American Studies

American Studies

This major explores the culture of American peoples past and present, combining the disciplines of history, literature, social and political science, religion and the arts. Students develop contexts for understanding the issues that define and divide the U.S. Our location in metro Philadelphia allows for hands-on access to a crucial site of this cultural formation. The global context for American life and the diversity of ethnic groups contributing to it are a special focus in some courses and a working assumption in all. The critical thinking, digital skills, writing and speaking central to American Studies provide a foundation for professions in law, education, media, public policy and business.  

Curriculum Overview 

Flexibility and choice lie at the heart of this major. All students take an introduction and two advanced courses that teach and apply its core interdisciplinary methods; other courses are selected from three out of four subject areas (literature, history, arts and humanities, social sciences). A pre-law background could be developed by emphasizing social sciences and history, or one might instead pursue literature, arts and media. Designing a small cluster of courses would allow the student to focus on politics, African American tradition, or women and the American experience.  Often students transferring from another field or university find that substantial coursework will count toward the major. 

Core skills developed while majoring in American Studies include:

  • critical reading and writing, especially across boundaries of discipline and perspective
  • digital scholarship
  • speaking and discussion
  • field observation and research

Matching Minors

Students who minor in one of the following disciplines find a strong overlap or complement to American Studies:

Internships, Research and Application

Students majoring in American Studies are offered opportunities to apply their knowledge through internships, whether in a historical museum, non-profit organization, political or law office or business setting. Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley offer rich opportunities for work-place experience, as well as for original research and practice within other courses.

Graduation and Beyond

American Studies offers the foundation for developing one’s expertise throughout life. Graduates find positions presenting the national heritage to the public, whether in museums and educational programs or at tourist sites, or they pursue careers in business, journalism or political advocacy. Some of our graduates have become secondary school teachers, adding certification after completing the Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, or have gone on directly to law degrees. Finally, American Studies is itself a field offering degrees at the master’s or doctorate level, leading to careers in college teaching or museum direction.