The Curriculum in American Studies was established in 1968 and became the Department of American Studies in 2008. It was one of the first interdisciplinary programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, American Studies has developed a tradition of vigorous teaching and innovative curriculum that offers students stimulating opportunities to study the United States and the diversity of its peoples, institutions, texts, performances, places, and influence. The Department’s commitment to interdisciplinary approaches empowers students to value the nation’s complexity by engaging with a variety of historical, literary, artistic, political, social and ethnic perspectives. American Studies graduates gain a comprehension of these dynamics of American culture that prepares them to make a responsible and critical difference in the variety of professions they choose to pursue.
At the core of the undergraduate major are two required courses in interdisciplinary cultural analysis: AMST 101: The Emergence of Modern America, and AMST 201 or 202: Approaches to American Studies. Majors also choose at least two advanced seminars in the Department that focus readings and research on topics representative of both the talents of its faculty members and emergent directions in American cultural scholarship. For the remainder of their requirements, majors select a series of relevant electives offered by over a dozen different University departments and curricula. These courses deepen their interdisciplinary awareness of American traditions, institutions, literature, and arts as well as expose them to a broader diversity of American experiences and perspectives. Students interested in more specialized study can elect to concentrate their electives in Southern Studies or Native American Studies. The Southern Studies concentration focuses critical attention on the history, society, culture, and expression of the U. S. South with its regional, state, and local distinctiveness. The American Indian Studies concentration (and minor) emphasizes the ethnohistory of Native American peoples and cultures and their relations with settler societies.
The American Studies department encourages its majors 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 encountering the international students who enroll in American Studies courses in Chapel Hill.