I am delighted to have been elected to direct Fordham’s American Studies Program and want to thank the American Studies affiliated faculty and the executive committee for this honor.
As those familiar with the American Studies Program know, I am stepping into a position previously held by Dr. Glenn Hendler, who is moving on to chair the English Department. Dr. Hendler’s passion for and devotion to American Studies was remarkable. Under his leadership our students were challenged to analyze American history and experience in order to gain a complex understanding of the United States. Dr. Hendler worked tirelessly to ensure that majors and minors developed into rigorous interdisciplinary researchers. Glenn Hendler’s contributions are too numerous to list here. He advised all American Studies majors and minors, taught the Junior Seminar, and oversaw the Senior Thesis Symposium and the American Studies blog. Beyond Fordham, he co-chaired the Columbia University American Studies Seminar and acted as book review editor for American Quarterly. All of this work fostered Fordham American Studies into a vital and nationally recognized program.
I plan to sustain Dr. Hendler’s efforts, continuing to raise the regional and national prominence of Fordham’s American Studies Program. I come to this position as an Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and an anthropologist. My interdisciplinary training incorporates theories and methodologies from anthropology, women’s studies, history, cultural studies and American studies in order to pursue a nuanced understanding of American society. I have co-taught Fordham’s Senior Seminar in American Studies twice (“Race and Youth Culture,” 2009; “Food and Globalization,” 2011). For both courses I worked closely with thesis writers and with Dr. Hendler, advising students and helping to coordinate a symposium of thesis presentations. I found American Studies students to be extremely bright, motivated and intellectually curious. I relished lengthy conversations with the students about methodology, the possibilities of ethnographic fieldwork, the scope of American Studies, and their plans for future study.
Under my direction, American Studies students can expect a rigorous, supportive, and dynamic program that will prepare them to engage with the world beyond Fordham. I will draw on years of experience, developed in part through my work as Research Director of the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP), to continue the University’s mission of studying and serving New York City communities. We will collaborate with other departments and interdisciplinary programs including African and African American Studies, English, Women’s Studies, History, Latin American and Latino Studies, and Anthropology and Sociology. We will also support interdisciplinary graduate work in American Studies in a number of ways including co-sponsoring the New York Metro American Studies Association (NYMASA) symposium, “Academia 2.0: Navigating Academic Careers Today,” on September 8, 2012 at the Lincoln Center campus.
This year’s Approaches to American Studies is being taught by none other than Dr. Hendler. Dr. Maria Farland and Dr. Steven Stoll are expertly leading the Senior Seminar under the rubric of “Country and City.” Our Graduate Assistant, Will Fenton, will be instrumental in keeping everything running smoothly.
I invite American Studies majors and minors, and those interested in learning more about the Program to visit me in FMH 405D. Stop by and chat! Contribute a post to the American Studies blog! I look forward to many wonderful conversations and to all of the exciting work I know Fordham’s American Studies students and faculty will develop this year and in the years to come.
Dr. Oneka LaBennett
Director, American Studies
Associate Professor, African and African American Studies