American Studies

2013-14 General Catalog

416 Humanities 1
(831) 459-4658

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

The bachelor of arts in American studies was suspended for two years effective July 1, 2012.

American studies gives students an interdisciplinary and historically grounded framework for studying the United States; its political, social, and cultural institutions; its position in the world as a political, economic, and cultural entity; and the diverse peoples who live within or pass through its borders. We encourage frames of analysis that remain within the borders of the nation as well as those that compare aspects of the United States with those of other societies. We seek to build among our majors a critical perspective on the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of being a citizen of the United States or residing within its borders in the 21st century. We also help students develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills so that they will be able to act effectively in an ever-changing, complicated, and culturally diverse world.

Our major curriculum provides enough flexibility to let students explore the aspects of American studies that interest them most. That said, we believe that all students of American society should possess certain critical thinking and communication skills, should be familiar with fundamental disciplinary theories and concepts, and should have a working knowledge of United States history. Accordingly, all majors are required to take a series of shared foundation courses that reflect the department’s particular strengths in historical inquiry, cultural analysis, and critical race and ethnic studies, as well as a course in the History Department. Building on this foundation, our students—in dialogue with their advisers—are required to take at least four upper-division courses that cohere around a particular area of study (e.g., Native American studies, technology and culture, 19th-century literature and culture, immigration and citizenship, etc.). Finally, they are required to take the senior seminar, in which they write a research paper related to their selected area of study.

Because of their broad-based exposure to the history and culture of the United States, collective learning experience, and their ability to focus on topics of particular interest to them, American studies students find the major a useful preparation for careers in education, law, journalism, social work, community organizing, business, and government. Students intending to go on to graduate school, whether in American studies or some other discipline, are advised to bear such plans in mind as they settle on their individual areas of study.

Declaration of the Major

Students wishing to pursue a major in American studies must submit a proposed study plan that meets the major requirements in a coherent manner. In order to apply for the major, students must have taken or currently be enrolled in AMST 10. Students are urged to submit their study plan no later than the third quarter of their sophomore year or, in the case of transfer students, no later than the first quarter of their junior year.

The study plan must be approved by the American Studies Department before the student is formally accepted into the major. The study plan should reflect a commitment to take the required foundation courses as soon as the applicant is admitted to the major. AMST 100 should be taken during the first quarter of foundation-level work; the remaining foundation courses should be taken as soon as possible thereafter. The study plan must also identify a proposed area of emphasis in the remaining upper-division coursework and list eight courses that fall within it. Ultimately, students are expected to take four elective courses within this area of emphasis.

Forms and information about the major are available from the American Studies Department office and online at After meeting with the undergraduate adviser, students are referred to a faculty adviser for further consultation. The faculty adviser must approve the area of emphasis and courses that fall within it before the student can declare the major. Upon acceptance to the major, each student should meet periodically with both the department undergraduate adviser and the faculty adviser to make appropriate revisions to their plans for the major. Any change to the student’s area of emphasis must be approved by the faculty adviser.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement in American studies is satisfied by completing courses 100, 102, and either 190 or 195.

Requirements of the Major

To graduate with a major in American studies, a student is required to complete 12 courses with the approval of the department:

One lower-division foundation course: AMST 10.

  • Three upper-division foundation courses—AMST 100, 101, and 102. Students should take these courses as soon as possible after declaring the major. AMST 100 should be taken during the first quarter of foundation coursework. Transfer students may petition to be admitted to AMST 100 if they intend to declare the major and are currently enrolled in AMST 10.
  • One survey course in U.S. history in the History Department (HIS 10A or 10B). A student may petition to substitute an upper-division History Department course with the approval of his or her adviser. Transfer students may petition to substitute a relevant offering from their previous institution
  • Four upper-division elective courses that define the student’s area of emphasis in the major. These electives may be taken in American studies or from affiliated departments. The number of courses taken in American studies will depend on the student’s area of emphasis. The faculty adviser must approve the area of emphasis, the courses that fulfill it, and any revisions to this emphasis. The department maintains lists of sample areas of emphasis and courses with American studies content offered in other departments on campus.
  • Two additional upper-division elective courses. Students may substitute 10 credits of Education Abroad Program (EAP), internship, or language study for these upper-division elective courses.
  • One senior comprehensive course: AMST 190 or 195.

Graduate Studies

Graduate students may work toward a designated emphasis in American studies on their doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree documents. Students must initiate the request through their home departments. Guidelines and application forms are available in the American Studies Department office or online at

The following are required for the designated emphasis:

  • a designated graduate adviser who is a faculty member of the American Studies Department and who will serve on the student’s qualifying examination or dissertation committee;
  • submission of a significant piece of scholarly writing in the area of American studies;
  • five graduate courses in American studies. One of these must be in the introductory proseminar offered by the American Studies Department. The remaining courses may be selected from among relevant graduate offerings of any UCSC departments or program with the approval of the American Studies graduate adviser;
  • teaching experience as a teaching assistant or instructor in an American studies course.

[Return to Top]

Revised: 09/01/13