What American lives can be made with an education in the various fields encompassed by American Studies? At a time when every aspect of higher education is being questioned and the value of humanities degrees doubted, the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Conference in Early American Studies takes a wide-ranging look at the diverse ways in which the study of American history and culture, past and present, has shaped lives and careers since the mid-1970s. The conference brings together former students and advisees of Draper chair Robert A. Gross to reflect on the opportunities, experiences, and professions opened up by their undergraduate and graduate educations in such areas as American history, literature, art, music, popular culture, government, and sociology and in the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Graduates of Amherst College, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Connecticut, among other schools, the participants are now active in the law, government, philanthropy, business, education, and the arts. Like the figures celebrated in Emma Willard's "Temple of Time" (1846), they, too, are making a mark on America's unfolding history. Their impact extends from the entertainment industry to environmental policy, from journalism to public service, from teaching schoolchildren to pursuing social justice. How have their post-graduate commitments and values been shaped by their formal education? In what ways did that education prepare them, if at all, for the challenges they have faced? And what critical lessons do they derive from experience for how American Studies should be taught today? Taking place during Professor Gross's final semester of teaching at UConn, this fourth Draper Conference takes a wide view of higher education, as it affects the ways we live as citizens of the United States and of a transnational world. We welcome you to join in the conversation.