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Degree Programs
American Studies PhD

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in American Studies provides an academic infrastructure for a collaborative and applied graduate school experience that addresses contemporary problems through theories and methods from a variety of discplines.

Program Goal

The program provides skill sets by requiring students to take courses from varying faculty, in varying disciplines, that emphasize studies encompassing aspects of the US-based “American experience,” broadly defined.  Students will also be expected to accumulate significant experience collaborating with organizations and institutions throughout the city and region. By mandating a related internship of at least one full year in such agencies, the program will promote the students’ application of academic research outside of the academy. The program also will seek to expose students to the best available set of innovative and interdisciplinary mix of methods courses so as to provide them with the knowledge and skills required to thrive in related environments.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate logical problem solving by integrating philosophical and scientific methods
  • Summarize literature in a particular field or concentration
  • Integrate philosophical and scientific methods in a research design
  • Summarize and critique assumptions that prevail in the study of the United States and its institutions
  • Analyze and compare different case studies
  • Coordinate a project and interact with a team within a non-academic environment as part of an internship
  • Produce a project design that integrates web-based material within an interactive
  • Contrast institutional differences between the United States and other countries through experiences made possible by study in international centers of American Studies
  • Demonstrate applicability of project design
  • Test and evaluate research project with a team of experts
  • Defend and refine research project

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 Internet- based 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.

Applicants should submit the following:

  1. Completed application form for Indiana University Gradu­ate School.
  2. Personal Statement.
  3. Official transcripts of all college level coursework.
  4. Three letters of recommendation (from university instructors and/or professional associates) sent directly to the Director of Graduate Studies.
  5. *GRE scores are not required for admission to the program if the applicant has a graduate degree; however GRE scores are required for those applicants who have not completed a graduate degree or who feel their scores will enhance their application.
  6. Interna­tional students must submit TOEFL scores. Information about TOEFL can be obtained from the International Affairs Office, 902 W. New York Street, ES 2126, Indianapolis, IN 46202 or 317- 274-7000. 

The following deadlines must be observed in order to receive consideration for admission:

  • January 15—priority consideration for fall semester and to be considered for University Fellowships and other financial support
  • May 15—Fall regular admission

Degree Requirements

90 total hours; 60 hours beyond a M.A. or M.S.

Core courses (6 hours)

  • AMST-A 601: American Studies in Theory
  • AMST-A 602: American Studies in Practice
  • AMST Doctoral Seminar (Research blog and in person seminar for students)
Methods courses (18 hours)

Most departments consistently teach methods courses as part of their graduate programs. As proposed here, such courses will comprise the foundation for the doctoral program in American Studies. The courses are distributed across three categories: analytical, digital, and quantitative/qualitative. Consultation between a student, the chair of the student’s committee, and, if possible, input from the internship director will help determine which courses necessary.

Minor Concentration (12 credits)

Every student will have at least one minor concentration, the list below covers those areas in which minors either already exist or can be easily created. Students also have the option of creating, in consultation with their committee, a minor that brings together courses from a few disciplines.

Electives (24 credit hours)

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this Ph.D., the student will choose elective courses that compliment this applied doctoral program. The student will work with her/his faculty committee to identify those courses that best complement the research questions of the Ph.D. concentration and that supplement the theories and areas of cultural study within American Studies. Electives can also be satisfied by coursework already completed prior to acceptance in the doctoral program such as a Masters degree or other applicable graduate level work.

International Coursework

Ideally, each student will be strongly encouraged to have at least 6-9 hours in coursework from a foreign university. Such coursework can involve a minor field, methods courses or elective credits.

Qualifying Exam—Written

All students shall take a written qualifying examination that aims to assess the student knowledge and readiness to carry out successful research. This exam will be completed by the semester prior to the start of the student’s internship.

Internship and Applied Dissertation (30 credit hours)


Among the chief aims of the program is to provide doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences with opportunities to train for careers outside of academia. The doctoral internship required of this program places interns in non-profit, for-profit, and government agencies where they participate full-time in the substantive work of an organization. The AMST program works with the external organization to cover costs associated with graduate training, including health insurance and monthly stipends. The doctoral internship serves as part of the research for student dissertations and therefore must be guided by the student’s research committee.


The American Studies doctoral program encourages a student to investigate problems connected with the internship; therefore, the final product will be an applied dissertation. The applied dissertation will contribute to the literature in a student’s concentration area. The dissertation must be an original contribution to knowledge and of high scholarly merit. The candidate’s research must reveal critical ability and powers of imagination and synthesis. The dissertation is written under the supervision of a research director and a research committee and cannot be a collection of unrelated published papers. There must be a logical connection between all components of the dissertation, and these must be integrated in a rational and coherent fashion. It is the responsibility of the student’s research committee to determine the kind and amount of published material that may be included in a dissertation.

The student must maintain a B+ average (3.3) or higher in order to graduate.  In addition, the student must pass the comprehensive examination and complete either a thesis or an applied learning project in order to complete the degree requirements.

American Studies Courses

  • AMST-B 597 Overseas Study, Newcastle, UK (1-5 cr.)Students participating in the exchange program with the Newcastle University, UK, must register for sections of this course to receive credit for their work at the partner institution. The title of the course taken at Newcastle will appear on the student's transcript under this course number. Consent of instructor required.
  • AMST-A 601 American Studies in Theory (3 cr.)This course examines theoretical approaches to the meaning of ‘America’ by asking students to master theories in the field of American Studies, including: post-structuralism, queer studies, and post-colonialism as well as race, gender, sexuality, class, and religion. Students will apply them to a particular question or problem of academic interest.
  • AMST-A 602 American Studies in Practice (3 cr.)P: AMST A601 The course examines case studies in three different contexts local (Indianapolis), national (Detroit), and international (Copenhagen) to illustrate different types of urban development. Students will combine American Studies theories with the practical methods derived from case studies to distinguish characteristics and conditions dependent on geographic and cultural differences.
  • AMST-A 801 American Studies Doctoral Internship (1-6 cr.) The doctoral internship required of this program places interns in non-profit, for-profit, and government agencies where they participate in the substantive work of an organization. The doctoral internship serves as a significant part of the research for student dissertations and therefore must be guided by the student's research committee.
  • AMST-A 805 American Studies PhD Thesis (1-12 cr.) Authorization required.
  • AMST-G 751 Seminar in American Studies (3 cr.)Intensive study of specific topics in American culture and history with emphasis on developing skills in interdisciplinary research. These seminars will culminate in a 20+-page research paper. Topics and instructors will change each time the seminar is offered.
  • AMST-G 753 Independent Study (3 cr.) Authorization required.