American Studies

Major Requirements

American Studies majors are required to take ten courses plus a senior capstone project. The American Studies major includes two specific course requirements and eight other courses on American culture and society structured by some distribution and concentration requirements. These elective courses can be chosen, in close consultation with an advisor, from courses offered in many other departments in addition to American Studies.  The American Studies major offers enormous flexibility for interdisciplinary exploration coupled through its concentration requirement with an insistence on depth and focus.

American Studies 111

“Global Valley,” uses analysis of the Connecticut River Valley’s history and culture as an introduction to American Studies methods. This course is required of all majors. (Students in the classes of 2013-15 may alternatively fulfill this requirement by taking one other American Studies 111 or 112 course).

American Studies 468

This seminar on research methods in American Studies is offered every spring semester and ideally should be taken during the junior year. Students planning to be abroad in the spring of their junior years should take this course as sophomores.

Community-Based Learning

All majors are required to take one course that not only studies but engages with American society through a significant community-based learning component. American Studies 221, “Building Community” is offered every spring semester and fulfills this requirement. With the approval of the student’s American Studies advisor, the requirement can also be met by other community-based learning courses taught at Amherst or across the Five College consortium. These links access full lists of each semester’s community-based learning courses at  Amherst College and across the Five College Consortium.

America before the 20th Century

All American Studies Majors must take three courses with significant pre-1900 content, these might include a history course on some aspect of early America or the nineteenth century, a course on American literature (Melville, Dickinson, Apess), a course on pre-20th century American art or architecture, a Black Studies course on slavery or reconstruction, a Women and Genders Studies course focused on these centuries, an Environmental Studies course on land use, an American Studies course on Native cultures, a Political Science course on the nation’s founding, indeed any course that pays significant attention to America before the 20th century.


At least three, and no more than four, of these courses should be devoted to a single academic discipline or focused on a single theme. Thus a student might have a concentration of courses in literature, or history, or economics, or political science, or film and media, or have a concentration on Asian American experience, or comparative race relations, or healthcare, or urban studies, or sexuality, or wilderness, or whatever matters most to that student.

Capstone project

In their senior year all American Studies majors will complete an interdisciplinary independent project closely supervised by a faculty advisor.  Students may choose to enroll in AMST 498 or 499 to produce a senior thesis that would be considered for honors; or they can choose to enroll in AMST 496 to produce a one-semester project--either a shorter essay or some other form of independent interdisciplinary research and production.  In both cases the capstone project serves as the grounds for a comprehensive evaluation of each student's achievement in the major.


Use this form to keep track of your American Studies requirements: