Graduate Ph.D. Information


The Department of American Studies is undergoing restructuring and graduate admissions have been suspended during this process. The Department of American Studies will not be accepting applications for 2017-2018 graduate study.

Find more information about American Studies graduate study in the Graduate Student Portal.

Financial assistance

Most students are admitted with a multi-year funding package that allows them to work as teaching assistants.

Funding and Fellowship Opportunities

  • The Gunderson Award, established in memory of Virginia LaFollette Gunderson, recognizes the best essay written by an American Studies graduate student with prize money in the amount of $1,000.
  • Students should explore funding opportunities available through the Graduate School.
  • Students enrolled in our Combined Ph.D. program and our Ph.D. minor should apply for financial aid in their home department.

Course requirements

At least 90 credit hours are required for the doctorate. Within these, students must complete:

  • AMST-G603 Introduction to American Studies (4 cr.)
  • Representative readings in interdisciplinary scholarship; the origins and the development of American
  • Studies and current trends; AMST-G604 Perspectives in American Studies (4 cr.)
  • Survey of perspectives that have been and currently are significant in American Studies;
  • One section of AMST-G620 Colloquium in American Studies (3-4 cr.) Reading, reports, and discussions on different aspects of American culture; and
  • At least four courses at the 700 level or higher (including at least one section of G751), which may include cross-listed courses and relevant electives offered through American Studies.
  • At least 32 credits in American Studies coursework.

Note:With the consent of their advisory committee, students can count one class taken outside AMST toward these requirements, though it must be taught by an AMST core or affiliate faculty member. No substitutions are allowed for G603 and G604.

Advisory committee

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) is the initial advisor to each cohort of students. By the end of their second year, however, all students will select a specific advisor from among the core faculty, and will constitute a four person Advisory Committee, which may include members of the affiliate faculty.

Thematic Course of Study

Together with their advisor, graduate students complete a thematic plan of study, organizing elective coursework around a chosen focus, and submit it to the DGS at the beginning of every calendar year. Each student’s plan of study will be revised each fall, beginning in the second year of coursework. It is resubmitted at the start of each year until the completion of coursework.

Minor requirement

Students must complete a minor in another department, program, or field. The minor should normally be completed by the end of the student’s third year. No courses may be cross-counted towards the minor.

Foreign language study

Before taking the qualifying exams, students must demonstrate advanced proficiency in a foreign language related to their field of study. There are two ways to do this:

  • by completing at least one 300 level course in their chosen language of study with a grade of B or higher, or
  • by passing the Graduate Student Foreign Language Exam (GSFLE) in French, German or Spanish Students whose dissertation projects demand more in-depth knowledge of a particular language should work with their advisor to determine what higher level of proficiency beyond this requirement will be necessary to ensure success.

Qualifying examination

By the end of the 4th semester (spring of year two), graduate students are expected to have:

  • Decided on which two fields of expertise they want to be examined
  • Compiled a list of five-ten key works for each field
  • Identified two faculty examiners per field to constitute an exam committee as follows:
    • at least two AMST core faculty members, one of whom will chair the committee;
    • one representative for the student’s Ph.D. minor (can be a core or affiliate AMST faculty member but does not have to be either); and
    • a fourth faculty member. Ideally this would be an AMST core or affiliate faculty member, but it may be someone with no AMST affiliation subject to the exam chair’s approval.
  • Filed this information with the DGS.

Over the summer between 4th and 5th semesters, Ph.D. students should expand the lists for each field, in consultation with their faculty examiners, to cover at least 80 texts per field.

All coursework for AMST and the Ph.D. minor must be complete in order for students to take their qualifying exams. If the student is not on track to meet this deadline by the start of the 5th semester, s/he must schedule a meeting with the DGS to discuss time to degree (see G. below). Lack of timely progress towards degree may jeopardize a student’s eligibility to receive funding from the department.

Qualifying exam procedures

By the start of the 5th semester, students will:

  • Write two 25-page essays (one per field) that result in a critical review of the key texts in the field, working under the direction of the faculty examiners and drawing upon the works on the students’ expanded lists.
  • Once the examiners for each field approve the respective critical essay, they will inform the DGS of this. Note: There is a one-year time limit for approval of both parts of the written essay portion. After one-year deadline has passed, if both parts of the written portion of the qualifying exam have not been approved by the committee, the student will have failed the exam (see retakes).
  • Student will then take a two-hour oral examination in which all four examiners are present in person or via Skype.
  • At the end of the oral examination, the examination committee will determine whether the student passed or whether s/he should re-take the exams in whole or in part the following semester. The committee will report this to the DGS.

Re-taking the oral examination

The oral examination may be retaken only once, in whole or in part, at the discretion of the student’s exam committee.

Assembling a dissertation committee

Upon successful completion of the written and oral components of the qualifying examination, the student will then assemble a dissertation committee and spend semester 6th working on a dissertation prospectus. The Prospectus must be completed and receive the committee’s approval one semester after the student has passed the written and oral parts of the qualifying exams.

If student has not completed the coursework for AMST and/or met the language requirement according to this projected timeline, the process may be pushed back one semester.

We strongly feel it is in our students’ best interests to complete their coursework and advance to candidacy in a timely manner in order to make them eligible for external funding opportunities.

Dissertation research committee

Students will work with their advisor to form a dissertation committee of at least four faculty members total, including a representative from their doctoral minor. Upon the constitution of the dissertation committee, the student’s advisor will become chair. A member of the core faculty will chair, or co-chair, each dissertation committee. Untenured faculty members in AMST are allowed to chair dissertation committees.

The dissertation

The dissertation proposal shall be defended orally, as shall the dissertation itself. The proposal should be defended in the semester following the successful completion of the qualifying exam. All dissertation defenses are open to the public.

The student must have received acceptance of his or her dissertation and must submit a copy to the University Graduate School within seven years after passing the qualifying examination.