American Studies Alums – In their Own Words (Aaron Kaufman)
Aaron didn’t originally know what he wanted to major in at the University of Maryland. Upon someone’s advice, he gave the American Studies program a visit in Holzapfel Hall and was drawn in by the warmth of the faculty and staff. According to Aaron, “I chose American studies because I liked the people.” He enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the program and the increased attention American Studies majors get by virtue of the small class sizes. For Aaron, “I would say that what was so great about American Studies was that you got the attention of a small school.” Coincidentally, Aaron’s father also majored in American Studies at the University of Maryland and graduated in 1972. As an American Studies major, Aaron’s interests spanned a wide range of subject areas, including U.S. Latino/a studies, disability studies, issues of privilege, and politics. Reminiscing on his experiences in AMST201: Introduction to American Studies (now AMST101), Aaron remarked, “I really liked learning about some things I had never considered before, such as environmental racism and whiteness in society.” He attributes a lot of his initial success in the major to the effectiveness of his AMST201 instructor, Maria Vargas, who is a candidate in the American Studies doctoral program. According to Aaron, “She opened my eyes to a lot of prejudice out there that you don’t get to see.” After graduation, Aaron secured a position with the Maryland House Ways & Means Committee where he was proud to see the passage of marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state of Maryland. Currently, he works at Ivymount School with students who have significant developmental disabilities and teaches them social and workplace etiquette.