Penn State Harrisburg

College awards first doctorate in American Studies

Trevor Blank

Trevor Blank


As a Penn State Harrisburg doctoral student, Trevor Blank has received considerable recognition. He has published four books and numerous articles and reviews; received several national awards; presented his research on children’s folklore to widespread audiences; and been featured in several newspaper articles. After Penn State Harrisburg’s May 14 commencement ceremony at Hershey’s Giant Center, Blank will hold another distinction. He officially will be the first graduate of the college’s new doctoral program in American Studies.

Introduced in fall 2009, the American Studies Ph.D. became Penn State Harrisburg’s third doctoral program, joining those in Public Administration and Adult Education. Blank, who holds a bachelor’s in American studies from the University of Maryland and a master’s in folklore from Indiana University, was among the program’s inaugural class of students.

“An accomplished author, editor, teacher, and webmaster, Trevor has been a model of scholarship that should inspire students who follow him on the commencement stage in years to come,” said Dr. Simon J. Bronner, Distinguished University Professor of American Studies and Folklore and doctoral program director. “With the Ph.D. in hand, doors should open for Trevor that will allow him to expand his work and have a great impact on his profession and society.”

While Blank is the only student scheduled to graduate this semester, others are slated to complete the program in the next academic year, according to Bronner. Blank’s dissertation on Internet folklore already has been accepted as a book by the University of Wisconsin Press, and he has received a Mellon Foundation Grant to support that process.

“The most challenging aspect of pursuing my doctorate has been juggling an aggressive research and publication agenda, honing my teaching skills, and meaningfully participating in the ‘student experience’ with my peers,” Blank said. “I am tremendously honored, grateful, and humbled to be the first student to graduate with a Ph.D. in American Studies from Penn State Harrisburg. And as a student of folklore, it gives me great pleasure to know that my graduation signals the beginning of a new tradition that is sure to welcome many more talented and impressive scholars in the years to come.”

Penn State Harrisburg’s American Studies doctoral program is the only one in Pennsylvania.  The program emphasizes folk and popular culture, public heritage, interdisciplinary history and politics, and environmental and regional studies, said Bronner, and attracts students interested in careers in government, museums, cultural agencies, education, archives and records management, public policy, and communications.