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American Studies PhD

IUPUI believes one way to advance doctoral education is to build an interdisciplinary program through an academic field, rather than in a department or research center. The home for this integrated program is American Studies—a field with a track record of drawing on the social sciences as well as the humanities and a program at IUPUI with a legacy of bringing departments together. Moreover, it is time for a much stronger and conscientious effort to move beyond training Ph.D.s solely for academic positions. Michael Bérubé of Penn State University recently pinpointed what is often missing from the discussion of doctoral training: “We need to remake our programs from the ground up to produce teachers and researchers and something elses, but since it is not clear what those something elses might be, we haven't begun to rethink the graduate curriculum accordingly.”[1] Transforming doctoral education requires building new models that actively develop leadership potential beyond the academy with the same motivation and intentionality that, in the past, cultivated future faculty.

The Ph.D. American Studies at IUPUI does not tweak the traditional model, but builds an infrastructure for a collaborative and applied graduate school experience that closes the distance between academia and the world surrounding it. Internships will serve as the centerpiece of the program and replace the role teaching assistantships typically play. Internship sites will inform student research for dissertations and provide the foundation for future employment. Directors at these sites will assist faculty mentors in determining the coursework and skills students acquire through the academic side of the program–IUPUI serves as an academic laboratory for applied projects. The coursework and internships will often operate simultaneously, thus allowing students to work on problems and issues encountered during their internships in the courses they take. Moreover, faculty mentors and internship site directors will collaborate before, during, and after student internships, much as researchers interact with their partners when working on externally funded projects.

Admission Requirements

Recruitment of candidates for this program will present opportunities that are somewhat atypical for doctoral programs in the liberal arts. Traditionally, doctoral programs attract students who wish to work with specific faculty members within specific disciplines in order to build expertise and future careers in that discipline. The program proposed here seeks to attract students who believe contemporary problems require understanding and analysis that a research degree anchored in the liberal arts provides. Rather than recruit students to become future academics, this program uses academic training to develop expertise that can be applied primarily outside of classrooms. To that end, the recruitment of students will depend on establishing clear connections between external partners for internships, research centers at IUPUI, and faculty who will mentor students by helping them build programs that prepare them for fields in which they will intern.

Candidates are not required to hold advanced degrees in any particular discipline but this program will most likely attract students holding either a B.A. or M.A. in liberal arts disciplines or related degrees. Candidates should have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test (Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing). While we do not expect to institute a fixed minimum requirement, students shall be advised that successful candidates typically have scores above the 70th percentile in the verbal, quantitative, and analytic writing sections.

For those applicants whose native language is not English, IUPUI requires a 79 on the Internetbased TOEFL or 550 on the paper-based TOEFL or a 6.5 on the IELTS or a G011 or higher on the IUPUI EAP Placement Exam taken from within the last two years. However, because of the importance of writing skills on a program with a dissertation requirement applicants should typically score above the 70th percentile (i.e., 94 on the Internet-based TOEFL). Final decisions on admission shall be made by the American Studies Advisory Committee.

Beyond these measures for admission, the applicants shall submit a written statement of purpose for entering the Ph.D. program, three letters of recommendation from individuals in professional positions able to judge success (at least one from a tenured or tenure-track faculty), original transcripts, and a curriculum vitae.


[1] Michael Berube, “Humanities Unraveled,” Chronicle of Higher Education (February 18, 2013), http://chronicle.com/article/Humanities-Unraveled/137291/. See also, Sidonie Smith, Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times (http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/dcbooks.13607059.0001.001); and Leonard Cassuto, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015).