American Studies is a dynamic department in the College of Arts and Sciences that uses an interdisciplinary approach to examining the United States of America and the larger Americas. Historically grounded in English and History, the program practices a form of critical citizenship, helping you to understand, analyze, and participate in ideas and methods from across the humanities and social sciences.
A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in American Studies gives you the skills to critically analyze historical, political, social, and cultural dimensions of the Americas. This comparative approach enables you to differentiate between and use methodologies from various disciplines. This interdisciplinarity encourages you to examine issues from multiple perspectives, paying attention to the distribution of power and privilege. The major's international focus teaches you how to situate the United States in a global context, an important skill in an increasingly interconnected world.
Students have the opportunity to learn from experts in a variety of fields, with faculty trained in a range of disciplines.
The department also offers a minor in American Studies and an interdisciplinary minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies. Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.
Students begin the major by taking AMST-A 100: What is America? In this class, you will explore common questions, concepts, and methodologies used in American Studies. You'll also develop and strengthen your critical thinking and expository writing skills. What is America? explores ideas about citizenship, national identity, and the social contract in the broader Americas. What makes us "Americans"? How do we define "America"? How does national identity compete with and relate to other forms of identity, such as social status or class, religious association, gender and sexuality, and racial or ethnic description?
American Studies majors also take three core classes at the 200-level. These core classes engage a variety of topics that build upon the fundamental questions addressed in AMST-A 100. The focus for these classes range from the worldviews of Indigenous Americans to modern American arts and media.
Tracks and concentrations
Students who began their studies at Indiana University Bloomington prior to Summer 2016 create a concentration for their major in American Studies. You'll work with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to choose an individualized mix of American Studies courses and cross-listed courses, building expertise on a particular topic.
Students who began their studies in or after Summer 2016 do not create a formal concentration, but are encouraged to work with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and their academic advisor to choose complimentary coursework. The wide variety of elective classes offered in the Department of American Studies allow you to tailor your degree to your own interests. Economic Inequality, Race and Society, American Arts and Media: a major in American Studies allows you to focus on any of these topics, and to do so with the benefit of a truly interdisciplinary perspective.
Upper level coursework
Students who major in American Studies take six or more advanced courses in subjects that interest them. These courses provide the opportunity to delve deeper into the study of U.S. institutions, policy, media, and cultural expressions, while contextualizing these topics in a transnational and hemispheric perspective. They draw on a wide range of sources and methodologies from the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
Your major represents about one quarter of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates.
As an intellectual field, American Studies originally combined historical and literary analysis. For this reason, minors in History and English are a good fit for many students. American Studies majors often minors in other interdisciplinary areas as well, such as African American and African Diaspora Studies, Gender Studies, Asian American Studies, Latino Studies, or Folklore and Ethnomusicology. A minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies also complements a major in American Studies well.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in American Studies, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
AMST-X 390 is an independent readings course that gives you the opportunity to work on an independent project under the direction of an American Studies faculty member, gaining more expertise on a particular topic.
Students interested in publishing their research may want to submit their findings to the Indiana Journal of Undergraduate Research (IUJUR). This interdisciplinary annual publication showcases research from across the campuses of Indiana University. With a peer and faculty review process, IUJUR provides undergraduate researchers a respected publication in which to publish full-length papers, literature reviews, abstracts, and more.
Students can choose to pursue an honors degree in American Studies. This includes additional studies in a foreign language, participation in an Honors Senior Seminar, and the completion of a Senior Thesis.
You can find specific requirements for an honors degree in American Studies in the in the College of Arts and Sciences Academic Bulletin.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
Each year the American Studies Department presents the Stephen J. Stein Undergraduate Research Award to the student enrolled in the Capstone Senior Seminar with the most promising research proposal. The award is meant to help fund on-site research for the student's senior seminar project.
American Studies students may apply for:
- Anderson Overseas Study Scholarship
- Boren Awards for International Study
- Carnegie Junior Fellows Program
- Cindy Simon Skjodt Study Abroad Scholarship
- Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
- Hutton International Experiences Program
- Office of Overseas Studies Scholarships
- Office of Service Learning Student Travel Scholarship
- The Wells Scholarship
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.
Previous American Studies students have found internship opportunities with organizations such as:
- American Red Cross
- The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
- Center for American Progress
- Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County
- Indiana University Glenn A. Black Lab of Archaeology
- Indiana State Museum
- The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University
- Monroe County History Center
- Mother Hubbard's Cupboard
- Prevent Child Abuse America
- Shedd Aquarium
- U.S. House of Representatives
- U.S. Senate
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through The Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you’ll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 60 languages.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. American Studies students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:
- Argentina: SIT Social Movements and Human Rights Semester Program
- Argentina: CIEE Semester Program, in Buenos Aires
- Brazil: Conflict and Social Justice
- Brazil: CIEE Liberal Arts Semester Program, in Sao Paulo
- Chile: IES Summer Internship Program, in Santiago
- Mexico: Spanish and Sociology, in Oaxaca
- Mexico: Service Learning, Tourism and Heritage, in Maya Yucatan
The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with American Studies faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one. Student organizations are a great way for you to explore areas of interest, make new friends, and impact IU's campus and the larger world. Below are only a few of the many organizations that might complement American Studies students' academic interests:
- Black Student Union at Indiana University
- Global Living Learning Center
- Latinos Unidos at IU
- International Public Affairs Association at Indiana University
- Scholars Without Borders
- Students Against State Violence
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Bloomington Worldwide Friendship
- Bridges: Children, Languages, World
- IU Corps
- The Monroe County Public Library
- Student Involvement and Leadership Center
- Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center
AMST-X 370: Service Learning in American Studies allows students to make connections between their academic pursuits and the larger community. Under the guidance of a faculty sponsor, students develop their own project, work with a local nonprofit or community organization, government agency, activist group, or foundation and write a final report. This allows you to gain real world experience while enhancing both your research and your resume.
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
Students and alumni who wish to get involved with a professional organization may be interested in the American Studies Association, the Great Lakes American Studies Association, or the Caribbean Studies Association.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The major in American Studies provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Regional expertise: understand a broad range of basic historical facts about the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Central and South America
- Global context: situate the United States and the Americas more broadly both geographically and historically in relation to other world regions and events
- Cultural Awareness: Recognize the diversity of cultures and experiences that make up the Americas and how this diversity strengthens and enriches our communities
- Critical thinking and source analysis: utilize both primary and secondary sources and evaluate cultural artifacts and texts in their historical contexts
- Independent research: develop evidence-based arguments, defend your own position, and make informed oral and written presentations
- Interdisciplinary expertise: be able to recognize and apply methodologies from across the social sciences and humanities and synthesize them into interdisciplinary approaches
- Critical Practice: apply knowledge learned in the major in community settings outside the university to promote equality and critical citizenship
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take Initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. American Studies students should consider taking ASCS-Q 296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. This course provides the opportunity for American Studies students to explore the relationship between their chosen field of study and life after graduation while developing a career and academic development plan for post-collegiate success.
The job market
American Studies graduates enter the world of work with a broad base of historical knowledge, along with critical thinking, analytical, communication, research, and interdisciplinary skills. They are well prepared for a variety of job settings and titles.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: public administration, education, research, business, finance, manufacturing, community, social and personal service, tourism and hospitality, among others.
Graduates with the American Studies B.A. have become educators in public schools and universities; curators in museums; managers in corporations; program administrators for government agencies and private foundations; public servants and advocates working through nongovernmental organizations; and community and development planning specialists.
Graduates also have become lawyers, researchers, policy analysts, historians, archivists, foundation managers, marketing representatives, organizational planners, writers, editors, journalists, and consultants.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Talk with American Studies faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of American Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- American Studies Association
- Frederick Douglass Institute Pre-Doctoral Fellowship
- Kislak Fellowship at the Library of Congress
- MCEAS Dissertation Fellowship
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you’ll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
An American Studies B.A. will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as history, area studies, public affairs, non-profit management, international relations, and business.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.
Students who pursue graduate studies in American Studies have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, government, nonprofit organizations, writing, publishing, business and entrepreneurship.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- Department of American Studies
- Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies
- Department of English
- Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
- Department of Gender Studies
- Department of History
- Maurer School of Law
- O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
The IU College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Department of American Studies attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- Committment to social justice
- A desire to practice critical citizenship
- Diverse personal backgrounds
- Critical thinking skills
- Curiosity about innovative approaches to research
- An interest in the history and cultures of the Americas, the nation state as an intellectual framework, and globalization
- A desire to study cultural objects and how they both reflect and shape values and relationships
- Openness toward interdisciplinary methodologies
- Engagement with historical and contemporary social movements
- An interest in in the relationships between dominant cultures and marginalized or countercultures
Contact the academic advisor for American Studies and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address