Madeleine Matthews '17 Reflects on her American Studies Experience

American Studies major Maddy Matthews  spoke about her experience in an interview for the Jack Miller Center's newsletter. The program "has allowed me to study liberal arts in the truest sense--to study an eclectic array of the humanities in order to make me a better person, citizen, and intellectual. " 

Madeleine Matthews
May 04, 2017

I’m graduating in two weeks. In between celebrating and sobbing hysterically that my time at Columbia is coming to an end, I’ve been reflectingon what has impacted me the most. I keep coming back to the Center for American Studies. I chose to be an American Studies major after meeting Prof. Blake during the Major Fair, about a week after I started my freshman year. In addition to having a very cool New York accent, Prof. Blake talked to me for a long time about what made American Studies stand out. He talked about the small seminars and the professors who’d actually remember your name. He talked about the interdisciplinary curriculum, which emphasized not only English and History, but also put these in conversation with contemporary events and cultural moments. Prof. Blake built high expectations for this program, but I can say with full confidence that my experience over the past four years has exceeded these expectations.

I got to take a class on the ‘60s with a former ‘60s activist—the same year that Emma Sulkowicz carried her mattress and Black Lives Matter gained momentum. I got to take a class with a Shakespearean genius and a linguistics genius, both of whom made me a better writer and thinker. My class on the history of philanthropy was essentially an ethics course; my class on the history of the American city dived into sociology, urban studies, and film studies. I got to use New York City as my classroom, so the intellectual conversations we had about gentrification or immigration came alive every time I got on the 1 train. And most importantly—the reason that made my parents happy!—American Studies helped me get a job. I’ll be working at IBM’s digital marketing team in a few months, and the research and communication skills I learned in my seminars helped me nail the interviews.

An alum once told me that the American Studies department is the “hidden gem of Columbia.” I couldn’t agree more. It has allowed me to study liberal arts in the truest sense—to study an eclectic array of the humanities in order to make me a better person, citizen, and intellectual. I’m forever indebted to this Center, and I personally thank you all for your support.