The Center for American Studies and Research at AUB was established in 2003 as result of a generous $5.2 million endowment from His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, making the center one of six Alwaleed centers dedicated to Arab, Islamic, and American studies throughout the world. At the time of its formation, Prince Alwaleed and the president of AUB at the time, John Waterbury, signed an agreement stating that: "the aim of the center is to promote better understanding between the United States of America and the Arab world, and to deepen knowledge in the Arab world of American society, politics, history, culture, and institutions through teaching, research, and outreach programs."
During the summer of that year, a steering committee from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was formed to develop the program. A full year of planning, consultation, and discussion laid the groundwork for all subsequent activities. The committee was initially chaired by Yahya Sadowski, associate professor of political studies. In January 2004, leadership of the committee was assumed jointly by Marjorie Henningsen, assistant professor of education, and David Koistinen, assistant professor of history. In September 2004, Professor Patrick McGreevy was appointed as the center's first director. From its first days, CASAR established a minor in American studies, hired visiting professors, initiated grants for AUB faculty and graduate students, established a lecture series, and began to sponsor international conferences.
Since then, under the stewardship of a shifting steering committee and director, the center has undergone various changes in its academic and programming direction, responding to disciplinary changes, the fluid political environment, and the need to continue refreshing its approach to the field of American studies. Since the beginning of 2018, with the meeting of an International Symposium on Transnational American Studies and the holding of a conference on cultural, historical links between the Arab world, Europe, and the Americas, under the title of “Latin America, al-Andalus, and the Arab World," CASAR has begun to move in a decidedly eclectic direction, evolving beyond the discipline's traditionally narrow focus on the United States and its foreign policy. In addition to teaching and research models which examine the United State's role in the Arab world, the center works to provide a space and resources for interdisciplinary and historical engagement with the complex process of cultural movement which constitutes the cultural and political complexity of the Americas, and which connects them with the rest of the world.