Major FAQs

Here are answers to some common questions you may have about the American Studies major. If you don't see what you need, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Why doesn't my DARS report work online?

Simply put, because American Studies is an interdisciplinary major, the DARS program cannot "read" your transcript. Instead, the Director of Undergraduate Studies has to inform the registrar of which courses fulfill which requirements. To do this we use the same American Studies Major Form (pdf) you filled out when you declared your American Studies major. The form will be updated once a year; if you want it done more often, simply contact the Undergraduate Director.

How do I set up an independent study?

Read the guidelines for initiating the independent study process. You may contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies with any additional questions you may have.

How do I go about doing an honors essay?

You are "required" to do one or the other as part of your concentration, though really it will be more of a privilege and opportunity to work intensively with a faculty member on a project of your own design. The common procedure in both cases entails your approaching a faculty member with a tentative topic in mind. This is best done the semester before you want to begin: for honors projects and fall independent studies, this means sometime during the preceding April. If you feel your idea is not firm enough to go to a faculty member with it, or if you do not know who might be an appropriate advisor, you can talk with any American Studies faculty member, or you can meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. And remember, while your project must be appropriate to the field (a study on Russian agriculture is likely out), you can work with any faculty member at the college.

In the case of independent studies, once you have found an advisor, the two of you should work out a kind of contract, describing what you will do to earn the credits and the grade for the course -- commonly this consists of a reading list and a writing requirement. If your advisor is not a member of the American Studies core faculty, he or she will have to contact the Undergraduate Director to arrange with the registrar for a course section number.

Honors projects are arranged more formally. The Undergraduate Catalog outlines the eligibility requirements for departmental honors. If you think you meet these, contact the sometime in the late spring of your junior year. You can talk over possible ideas for an honors project, potential advisors, and gain an understanding of what will be ahead of you. You will then need to contact an advisor, write a prospectus describing your project (which your advisor and the Undergraduate Director must approve), and apply through the Charles Center for departmental honors. All this should be done by the end of the Spring of your junior year, and certainly no later than the end of the Add/Drop period in the Fall.

You will submit your final project near the end of the spring semester of your senior year. At that time you will meet with your advisor and two other faculty members who have read your work in a formal "defense." This sounds more intimidating than it is; while the committee will ultimately decide what level of honors you will receive, the experience for most is a lively conversation among interested peers. Your final grade, and the determination of whether you should receive honors, high honors, or highest honors, will be based on both your written material and your oral performance.

What do I need to do to gain credit for an internship?

Internships can be remarkably rewarding educational experiences. Recently American Studies students have pursued internships at the Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, the US Congress, and Fox TV News.

The ground rules are laid out clearly in the Undergraduate Catalog. To receive academic credit you must first gain approval from the Undergraduate Director before you begin. You cannot be paid for your work. You must participate in a "structured learning experience." And you must be supervised and evaluated by a faculty member (in American Studies this is the Undergraduate Director).

If you are interested, first find the institutions and organizations that offer the kind of experience you want (many have formal internship programs already in place). Then approach the Undergraduate Director with your plans. At times you may be asked as part of your requirement to submit a written analysis of your experience.

Internships can be pursued during the semester or over the summer. If you work as an intern during the summer, you will subsequently enroll in AMST 498 ("Internship") in the fall semester; otherwise you will enroll in the course when you do your work.