American Conversations

What is American Conversations?american_flag

American Conversations – or “Amcon” as it is known on campus – is an interdisciplinary learning community for students interested in an in-depth exploration of America. Like all of St. Olaf’s signature Conversations programs, Amcon introduces students in their first two years of college to the liberal arts through an integrated sequence of four courses (one course each semester in a student’s first and sophomore year) that examine American history and culture. Thomas Jefferson wrote that his dream for American education was “to enable the people to understand what is going on in the world that to keep their part of it going right.” This dream lies at the core of the Amcon mission, which is not only to look closely at America’s history, values, and role in the world, but to continue to question what American values should be. What do we mean when we talk about freedom, rights, and justice for all? Where did the American Dream come from, and as importantly, where is it going?
American Conversations is an interdisciplinary program in the sense that over four courses, students will have been introduced not just to America but to liberal arts education more broadly. They will approach the American story from a historical, literary, artistic, cultural, and social scientific point of view. In the process, students will also develop skills in writing, public speaking, and most important, critical thinking. In addition, Amcon is a learning community where students get to know each other better not only by taking courses together but by living in a common dorm in their first-year, and by participating in dinners, field trips and other social events. In Amcon, the conversation might begin in the classroom but will often continue at dinner, at a trip to a Twin-Cities museum, or in the dorm. Most of all, Amcon is a community where students learn by having conversations – with their professors, with the material, and with each other.

Admissions: How do I get into the American Conversations program?

Once you have been admitted to St. Olaf, you can apply to the American Conversations program though the Admissions Office’sApplication Status Page ( If you decide you’d like to join the American Conversations program, go to that webpage and answer some questions about yourself, your academic interests, and your interest in the program. We will fill the 38 available slots based mainly on how closely your interests fit with the spirit and goals of the program. You will be notified by mail whether you have been admitted, usually within a few weeks of applying. Though we will accept applications into the summer months prior to your coming to St. Olaf, we urge you to apply earlier rather than later in order to insure a place in the program. All students admitted to the program will be assigned to the “Amcon” first-year dorm for that year. The shared living arrangement allows the conversations to continue outside the classroom and helps create friendships among Amconners. (If, for some reason, you wish to be in Amcon but be housed in a different dorm, you may request that option).

Because American Conversations and the Great Conversation are both first-year and sophomore programs, you may not be in both Amcon and Great Con. However, you are free to combine Amcon with one of our other two sophomore-only Conversations programs, Asian Conversations and the Science Conversation.

St. Olaf Winter Magazine features American Conversations

Click on the magazine cover to read the article.