Skip to main content
MenuSearch & Directory

American Studies, Ph.D.

The Department of American Studies at Saint Louis University is committed to excellence and originality in research, teaching and service.

Our Ph.D. program combines the rigors of training in theory and methods with the development of skills in critical analysis, writing and research design. At the same time, we provide flexibility in our curriculum for students to pursue their own focused interests, and to connect their work with scholarly communities and public institutions. Finally, we maintain a strong commitment to the sound, ethical and broad professional development of every graduate student that comes through our department.

Faculty and graduate students work toward these goals by building strong mentoring relationships; establishing dynamic and innovative classroom experiences; and disseminating research through conferences, workshops, exhibits and publications.

Our award-winning faculty members are trained specifically in the discipline; most have earned a Ph.D. in American studies; all have worked extensively in the field as scholars and teachers. Our time and effort as teaching faculty are focused on American studies students. At the same time, we enjoy productive and cordial relations with our colleagues in other departments who teach and conduct research in related fields. Students may take carefully selected courses in those departments, as students in other departments do in American studies.

The faculty is especially strong in several areas, including:

  • Transnational American studies
  • Cultural studies and visual culture
  • African American literature, history, and culture
  • U.S. intellectual history
  • Urban cultural studies
  • Race, ethnicity and gender theories and studies
  • Religious studies
  • Twentieth-century U.S. society and culture

These specialties do not exhaust the range of faculty competence, but they give an idea of the unique character of this interdisciplinary field as practiced at Saint Louis University.

Curriculum Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy is the terminal research degree in American studies. A total of 45 credits of coursework beyond the B.A. degree, plus 12 credits of dissertation writing, is required. Students with M.A. degrees may be able to count up to 12 credits of their previous relevant coursework.

Graduate Handbook

Fieldwork and Research Opportunities

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


American studies graduates from Saint Louis University go on to a wide range of careers in academia, educational administration, museums, libraries, archives, civic organizations, religious orders and ministry, journalism and public agencies.

Admission Requirements

An undergraduate degree or equivalent in a humanities or social science area is required; additional prerequisite work may be required at the department's discretion. Students with relevant M.A. degrees may be granted advanced standing for some of that work, but all Ph.D. students will earn an M.A. as well.

Application Requirements

  • Application form and fee
  • Transcript(s)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Résumé
  • Goal statement
  • Writing sample
  • Interview (scheduled in January)

All written materials are due by Dec. 15 for admission the following fall.

Requirements for International Students

All admission policies and requirements for domestic students apply to international students. International students must also meet the following additional requirements:

  • Demonstrate English Language Proficiency
  • Financial documents are required to complete an application for admission and be reviewed for admission and merit scholarships. 
  • Proof of financial support that must include:
    • A letter of financial support from the person(s) or sponsoring agency funding the student's time at Saint Louis University
    • A letter from the sponsor's bank verifying that the funds are available and will be so for the duration of the student's study at the University
  • Academic records, in English translation, of students who have undertaken postsecondary studies outside the United States must include:
    • Courses taken and/or lectures attended
    • Practical laboratory work
    • The maximum and minimum grades attainable
    • The grades earned or the results of all end-of-term examinations
    • Any honors or degrees received.

WES and ECE transcripts are accepted.

Assistantship Application Deadline

All students who indicate a need for financial assistance and submit a complete application by Dec. 15 will be considered for a graduate assistantship.

American Studies Application Review Process

All applications are reviewed by a faculty committee. Qualifying applicants will be contacted for an online video interview by early January. Follow the department link above for more information about our graduate program, funding and activities.


Tuition Cost Per Credit
Graduate Tuition $1,310

Additional charges may apply. Other resources are listed below:

Net Price Calculator

Information on Tuition and Fees

Miscellaneous Fees

Information on Summer Tuition

Scholarships, Assistantships and Financial Aid

For priority consideration for a graduate assistantship, apply by the program admission deadlines listed. Fellowships and assistantships provide a stipend and may include health insurance and a tuition scholarship for the duration of the award. 

Explore Scholarships and Financial Aid Options

1. Students will explain the contexts—such as historical, political, geographic, literary, artistic, social, or intellectual—that shape American cultural practices, expressions, and ideas.

2. Students will assess how American cultural practices, expressions, or ideas shape or are shape by axes of power, such as race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, or ability.

3. Students will synthesize two or more disciplinary approaches in analyses of American cultural practices, expressions, or ideas.

4. Students will effectively articulate arrguments and information for an American Studies audience.

5. Students will identify how their research extends, diverges from, or speaks to prior American Studies scholarship.

6. Students will construct a usable portfolio of professional documents, such as cover letters, CVs, sample syllabi, statements of teaching philosophy, conference proposals, and grant applications.

Required Courses9
ASTD 5000
Perspectives in American Studies
ASTD 5900
Practice of American Studies
ASTD 6100
Dissertation Colloquium
4000-level course in foreign language translation, literature or translation examination (credits not counted)
Elective Courses
Select twelve graduate elective courses, for example:36
ASTD 5010
African American Politics, Culture & Identity
ASTD 5020
Frontiers & Borderlands: Contact & Conquest in the American Imagination
ASTD 5700
Metropolitan America
ASTD 5900
Practice of American Studies
ASTD 5930
Special Topics
ASTD 5980
Graduate Reading Course
ASTD 6015
Many Midwests: Race and Citizenship in the Heartland
ASTD 6020
American Political Thought
ASTD 6200
Visual Culture Theory
ASTD 6250
The Cultural Studies Movement: Origins and Contemporary Practice
ASTD 6400
Transnational America
ASTD 6500
Visions of U.S. Empire
ASTD 6700
Cold War Cultural Politics and the "American Century"
ASTD 6910
Graduate Internship
ASTD 6930
Special Topics
ASTD 6980
Graduate Reading Course
Dissertation Research12
ASTD 6990
Dissertation Research
Total Credits57

Non-Course Requirements

Portfolio Paper

During their second year, all Ph.D. students will complete a portfolio paper, generally a revised and expanded version of a seminar paper, written as a publishable article. Portfolio requirements are the same as for students in the stand-alone M.A. program; there is no thesis option for M.A.-to-Ph.D. students. The written paper is then defended before a committee. The portfolio paper and 30 credits qualify all students for an M.A. but are also required for the Ph.D. program.

Comprehensive Exams

Written Exam

After completing the portfolio paper, students create a three-person committee (one chair and two additional faculty readers). Working closely with the committee members, students develop three literature­ review papers, each based in intensive reading in a discrete field or subject area.

Oral Exam

After the three-person committee has accepted the final drafts of the written exam, the student schedules a 90-minute oral exam. The accepted versions of the written exam materials must be supplied to all committee members at least two weeks before the oral exam.  In general, full-time students aim to take their oral exams at the end of their third year. Funded students must complete the comprehensive exam within one calendar year of completing coursework or they may be deemed ineligible for further assistantship support from the department.


After students successfully complete the comprehensive exams and all other requirements, the Office of Graduate Education advances them to candidacy.

Dissertation Proposal and Proposal Presentation

Students must submit a dissertation proposal by the end of the second semester following the successful completion of their comprehensive exams, using the template provided by the department. After the three­-person committee has accepted the final version of the proposal, the student schedules a one-hour oral presentation of the proposal before the student's committee and additional faculty. The accepted version of the proposal must be supplied to all department faculty members at least two weeks before the presentation. Proposal presentations are typically scheduled for one or two days per semester and are open to the public.

Dissertation and Defense

Students write their dissertations working closely with their committee. When the student and committee agree that the dissertation is satisfactory, the student schedules a public defense of the dissertation. Students must submit the final version of the dissertation to their committee at least two weeks before their defense date. In order to obtain a degree in the spring semester, dissertations should be submitted by Feb. 15. For the fall semester, dissertations should be submitted by Oct. 15. Summer defenses are only scheduled under extenuating circumstances.

Continuation Standards

Students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 in all graduate/professional courses.

Roadmaps are recommended semester-by-semester plans of study for programs and assume full-time enrollment unless otherwise noted.  

Courses and milestones designated as critical (marked with !) must be completed in the semester listed to ensure a timely graduation. Transfer credit may change the roadmap.

This roadmap should not be used in the place of regular academic advising appointments. All students are encouraged to meet with their advisor/mentor each semester. Requirements, course availability and sequencing are subject to change.

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
ASTD 5000 Perspectives in American Studies (Required) 3
Two additional American Studies grad seminars 1 6
Three American Studies grad seminars 9
Qualifying Exam 2  
Year Two
Three American Studies grad seminars 9
Portfolio Paperwork  
ASTD 5900 Practice of American Studies 3 3
Two additional American Studies grad seminars 6
Complete Checklist for MA graduation  
Complete MA Portfolio Paper and Oral Exam  
Year Three
2 American Studies grad seminars 6
Select Literature Review topics and advisors; Begin to put reading lists together  
ASTD 6100 Dissertation Colloquium 3
Prepare literature reviews for oral exams 4  
Year Four
Defend Literature reviews in Oral Exams  
ASTD 6990 Dissertation Research 6
Prepare Prospectus  
ASTD 6990 Dissertation Research 6
Remaining semesters are dedicated to dissertation research and writing.  
 Total Credits57

Up to two courses outside of the department may be substituted for ASTD seminars, with the approval of the advisor and graduate coordinator.


Last week of classes or during exam week.


Required (must take when offered in the second or third year.)


Oral exams must be completed within two semesters of completing coursework, not including ASTD 6100 Dissertation Colloquium (3 cr) which is sometimes taken after orals.

Program Notes

Students can but are not required to use the summers to take their foreign language requirement, take an outside course, pursue an internship for credit or work on their oral exams.

For additional information regarding admissions and graduate programs in American Studies, please contact

Kate Moran
Graduate Coordinator

Terri Foster
Administrative Assistant