Battle Lab class

Endowed professorship enhances Princeton’s leading program in American Studies

October 21, 2019

The Olden Street Professorship, a newly established endowed professorship at Princeton, has provided a critical step toward expanding American Studies at the University.

“Since 1942, the Program in American Studies has been dedicated to the interdisciplinary exploration of America’s history, identity, and ideals, as well as its relationship to the world,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “Today, that mission is increasingly vital. I am deeply grateful for this professorship, which allows Princeton to continue to attract visionary scholars and teachers who work on questions critical to America’s future.

American Studies draws faculty members from more than a dozen departments across the University—including anthropology, art and archaeology, English, history, performance studies, religion, and sociology—to collaborate on research and teaching that explores America from multiple perspectives. The American Studies undergraduate certificate program, one of the University’s oldest and most popular, encourages students to develop a broad understanding of American cultures, institutions, and intellectual traditions.

“Battle Lab: The Battle of Princeton,” an American Studies course offered last fall, exemplifies the program’s multifaceted approach. Using the Princeton Battlefield as a laboratory, the course invited students to use a range of tools and methods—including excavation, ground-penetrating radar, and archival analysis—to understand what happened during a legendary Revolutionary War battle, and how events of the past continue to shape the present day.

“American Studies brings together the best of humanities, sciences, and social sciences to show the interconnectedness of our world so that we can interpret, debate, and collaborate on the problems of the 21st century,” said Anne A. Cheng ‘85, Professor of English and Director of American Studies. “The Olden Street Professorship represents a crucial step toward helping us recruit a renowned scholar and imaginative thinker whose work will exemplify and model for our students the best of cross-disciplinary research.”