday lives.

Despite these challenges, faculty, staff and graduate students are doing all that they can to provide undergraduates with an exceptional classroom experience while simultaneously breaking new ground in our core research areas. From sport and society and gender and sexuality to the comparative analyses of race and ethnicity in American culture, our faculty and graduate students continue to produce exceptional research. Our students enjoy productive collaborations in allied units such as African American Studies, English, Native American & Indigenous Studies, Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, History, Journalism and Mass Communication, and Theatre Arts. Thanks to the hard work of our faculty and graduate students, our majors and minors continue to acquire a broad familiarity with the dynamics of American culture, from the present to the past. 

This fall we welcomed Dr. Eric Vázquez to the Department! Eric comes to us from Dickinson College, by way of a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. Eric’s research and teaching emphasizes the cultural, political, military, and economic bonds that link populations and institutions in the United States to Central America. Eric helps us deepen our connections to Latina/o Studies here at Iowa and bolsters our commitment to trans-national approaches to American Studies.

Last year we welcomed Visiting Assistant Professor Matthew Swiatlowski to the department. Matt comes to us from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he received his Ph.D. in American Studies. Matt conducts research at the intersection of media, technology, and cultural studies. He has done a masterful job of teaching our core curriculum, from Diversity in American Culture to Food in America. 

Eric and Matt are part of a wave of good work that is currently underway in the Department of American Studies. However, we continue to face significant headwinds. The recent retirements of Professors Horace Porter, Susan Birrell, and Lauren Rabinovitz has left a void that will be impossible to fill. Horace, Lauren, and Susan left indelible marks on their fields of study as well as the students fortunate enough to work with them. We are forever grateful to them for the examples they set.

As Department Chair, I hope to strengthen our connections with alumni. Our undergraduate and graduate students could learn a great deal from your path in life after graduation. Your insights would help us to reinvigorate our curriculum as we promote engagement and internship opportunities for our students. Please reach out. I would love to hear from you! 

Stephen Warren
Professor, American Studies and History
DEO, American Studies

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