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The American Studies major engages students in the study of the implications, possibilities, and challenges inherent in the simple question, “What is America?”. America is a story that is firmly grounded and continually changing. Undergraduate majors and minors 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.

The Concentration in American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS) enables students to focus on indigenous peoples’ histories, contemporary experiences, expressive cultures, languages, and political status in and beyond North America. AIIS collaborates with the UNC American Indian Center on a variety of activities and programs–including the Elder-In-Residence Program, the annual Michael D. Green Lecture, and the Carolina Seminar in American Indian and Indigenous Studies–and is supportive of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at UNC.

Learn more about one of our courses here:

The department is switching to a streamlined curriculum that makes completing the major and minor easier. In the new curriculum, there is one major with two concentrations, American Studies (AMST) and American Studies- American Indian and Indigenous Studies Concentration (AMST-AIIS), and one minor with two areas of focus- American Studies and American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Two important facts about these changes:

  1. You can keep your old majors and minors if you matriculated to UNC before Fall 2022 OR switch to the new American Studies curriculum. You can finish the requirements for your major or minor and graduate with the previous concentrations and minors. TarHeel Tracker will list the courses you still need to finish the requirements for your major or minor, or you can check the Archives of the Undergraduate Catalog for the year you matriculated to see what courses you need. We will also post quick links to the course requirements for every year between 2018 to 2022 on the American Studies website for your convenience.
  2. Our courses are staying the same. The department will continue to offer the courses that have been in our curriculum. The main difference is that you can design your own pathways through the coursework according to the new, more flexible guidelines for the AMST and AMST-AIIS majors and minors (see the attached infographic and visit the 22-23 course catalog for further details). That means you choose coursework that fits with the old concentrations (see the Archives of the Undergraduate Course catalog for details about the requirements for the old concentrations based on the year you entered UNC. Here are the course requirements from 22-23, for example.).

Please do not hesitate to contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies ( if you have any questions about these changes. We hope this streamlined and more flexible curriculum will make it easier to complete your degree and help you pair it with other majors and minors.

American Studies majors and minors take special advantage of our strong relationships with affiliated centers and programs across the UNC campus, including the Critical Ethnic Studies Collective; the Southern Historical Collection and Southern Folklife Collection at the Wilson Library; the American Indian Center; the Center for the Study of the American South and its Southern Oral History Program; the Ackland Museum of Art; and, many other cultural resources that serve as incubators of academic research and public service. Our undergraduates benefit from our deep alliances with local communities and organizations off-campus and from opportunities to study abroad with the support of the Preston Brumley travel scholarship offered only to American Studies majors and minors. Through investigation of the question “What is America?”, both at home in North Carolina and across the world, American Studies students acquire critical analytical and technical skills in research, writing, documentation, and multimedia production to create work that sheds light on the past as a way to shape the future with understanding, compassion, and respect.

Majors in the American Studies Department with a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 or higher and who wish to pursue a special program of independent research resulting in an Honors Thesis may undertake Honors work in American Studies. The Honors Thesis, once approved by the candidate’s Honors Committee, qualifies the student to graduate “with honors” or “with highest honors.” Additionally, majors can develop a two-semester honors thesis project (AMST 691H and 692H or FOLK 691H and 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.

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.

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 Department offers credit for AMST 396 Independent Study and FOLK 495 Independent Field Research. After an initial consultation with their proposed faculty advisor, students must initiate the sign-up process via the Online Learning Contract Manager. Detailed instructions for completing this form can be found here.

American Studies is an excellent liberal art major for students interested in graduate and professional school study. The major prepares students for graduate work in American history and literature. After receiving their baccalaureate degree, American studies majors consistently have been accepted in law and business schools, which are interested in students with a broad, interdisciplinary undergraduate background. American studies provide a solid basis for various career choices, including public service, business, teaching, museum curation, and journalism. The folklore concentration and minor are a productive component of study for those preparing for graduate school in anthropology, communication studies, journalism, music, and folklore itself–including the master of arts in folklore at UNC–Chapel Hill–as well as for those planning careers in museum curation, public art presentation, and music production.

American Studies students may petition for a course to be counted towards a major or minor requirement if it is not already approved on our department’s major/minor course lists but fulfills the need. The concentration coordinator will review the petition (AMST, FOLK, AIIS, GLOBAL, SOUTHERN ST) and, if approved, submitted for an official course adjustment. Students must have completed the course or be enrolled when they submit a petition form. Course Petition Form