The American Studies major is well-suited for intellectually curious and highly proactive students who have interests that cross disciplines and departments. Unlike many other majors in the College, those who are interested in American Studies must apply in the spring of their first year, and begin taking courses in the fall of their sophomore year.
The American Studies major seeks, through the relation and interaction of traditional disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, to develop an integrated and intensive understanding of the social, historical, material, and aesthetic aspects of American cultures. This is a highly flexible major that is designed to allow students to identify and then pursue their interests while working collaboratively with a cohort of students and faculty. Local fieldtrips and on-campus events help to build a strong intellectual community that undergirds each student's experience.
American Studies majors are required to complete 14 courses for the major. All students take the four semester sequence of American Civilization courses that begins in the fall term of their sophomore year and is completed by the spring term of their junior year. These core courses foster a common language and set of methodological approaches to interdisciplinary work. Students engage critically with a variety of texts that expose cultural dispositions towards race, religion, gender, class, and diversity throughout various periods of American history.
To supplement the four American Civilization courses, each student in the major is required to take two courses in American history, preferably the two-semester sequence “Studies in United States History” (HIST-180–181), as well as six upper division electives of their choice. American Studies electives are wide-ranging, as students are encouraged to take courses across various university departments to inform their intellectual questions and allow them to shape an area of concentration. Areas of concentration are not limited or defined; students may pursue interests in and across various fields including, but not limited to, Government, African American Studies, Economics, American History, Environmental Studies, Sociology, Art History, Journalism, Film and Media Studies, and/or English Literature. Students who chose to Study Abroad often find that their experiences in an alternative culture play an important role in shaping their perspectives and interests.
During their senior year, all majors work towards completing a senior thesis project. During this year-long endeavor, students develop expertise that complements the broad and interdisciplinary nature of their coursework to this point. They hone their skills in project and time management, experience the joys and challenges of designing, conducting, and analyzing primary and secondary research, and build their confidence in articulating their findings and conclusions. For the thesis project, students have the option of writing an original essay of approximately 60-80 pages, or developing a short documentary film, website, or a digital story. Regardless of the form a student's thesis takes, the student finishes senior year with a substantive piece of scholarship of which he or she can be proud. The thesis experience often plays a pivitol role in helping with the transition from college to the professional world.
American Studies majors at Georgetown are sought after in a number of professional fields because they write well, think critically, comfortably make connections between disperate ideas, and have a strong sense of their interests. Students pursue careers in business, law, medicine, government, performing arts, museum studies, and education. Having majored in the oldest interdisciplinary program in the College, American Studies alumni continue to be a highly active and engaged network of professionals.
The main goals of the American Studies curriculum are as follows:
- To expose students to theoretical, analytical, and methodological approaches from diverse perspectives, including cultural studies, history, the humanities, and the social sciences.
- To have students develop a course of study that integrates academic work across a range of disciplines.
- To have students synthesize and critically evaluate knowledge from diverse fields.