Comments and Proposals

Listed below you will find comments and proposals coming from universities which offer accredited undergraduate and/or graduate American Studies programs, as well as from universities where American topics are part of the English curriculum. As for some of the hot topics we discussed during the workshop, you will notice that some of the participants are of the opinion that American Studies specialization should be included in the field of Philology, while others approve of its present inclusion in the field of Cultural Studies. However, everybody agrees that all American Studies programs should have a very strong language component and that all English curricula should include the study of American culture and literature.

Comments and proposals listed in alphabetical order of universities.
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In Iasi we think that the best solution is to give our students the possibility of choosing between two alternatives:

1)  to attend the regular three year program in American Studies and get a degree only in this field;

2)  to envisage a double specialization  - American Studies + a foreign language and study 4 years which is normal for this type of specialization in two distinct fields: Cultural Studies and Modern Languages and Literatures. In this case we suggest that the fourth year should be completely devoted to the second specialization. But we may also have in view that these students in order to completely cover the requirements of the second field could take courses from it while attending the program in American Studies, but their weekly load should be of no more than 22-24 hours. In case they choose this alternative they have to join the already existing groups for the respective languages except English. In other words, the Faculty will not have to provide separate groups for them and pay for extra classes. The students, in their turn, will not have to pay for this extra year unless they are tax paying students from the very beginning. If they fail to finish the second specialization they can still get a degree in their first if they completed the program, the courses taken in the second field being considered as complementary ones.

This is the best solution if we want to keep the specific elements of the American Studies program as we devised it, which is different from that of Modern Languages and Literatures, being much more complex.

Prof. univ. dr. Odette Irenne Blumenfeld
"Alexandru Ioan Cuza" University of Iasi

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Resuming and rethinking the outcomes of the workshop, we summarize our view on the development of American Studies in the following two essential points:

1. the field of Cultural Studies seems to be inadequate for both the meaning of "American Studies" and students' expectations about the correlation of the academic programme and job opportunities; accordingly, a joint effort should be made in order to inform Ministry of Education officials about these inadequacies.

2. pragmatically, autonomous American Studies programmes across the country should be re-accredited according to the peculiarities of each curriculum; considering the present state of things at national level, we foresee this possibility either as re-accrediting "American Studies" in the field of Philology or as incorporating this major in the field of International Relations (our curriculum being the singular case in point).

Lect. univ. dr. Gabriel C. Gherasim
Faculty of European Studies
Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca


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American Study programs are grounded in various traditions: cultural, philological, etc. They are taught at BA or MA levels. Depending on the Romanian system of higher education, I envisage the following developments at BA level, starting from the existing situations:

1.  American Study programs are only majors, whether they are offered within philological programs or within other kind of programs (e.g., cultural studies), i.e., they do not combine with other philological specializations. For American Study programs offered within philological programs (English departments, facutlies of letters), the cultural and literary traditions are highlightred; such programs should contain a linguistic component emphasizing the specifics of American English (pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, history of American English, specialized language – as used in various spheres of communication). This component should be integrated into an English language component; the goal could be to form skills and competences that can furnish the graduates with a wide range of employment possibilities, including the teaching of English (be it American or British) and of American literature, culture and civilization.

2.  It would be feasible, however, to couple this kind of American Study programs with English language and literature programs at BA level, either as major specializations (component A in American Studies programs) or as minors (component B), i.e., American Studies could be the major and English language and literature the minor, or vice-versa, English could be the major and American Studies the minor. Proposals in this respect can be made and I see no reason why they could not be implemented at national level. In this case, American Study programs should be designed such that they have a strong philological component.

3.  American Study programs grounded in cultural or other traditions are genuine programs in their own right, which emphasize a variety of aspects of the American cultural, philosophical, religious, social, political, etc. traditions. They should continue the way they are. They should comprise a language component, too, as is the case with the American Study program offered by The Faculty of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University. This ingredient should be strong and obligatory, it should highlight the specifics of American English in terms of pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, of American English as specialized language used in various types of communication, such as in the media, etc. Thus it should have an applied language component, as well.

4.  Topics in American literature, culture, media and in American English can be taught within English language and literature programs by departments of English that do not offer accredited American Studies programs. These can be offered as obligatory courses or selected topics, e.g., American culture and civilization, American literature, ethnic literatures in the US, the American novel, American media, American literature and film, paradigms in American linguistics, American English, etc. Such topics are not meant to furnish the graduates with a degree in American Studies, but to broaden their vision in order for them to be able to handle aspects of the American area as well, including language and literary aspects.

Prof. univ. dr. Ștefan Oltean
Faculty of Letters
Babeș-Bolyai Univeristy, Cluj-Napoca

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As a faculty currently not organizing an American Studies program, we would like to suggest the following future actions meant to ensure visibility:
Locally
1.   to invite Fulbright lecturers;
2.   to set up academic exchange schemes with universities in the US;
3.   to initiate a language center for certification of linguistic proficiency (e.g. TOEFL)
4.   to work towards authorizing an American Studies program.

Nationally
1.  to carry out surveys on the attractiveness/ usefulness of an American Studies program in Romanian universities (questionnaires addressing high school and university students); to disseminate its results with the authorities in charge with educational policies and among the academic community;
 
2.  to establish joint projects (US Fulbright commission, US Embassy, Romanian Ministry of Education, ARACIS, National Rectors’ Council) in view of initiating American Studies programs in all the accredited Romanian universities with the necessary potential.

Prof. univ. dr. Michaela Praisler
"Dunarea de Jos" University of Galati

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We have analyzed the American Studies program recently and we have decided that we do not want to keep it in the Cultural Studies Area. This year we should have put together a file for ARACIS in order to have the program reevaluated, but we are not going to do this as long as we have to be evaluated based on criteria from the Cultural Studies area. Our area is Philology and we refuse to be reevaluated in a different field. This was also the reason why we received the "Limited Trust" rating at the ARACIS evaluation three years ago.

That is why we are for the inclusion of the American Studies program into the philological area. If the program returns to this area, we intend to take the necessary steps in order to have it reevaluated. However, until then, we will discontinue the program because, as a part of the Cultural Studies area, the program has caused us only problems.

Conf. univ. dr. Alexandra MITREA
“Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu
 
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Proposals

1. The curricula for American Studies is so diverse that a meeting between the people responsible with the program seems necessary. The purpose is to correlate the disciplines, the number of hours, to discuss the general bibliography and exam requirements. The correlation is necessary especially for the student transfer cases.

2. A discussion about the graduation exam components is also necessary. As American Studies is included in the cultural studies, subjects connected to non-literature disciplines may make the difference between Language and Literature and Cultural Studies.

3. After the approximate correlation of the American Studies programs we could discuss the possibility of organising a double diploma program (American Studies + a foreign language).

Prof. univ. dr. Adina Ciugureanu
Ovidius University of Constanta

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Following the Fulbright workshop organized in December 2013 by the Romanian Fulbright Committee, I would like, first of all, to thank you for the opportunity provided to people from so many departments in different Romanian universities to meet and present the American Studies content of their BA and MA curricula.

It was also an occasion to expose the vulnerabilities of these academic programs, currently running in our universities, and to attempt at identifying, where necessary, certain working solutions.

After having thoroughly examined the documents placed at our disposal by the organizers, one could not but be impressed by the great diversity of courses offered by universities in Romania within the above-mentioned programs.

On the other hand, though, this diversity, which is definitely a sign of academic freedom, as universities and departments are entitled to do what they consider of significance in order to attract potential students, has also been of help in displaying certain discrepancies that, in the long run, might lead to confusion and difficulties in assessing the true value, and even relevance, of such programs.

There is definitely a strong language component in the curricula of those programs run within faculties of languages, which can be understood as the students are supposed to improve their already good command of English. Yet, I think a finer balance could be achieved by taking more into account other courses with a focus on the cultural, social, political and even economic aspects of contemporary American society.

On the other hand, the language component tends to be slightly overlooked within programs run by non-languages departments and faculties. The major risk is that the courses, developed under the “Cultural Studies” label, could be taught in languages other than English, which I believe is non-productive and almost unacceptable.

Of course, one could invoke the multicultural or transcultural dimension, yet, given the last decades tendencies in the US population structure, the only other language that could be of use for students in American Studies is probably Spanish.

There are also discrepancies in the number of courses, classes, and hours allotted to certain subjects. Some departments have American literature courses running for three semesters or less, other departments have the same subject studied along five semesters. That may create difficulties for students who would like to move/transfer from one university to another.

There are courses holding a different status. What is compulsory/mandatory within one program, US Constitution, for instance, could be optional up to the point of not being chosen by the students, given the sometimes unaccounted for variety within the optional course pack.

Therefore, I believe that in order to reduce the risks already mentioned and to ensure, at the same time, the comforting feeling of academic freedom and autonomy, regular meetings should be organized, either by the Fulbright Committee, or by another body invested with the authority to deal with such issues.

The meetings – twice a year would be the best, in my opinion –, could provide the frame for harmonizing both BA and MA American Studies programs or other English curricula with a strong American Studies component.

Such meetings can lead to a hard core of the mandatory courses, and even to a hard core of the optional ones, while departments and universities could reserve for themselves the right to offer special/unique courses.

In this respect, it will become easier even for bodies invested with the necessary authority to assess the value of such programs and to promote them overseas, with a view to students interested in studying in USA, for instance.
       
Another proposal that could be of interest for American Studies programs in Romania is the organizing of an annual conference for students in American Studies. Universities can take turns in hosting such conferences, which can also become a suitable frame for discussing the issues already mentioned through panels, round tables, workshops, seminars etc.

Actually, the students’ conference and the meeting of the representatives of the departments to discuss the improvement and the harmonizing of the curricula could be run in the same location, as to better manage the expenses and increase the interaction and response.

I would like to conclude this with thanking you once again for challenging us to re-consider our teaching as well.
                                 
Conf. univ. dr. Dan H. Popescu
Faculty of Social and Human Studies
Partium Christian University of Oradea

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The Educational Background at Petru Maior University
BA level:
o    Romanian-English double major
o   Translation Studies (English-French) double major
MA level:
o   Anglo-American Studies and Intercultural Dialogue
 
Proposals

Although university autonomy should work, suggestions should also come from the Ministry of Education. Whenever we tried to propose curricular changes at our university we were asked by the dean to consult and follow religiously the curricula of big universities; with all due respect, the Ministry of Education should also consult small universities, which can also have good ideas or are under less curricular restrictions than the big universities.

Suggestions The Ministry of Education might have for universities:
o   Higher American input  in the curricula at both BA and MA levels; at present there is hardly a balance between the number of studies of British versus American authors.
o   More emphasis on modern and postmodern authors, living authors, on topics/authors that resonate with students today (e.g. Diaspora in literature and film, Ethnic Studies). The elective courses should deal only with the contemporary period.
o   More interdisciplinary and comparative courses (literature/culture/film/anthropology/media)

The themes/authors for Titularizare/Definitivat/Gradul II in many cases are not the same as the themes/authors studied in university.  Besides, the number of British authors in the academic curricula is bigger than the number of American authors.

‘American Corners’ must be part of academic life. Their active participation in the academic life (videoconferences, workshops with American guests, movie watching and further discussions with American teachers/guests, organization of American culture competitions, etc.). The ‘American Corner’ representative should come up with concrete ideas. The university professors are less aware of what and how to use this resource.

Fulbright Scholars are invited to our university to have short workshops (2-3 hour long) with BA and MA students on a regular basis (1-2/term) on condition we do not have to pay for their transport, accommodation and food.

Conf. univ. dr. Smaranda Ștefanovici
"Petru Maior" University of Targu-Mures

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Please find below the proposals made by the American Studies programe, Faculty of Letters, Transilvania University of Brasov
 
- to organize post-graduate programs (master's degree, Ph.D. ) in the American Studies area;
- to provide more study options in Europe and USA for the American Studies students
- to cooperate more with the Fulbright Commission to support teachers to attend US conferences
- to increase (in terms of number and area of activity) the internship agreements concluded with various cultural organisations  
- to define the programme of American Studies in the domain of Cultural Studies, in order to point out its specific and its personality (adaugat de Andrei Bodiu)
 
Conf. univ. dr. Gabriela Chefneux
Transilvania University of Brasov

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Proposals:
-  Promoting the American Studies graduate program for inclusion in the area of study “cultural studies” in the national classification (ARACIS).
-  Promoting the American Studies undergraduate program for inclusion in the area of study “cultural studies” in the national classification (ARACIS).
-  Making English the compulsory language of instruction for American Studies programs country-wide, so as to ensure the quality of education in American Studies
-  Developing and including American Studies as a separate domain for Ph.D. dissertations in the national classification (ARACIS) so as to promote excellence in the field of American Studies in Romania and to achieve recognition of American Studies as a separate field of research and teaching
-  Continuing the kind support offered through US Public Diplomacy bodies for the American Studies library and teaching program (Fulbright scholar expertise; special guest lecturers from American Public Diplomacy bodies; book and equipment acquisition, purchasing access to research databases) to ensure the American Studies Center continues to offer state-of-the-art research and teaching resources for the graduate and undergraduate program in American Studies.

Conf. univ. dr. Roxana Oltean
University of Bucharest

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As the American Studies program in Timisoara unfolds at an MA-level, we have not faced many of the practical issues that were so fruitfully discussed in Bucharest.

However, in terms of proposals, there are various things we hope to see happening in the near future. Our ideas are the following:

1. ALL Romanian BA programs in English Language and Literature must compulsorily include EQUAL American and British components
2. Given Romania's strategic international partnerships, the development of American Studies programs should be a priority to the Romanian Ministry of Education (investment in staff and resources).
3. The official teaching language of all American Studies programs should be English.
4. The Government should subsidize the presence of full-time American lecturers in leading American Studies programs (Bucuresti, Iasi, Cluj, Timisoara).
5. The creation of a special Romanian-US exchange network (parallel to the E.U.'s Erasmus programs)
6. Government-subsidized scholarships for American Studies students.

Lect. univ. dr. Cristina Cheveresan
West University of Timisoara

My fulbright experience

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