Experiential learning challenges students to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom by performing dedicated work off campus. The goal is to build connections between what students do in their American Studies courses and the practical and intellectual challenges outside of them. To do so provides applied experience and skills while connecting in a sustained and meaningful way with the Jesuit mission of Saint Louis University.
1. To provide a framework for students to develop applied projects consistent with American Studies concerns, themes, and methods of inquiry.
2. To support students in undertaking self-directed and self-organized work.
3. To apply American Studies theories and methods within practical work environments.
4. To develop research, critical analysis, and writing skills.
Undergraduate Experiential Learning
All American Studies undergraduate majors will complete 3 credit hours for the Experiential Learning Component of their degree. This can either be through an approved Service Learning Course or Internship. Undergraduate minors are not required to pursue experiential learning, but they are welcome to do so as an elective.
Service Learning courses feature a substantial community-based project. For example, as part of a course on farming in American culture, students worked with a local nonprofit devoted to providing fresh produce to underserved urban areas. They developed and implemented an oral history project that investigated inner-city residents' attitudes toward the new urban gardens in their neighborhoods. In another class on cross-cultural studies, students researched and interviewed the former parishioners of a small church near campus that a local art institution was turning into a public art space, with the goal of ensuring the revitalization project would include local voices and stories.
An internship is a 3-credit course, which requires student work at a partner institution for a minimum of 50 hours per credit, or 10 hours per week. American Studies students have held internships at institutions like the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Missouri History Museum, the Circuit Court Records Project, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the International Institute, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the City Museum—just to name a few.
Graduate Experiential Learning
While neither M.A. nor Ph.D. students in American Studies are required to pursue experiential learning, many of them elect to do so. Experiential learning is relevant to graduate students considering careers in higher education, as well as those seeking opportunities outside of it.
American Studies doctoral students are encouraged to pursue the Certificate in University Teaching Skills (CUTS) at the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL).
Graduate students—particularly those considering careers the public humanities, museums, libraries, historic preservation, or other careers outside of academia—may also take an internship for formal course credit.
Please see the page on Internship Procedures and Opportunities in order to learn more about how to complete an internship in American Studies, as well as about past projects.