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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 by establishing dynamic and innovative classroom experiences, and by 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, and students may take carefully selected courses in those departments, as students in other departments do in American studies.

We do not claim to study and teach everything in our huge field. 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
  • 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.

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, Missouri Botanical Garden and Historic Landmarks Association.

Careers

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 discretion of the department. 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.

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

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 along with the following:

  • Demonstrate English Language Proficiency
  • Proof of financial support must include:
    • A letter of financial support from the person(s) or sponsoring agency funding the 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 study at the University
  • Academic records, in English translation, of students who have undertaken postsecondary studies outside the United States must include the 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, and 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.

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. 

For more information, visit http://www.slu.edu/financial-aid.

Graduates will be able to:

  1. Apply the major practices, theories, or research methodologies in American studies.
  2. Apply knowledge from the field(s) of study to address problems in broader contexts.
  3. Articulate arguments or explanations to both a disciplinary or professional audience in both oral and written forms.
  4. Assess relevant literature or scholarly contributions in three chosen fields within American studies.
Required Courses
ASTD 5000Perspectives in American Studies3
ASTD 5900Practice of American Studies3
ASTD 6100Dissertation Colloquium3
4000-level course in foreign language translation, literature or translation examination (credits not counted)
Elective Courses
Select twelve of the following: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 6020
American Political Thought
ASTD 6200
Visual Culture Theory
ASTD 6400
Transnational America
ASTD 6500
Visions of U.S. Empire
ASTD 6700
Cold War Cultural Politics and the "American Century"
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.

Candidacy

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
FallCredits
ASTD 5000 Perspectives in American Studies (Required) 3
Two additional American Studies grad seminars 1 6
 Credits9
Spring
Three American Studies grad seminars 9
Qualifying Exam 2  
 Credits9
Year Two
Fall
Three American Studies grad seminars 9
Identify an MA advisor and project 3  
 Credits9
Spring
ASTD 5900 Practice of American Studies 4 3
Two additional American Studies grad seminars 6
Complete Checklist for MA graduation  
Complete MA Portfolio Paper and Defense  
 Credits9
Year Three
Fall
2-3 American Studies grad seminars 6-9
Select Literature Review topics and advisors; Begin to put reading lists together  
 Credits6-9
Spring
ASTD 5900
or ASTD 6100
Practice of American Studies 5
or Dissertation Colloquium
3
Prepare literature reviews for oral exams 6  
 Credits3
Year Four
Fall
Defend Literature reviews in Oral Exams  
ASTD 6990 Dissertation Research 6
Prepare Prospectus  
 Credits6
Spring
ASTD 6100 Dissertation Colloquium (Required (if not taken semester six)) 3
ASTD 6990 Dissertation Research 6
 Credits9
Summer
Remaining semesters are dedicated to dissertation research and writing.  
 Credits0
 Total Credits60-63
1

Over their coursework, students must take at least two 5000 level (reading) and two 6000 level (research) seminars. Up to two courses outside of the department may be substituted for ASTD seminars, with the approval of the advisor and graduate coordinator.

2

Last week of classes or during exam week.

3

Department deadlines for spring are announced each fall.

4

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

5

Required (must take 6100 in the third or fourth year).

These two required courses are generally offered in alternate spring semesters.

6

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 amstdies@slu.edu.

Heidi Ardizzone
Graduate Coordinator

Terri Foster
Administrative Assistant
314-977-2911

Ben Looker
Internship Coordinator