The origins of the Department of American Studies can be traced back to October 1, 1990, when the Chair of the Board of Trustees stated that, “the Board is receptive to a recommendation to increase the size of the faculty for the purpose of promoting a multicultural curriculum and faculty in line with Macalester’s missions and goals.”

In May 1992, the College endorsed our current mission statement emphasizing “internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society.”

During fall 1993, faculty and students began discussions about hiring faculty of color and creating a program to focus on “American people of color.”

In fall 1994, student government held a referendum calling for an Ethnic Studies program that would uphold the “third pillar” of multiculturalism. A vast majority of students supported the referendum.

In April 1995, the faculty approved two steering committees, African American Studies and North American Studies, to oversee the development of Ethnic Studies.

In fall 1996, the African American Studies subcommittee called for an independent African American Studies minor and began offering its first courses. The African American Studies subcommittee also requested that the American (Comparative North American) Studies program provide an introductory course on race that could also serve their program. In spring 1997, the Comparative North American Studies minor was approved.

By May 1999, these programs produced their first majors as IDIMs (Independently Designed Interdepartmental Majors). The African American Studies program and the Comparative North American Studies minor were officially merged to create the American Studies department in May of 2003.