CSUF American Studies Alumni


 Photograph of Derek Obregon Derek Obregon (B.A., American Studies, 2013 )Mechanical Inspector, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

 “My AMST degree has helped me land a dream job as a Mechanical Inspector for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I inspect Flight Hardware, meaning anything that will be used to build future Mars Rovers or innovative Earth-Bound and/or Deep Space Satellites. My classes taught me to always pay attention to the details and to never be afraid to ask questions, especially the tough ones. I am honored to be able to interact with some of the best and brightest engineers, managers and interns that come from every background imaginable and from every corner of the world. Differing global perspectives are easily forgotten when we bond over our insatiable thirst for knowledge and a mutual interest in space. JPL itself even has its own internal History and Culture that is full of Quirks and quirky people.”


Photograph of Elizabeth Buchanan

Elizabeth Buchanan (B.A. American Studies, 2008, M.S. Education, 2010), Associate Professor, Language Arts, Porterville College

"Returning to college in my forties and becoming an American Studies major was life-changing for me.  The wonderful professors offered thought-provoking insights into American culture, along with making me a stronger critical thinker.  They also inspired me to become a teacher, and in 2011, my American Dream of becoming a full-time teacher came true (at the age of 57).  Today, I find myself incorporating readings surrounding American Studies in my composition classes in which students are challenged to learn more about American culture.  This interest in American Studies, cultivated by my professors, has led me to different resources I may not have gravitated towards otherwise. For example, currently my students are reading a novel on Elizabeth Hamilton, along with listening to and analyzing the Broadway musical, Hamilton. I am delighted to be passing on that torch of inspiration that my own professors ignited in me."


AMST alum Brandon Goco in tux at awards event

Brandon Kyle Goco (BA AMST & FILM 2014), Special Events Coordinator, Directors Guild of America

"I was a freshman when I took an AMST introductory course as a GE, but it wasn't until late in my junior year that I was finally coaxed into majoring. The best decision I could have ever made as a student. Now, a CSUF alum working for the communications department at the Directors Guild of America, I cannot underrate the fact that my B.A. in American Studies was not only instrumental in getting me my job, but maintaining it as well. Being a novice working professional in an industry as diverse and in-need-of-diversity as film and TV, I learned early on that having clarity of history and of culture could not be more important."


Stratford Kelly Stratford Crespo (BA AMST & English 2007, MA English 2016), English Teacher Downey  High School

"I am grateful that a professor encouraged me to pursue the American Studies major in my second year of college. Not only did the American Studies coursework complement and deepen my reading and writing in my English courses, but it gave me a rich bank of cultural contexts and complexities that I can access when I teach American literature and non-fiction units now at the high school level. In addition to these rich cultural contexts, I also consistently use the longer works I read (e.g. The Woman Warrior, Where the Girls Are, Always Running) with my students as supplemental readings--in which they enthusiastically engage. Finally, the research theories and methods I learned as an American Studies major laid a foundation for the ethnographic research I am completing for my Master's Project in English. Overall, American Studies has made me a stronger teacher, student, reader, writer, and thinker."

AMST alum Brandon Goco in tux at awards eventKate Reeves (BA AMST), Hospice Admissions Nurse, Former Administrative Director of the Emergency Department at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange

"My professional life was spent as a nursing administrator (pediatrics, emergency and hospice). However, my background in American Studies and later my Master's in Social Sciences has always stood me in good stead, especially because I have traveled the world (all seven continents, almost 100 countries) and everywhere I have tried to be a good American ambassador, primarily educating those I met in the ways of the United States. Example: In India, just prior to one of our presidential elections, the papers were full of primary and caucus news. I asked 'Why do you care?' and was told that they care 'Because everything you do impacts the rest of us'! I was then able to explain how our government worked, especially the separation of powers which seems to be a novel idea in most places. Second example: on a river cruise in France my husband and I were the ONLY Americans. We were 'specimens' and were followed around and asked question after question--again, just before the last presidential election and many questions dealt with the Electoral College. I said, 'Well, good luck with this, I'll give it a try' and explained how it worked. I was also asked questions that to might seem obvious to most Americans--'Do you need papers to travel between the states?' 'Do you need a passport for Hawaii? Most of my interrogators had no real idea of the size of our country nor the complexity. And of course, as a nurse, my educational background has helped immensely with my multi-cultural patients in California."

head shot of alum Shannon Swain Shannon (Pohlhammer) Swain (BA AMST 1988), Deputy Superintendent of the Office of Correctional Education for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

"I currently run the 35 WASC accredited adult schools in California's 35 prisons. It was an American Studies internship at a local halfway house that set me on this path of criminal justice reform some 34 years ago. While I initially took the internship because I was fascinated by the cultural transition involved when inmates return to "the streets," I quickly discovered a deep "heart" for this work. I truly credit my undergraduate years at CSUF for a solid foundation that has positively influenced my career in correctional education. Most of all, it has fostered a thorough thoughtfulness that consistently helps me look more deeply at any situation, problem, or system to analyze root causes through a historical lens with a modern perspective. I consider myself profoundly lucky in that my avocation and vocation meet firmly in a career I love that has been rewarding, challenging, and fun, and I still feel as passionate as ever about correctional reform and effective community transition for offenders. I even had the opportunity to travel to Santiago, Chile on a project for the Chilean Ministry of Justice, where I trained prison wardens and administrators in effective adult teaching and learning theory and methodologies. Additionally, I am proud to say that my oldest daughter, Kuranda, graduated with a double major, in American Studies and Social Welfare, from UC Berkeley last year. She has just returned from Kenya, where she coordinated a development conference through her job at the Center for Effective Global Action."

Melissa hoon Melissa Hoon (BA AMST/COMM 2010, MA AMST 2012), Founder/Executive Director of Inner Awakening Writing Center

"American studies was critical in helping me create my own business by combining my passions of writing, counseling and human rights activism. I began my career as a human rights journalist, reporting for publications such as the Orange County Register. I quickly realized I wanted to work more directly with the populations I was reporting on. I then received my state-certification as a sexual assault counselor and became an anti-sex trafficking specialist at WEAVE, Inc., a Sacramento rape crisis intervention center, where I developed and facilitated a therapeutic journaling and meditation workshop to survivors of sex trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault. Over the last several years, that workshop has evolved into a comprehensive program that I teach through my Inner Awakening Writing Center at high schools, universities, counseling centers, spiritual retreats and art studios. I'm in the process of expanding it into a nonprofit, with plans to teach to prison inmates, bullied youth, U.S. military veterans, at-risk youth, and those in recovery from various addictions. Through CSUF's American studies program, I gained skills in the areas of critical thinking, writing, curriculum development, community building and its value, diversity sensitivity, cultural awareness, and organizational development - all of which have played a vital role in helping me recognize and meet my clients needs, and in building my business into what it has become."

 AMSt alum Amy Mattern Amy Mattern (MA AMST 2000), Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, CSUF College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

"American Studies developed and strengthened my critical thinking, writing, editing, and communication skills, in addition to educating me about diversity, social justice, and closely examining and understanding the various social and cultural environments I navigate. I have used all of this, as well as interpersonal skills, to get jobs where I wasn't always the one with the exact degree to match the job title."



CSUF AMST alum Maria Cortes Maria Cortes (BA AMST and MA AMST 2010), Higher Education Services Coordinator, Nicholas Academic Centers (Santa Ana)

"I have the privilege of working with talented high school students who are low-income, first-generation college students. My main goal with my students is to get them to apply to and get accepted into a 4-year university, and succeed in their undergraduate academic career. Receiving my Master's Degree in American Studies from CSUF has played a key role in my success as a coordinator at the NAC. As I am building relationships with the NAC seniors we have conversations about a wide range of topics, however many of them are concerning law, immigration, and women's rights. Although my job description does not require that I have knowledge in these topics, the fact that I studied them as a graduate student has become extremely useful. I can explain to them why a family has to wait 20 years for a loved one to become a legal permanent resident, or why women are sometimes judged for being assertive, or why Mexicans are considered "white" in their college applications. This has helped me in building rapport with my students and having a stronger bond with them."

alum David Hernandez in front of castle at Disneyland David Hernandez (BA AMST 04, MA AMST 08), Manager of Learning and Development at the Walt Disney Company

"My education in American Studies has been a valuable asset to me in my role as a Human Resources professional. American Studies pushed me to be objectively critical of my own culture and ask questions about why our culture is the way it is. This is a mindset and a skill set that continues to be of extraordinary value to me in my role where we must not accept things at face value, analyze organizational culture, and determine ways to facilitate organizational changes that stick."

alum Joe Birdsong onstage at comedy club Joe Birdsong (BA AMST),Head of Youth Programs, National Comedy Theatre

"American Studies was instrumental in helping me interpret and understand not only society and culture, but also community, and the value thereof. Today I work for the National Comedy Theatre, as head of youth programs. The lectures I received at CSUF helped me develop our curriculum into one that promotes individuality, while still instilling a sense of community, so our students help inspire and promote each other. It more or less mirrors the experiences I had at Fullerton." 


reference librarians Megan Wagner and Cynthia Bruns Megan Wagner (BA AMST & MA AMST) and Cynthia Bruns (MA AMST), reference librarians at Pollak Library

Megan reports, "In my interview, Cynthia Bruns said that American Studies grads make 'especially fantastic librarians' since we are such a diverse set of minds.... American Studies trains graduates to ask critical cultural questions, examine diverse communities, and analyze multiple perspectives. With such a multidisciplinary field, I feel especially prepared to speak to a variety of audiences and needs in the library. American Studies not only changed the ways in which I understand culturally-constructed concepts like masculinity, social class, and 'American Character,' but helped me to understand the process of cultural inquiry, ethnography, and primary source analysis. Critical thinking skills like these are essential for the next generation student, teacher, librarian, and any information professional -- and have powerfully changed the person I am today."

Brittany Franck with local students during her time in Peace Corps Brittany Franck (BA AMST and MA AMST), Peace Corps Volunteer

Brittany Franck works for the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, training teachers to better engage the students in their classrooms. Among other AMST students, Melanie Pyles is currently serving the Peace Corps in China and Teresa Garcia in Jordan, while Patrick Heyer just finished working for the Peace Corps in Senegal and Nathan Horton finished in Kyrgyzstan.


alum Anita Rice at her desk at Blizzard Entertainment  Anita Rice (BA AMST), Blizzard Entertainment

"Since graduation, I've been working as an Internal Communications Specialist for Blizzard Entertainment, a global video game company [makers of World of Warcraft]. American Studies prepared me incredibly well for working in a culture industry! I am able to plan, develop strategies, and write communications that will reach an audience who work at the crossroads of gamer culture, geek culture, and part of a large imagined community. I am also honored to work with my colleagues in Europe and Asia. Having an awareness of ethnocentrism has made me a much better partner in global communications."

alum Eddie Garcia in front of 'si se puede' mural Eduardo Garcia (BA AMST), PhD student, University of Michigan

After serving as the CSUF American Studies undergraduate commencement speaker, Eddie Garcia went on to the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan with full funding. Eddie has already been very active in various policy initiatives in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere regarding human rights.