American Studies Major, B.A.

The B.A. major in American studies provides stimulating opportunities to explore the diversity of America peoples, places, institutions, texts, and performances. Students investigate how American societies form and fragment over time, how dreams are envisioned and embodied, how narratives are constructed and contested, and how histories are written and rewritten. Our courses engage with a variety of historical, literary, artistic, political, economic, legal, social, cultural, racial, and ethnic situations within the United States and in broader global, international, and comparative perspectives.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the American studies program, students should be able to:

  • Apply critical skills of analysis to a variety of primary historical sources and/or cultural expressions
  • Exercise advanced writing skills that demonstrate clear articulation of ideas and effective expression of understanding
  • Assess the value of interdisciplinary learning by engaging with a variety of disciplinary perspectives on the study of America within their major elective courses
  • Interpret national traditions and ideals from different local, regional, transnational, and/or global situations and from diverse ideological and/or ethnic perspectives
  • Report satisfaction with the American studies major and its value for their postgraduate academic and professional careers


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • earn a minimum final cumulative GPA of 2.000
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major core requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 in the major core requirements. Some programs may require higher standards for major or specific courses.

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

The major in American studies consists of nine courses, with at least four courses numbered 200 or higher.

Core Requirements
AMST 101IDEAs in Action General Education logo This Place Called "America"3
One of the following options:3
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Myth and History in American Memory
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction to the Cultures and Histories of Native North America
IDEAs in Action General Education logo This Place Called "The South"
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Difference and Power in American Culture(s)
IDEAs in Action General Education logo America's Role in the Global Environment
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Everyday Cultures: Folklore in America
Seven additional elective courses selected from the following lists:21
AMST courses numbered 102 or higher 1
FOLK courses numbered 200 or higher 2
CHER courses numbered 101 or higher
Up to three (3) Americanist courses offered outside the department, numbered 200 or higher 3
Additional Requirements
Of the nine (9) total courses in the major, at least four (4) must be numbered 200 or higher
Total Hours27

Not including AMST 396, AMST 493, AMST 691H, AMST 692H


Not including FOLK 496, FOLK 691H, FOLK 692H


As approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 

American studies (AMST), Folklore (FOLK), and Cherokee (CHER) course descriptions.

FOLK 490, and FOLK 690 may fall under various categories, depending on the focus of these courses in a given semester; the course instructor and director of undergraduate studies will decide which category they fulfill.

Special Opportunities in American Studies

Honors in American Studies

The American Studies major offers students the opportunity to pursue research projects under the direction of outstanding faculty and to engage in a small, specially designated seminar with peers who are also writing theses. Students propose their thesis and contract with a faculty advisor during the semester prior to the beginning of their senior year. During their senior year, majors register for a thesis research seminar (AMST 691H) in the fall and enroll in an AMST 692H independent study seminar course with their faculty advisor in the spring. For each semester of honors work, thesis students must submit a signed learning contract to the Department of American Studies during the registration period. Students must maintain a 3.3 cumulative grade point average to be eligible. With the approval of the associate or the assistant dean for honors, students with a slightly lower average who have a reasonable expectation of meeting the requirement within one more semester may embark upon the honors thesis, understanding that if they do not attain the 3.3 standard they may continue the research project as independent study but are not eligible to graduate with honors or highest honors.

Experiential Education

The Department of American Studies offers a seminar on Service Learning in America (AMST 398) and offers credits for approved internship projects (AMST 493). Students have learned about American studies by serving the community in museums, schools, social agencies, and other cultural institutions. Many courses in the folklore program also offer experiential education credit through ethnographic training and fieldwork opportunities.

Study Abroad

The Department of American Studies encourages students to consider a semester or more of study abroad and has developed close relations with several American studies programs in different countries. Studying American experience in international contexts is an integral part of understanding the place and influence of the United States in the world. Student learning is enhanced by the perspectives gained by examining how American subjects are taught in universities around the globe as well as by encountering the international students who enroll in American studies courses in Chapel Hill. Students can receive American studies major credit for selected study abroad programs and are encouraged to make study abroad part of their academic plans. Students interested in this experience should consult with the director of undergraduate studies or with the Study Abroad Office about international exchange programs sponsored by UNC–Chapel Hill. Furthermore, American studies majors and minors may apply for the Julia Preston Brumley Travel Scholarship, which is only available to American studies students, to help fund their study abroad.

Undergraduate Awards

The department awards Julia Preston Brumley Travel Scholarships to help fund international travel and study abroad. The Peter C. Baxter Memorial Prize is awarded annually to the outstanding senior majoring in American studies. The Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote Prize is awarded annually for the outstanding senior honors thesis.

Undergraduate Research

The department offers credit for AMST 396 and FOLK 495. Majors can develop a two-semester honors thesis project (AMST 691H and AMST 692H) in consultation with an advisor. Students have received summer undergraduate research fellowships, earned research support and travel awards, and presented their work at the Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research each spring.

Department of American Studies

Visit Program Website

204 Greenlaw Hall, CB# 3520

(919) 962-5481


Patricia Sawin

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Tim Marr