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Undergraduate Programs

Major in American Studies

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in American Studies offers students the opportunity to examine American history, culture, and social life within an interdisciplinary framework. This approach, drawing on faculty members in departments such as English, Art and Art History, Political Science, Religion and Classics, Music, Anthropology, Philosophy, History, Film and Media Studies, and Modern Languages and Cultures, allows for especially rich explorations of such topics as: the arts in American society; race, class, gender, ethnicity, and religion as aspects of American identity; ideas and institutions that have shaped the United States, past and present; and expanding beyond the traditional limitation of American Studies to the United States to consider global perspectives. The Major enables students to range freely across disciplinary boundaries while developing an area of focus. Students also consider the role of the American nation in a global context.

Major Advisor

Professor John Michael – English Department
405 Morey Hall
(585) 275-4974

Goals of the Major

  • Mastery of critical reading, thinking, and expository writing skills, as practiced by the constituent disciplines. These include close analysis of historical and literary texts, interpretation of evidence, understanding of different points of view, and the construction of arguments.

  • Mastery of the theories and methods of research in one or more of the major’s constituent disciplines.

  • Mastery of ability to synthesize diverse materials across disciplinary boundaries in order to explore intellectual questions.

  • Appreciation for both diversity and commonality in the United States, past and present.

  • Understanding the role of the United States as a global actor.

  • Preparation for participating in American democracy as a liberally educated citizen.

  • Preparation for careers such as law, social service, teaching, art, business, and any endeavor that demands clear, cogent thinking and writing.


American Studies is a ten-course interdisciplinary major. Students who complete 6 of the 10 courses in the Humanities (H) will fulfill the College’s Humanities requirement; students who complete 6 of the 10 courses in the Social Sciences (S) will fulfill the Social Science Requirement.

A. Introductory required courses (2 courses)

ENG 115—Introduction to American Literature (H)

HIS 260—American Thought I (S)
HIS 261—American Thought II (S)
HIS 262—American Culture to 1876 (S)
HIS 263—American Culture Since 1876 (S)

B. Required American Studies seminar (1 course)

AMS 200—The Idea of America (H)

C. Interactions of America

At least one course that examines the interaction of America with other cultures.  This requirement may be fulfilled using a course within the specialization (section D) or with the capstone research (section E) or elective course (section F).

D. Specialization (5 courses)

Students will choose 5 courses from one of the following specialized tracks - The Arts in American Culture, Identity and the American Nation, American Thought and Institutions, or Comparative Americas and Global Perspectives. In order to make the tracks interdisciplinary, no more than three of the courses can be in the same department. For a complete list of specialization courses see the PDF file below.

AMS Specialization Courses

E. Capstone Research (1 course)

A capstone research experience consisting of one course that involves writing a major research paper, either within a departmental course or as an independent study project. This course satisfies one-half of the upper-level writing requirement. All History courses numbered 300-389 offer this opportunity, as do upper-level courses in other Departments which include a 'W' section.

F. One writing-intensive elective (1 course)

This elective fulfills one-half of the upper-level writing requirement. Students may choose any upper-level writing course on America, including taking an additional course in their specialization.