American Studies

Saint Louis University’s M.A. and Ph.D. programs in American studies combine the rigors of training in theory and methods with the development of skills in critical analysis, writing and research design.

About the Program

SLU provides flexibility in the American studies curriculum for students to pursue their own focused interests, and to connect their work with scholarly communities and public institutions. The American studies department maintains a strong commitment to the sound, ethical and broad professional development of every student.

What is American Studies?

American studies is the study of American society and cultures in all their diversity. What sets this field apart from other academic disciplines is its interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the past and the present, combining the study of history, literature, art and visual culture, and the material world. The discipline is based on the idea that the culture around us — film, food, TV, buildings, fiction and the landscape  — is as essential for understanding the world as written historical texts.

Program Highlights

SLU’s American studies students have access to excellent library and computer facilities, the extensive audio and visual equipment of the Instructional Media Center, training and certification by the Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence, and grant and scholarship assistance from the Office of Research Services.

Graduate students also benefit from the rich archival and institutional resources available in St. Louis itself, including relationships with sites such as the Missouri Historical Society, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Circuit Court Records Project, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Sheldon Galleries, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Historic Landmarks Association.

Master's Curriculum and Program Details

SLU’s Master of Arts in American studies requires 30 credit hours and has two options for completing the degree: portfolio and thesis.

The portfolio option is primarily intended for students interested in pursuing additional degrees, such as a second professional master's or a doctorate. The thesis option is primarily intended for students interested in terminating their graduate work at the master’s level.

Requirements of the M.A. include:
  • ASTD 5000: Perspectives in American Studies
  • Successful completion of first-year exam and one portfolio paper
  • Thesis option only: successful completion of a thesis based in substantial original research and an oral defense
  • Successful completion of an oral examination
Ph.D. Curriculum and Program Details

The Doctor of Philosophy is the terminal research degree in American studies. A total of 54 credit hours of coursework beyond the B.A. degree, plus 12 credit hours of dissertation writing, is required. Students with M.A. degrees may be able to count up to 18 hours of their previous relevant coursework toward the required 54 credit hours.

Ph.D. program requirements include:
  • ASTD 5000: Perspectives in American Studies
  • ASTD 5900: The Practice of American Studies
  • ASTD 6100: Dissertation Colloquium
  • 4000-level course in foreign language translation, literature or translation examination
  • Successful completion of first-year exam
  • Successful completion of a portfolio paper, a written literature review on three subjects and an oral examination
  • Successful completion of a dissertation and a public oral defense
  • Heidi Ardizzone, Ph.D.
  • Benjamin Looker, Ph.D.
  • Emily Lutenski, Ph.D.
  • Matthew Mancini, Ph.D.
  • Katherine Moran, Ph.D.
Graduates from SLU’s American studies program have gone on to careers in libraries, museum administration and public humanities as well as educational administration, university teaching or study of the law.
Scholarships and Financial Aid

Aid is available on a year-by-year basis, and more than 10 assistantships are offered. You can also apply for grants and fellowships. Fellowships provide a stipend and health insurance for the duration of the fellowship. To learn more, visit Student Financial Services.


Applicant Criteria

Standardized test scores are considered as well as GPA and TOEFL (if applicable).

To apply, you’ll need:  

Application Requirements
Application form and fee
Three letters of recommendation
GRE G scores
Goal statement
Writing sample
Interview (strongly recommended)

Requirements for International Students

Assistantship Application Deadline

Students who want to be to be considered for an assistantship must submit their application by early February.

American Studies Application Review Process

All applications are reviewed by the entire faculty.