Skip to main content

The American Studies undergraduate program is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural education based on the recognition that America is local, regional, national, and global. Our five areas of undergraduate study—American Studies, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Folklore Studies, Southern Studies, and Global American Studies—engage 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, how histories are written and rewritten. Through coursework, fieldwork, and critical and creative projects, American Studies students discover that the answer to the question, What is America?, is not only centered at home, but abroad; not only focused on culture, but on individuals; a story not spoken by one, but by many voices.

Learn more about one of our courses here:


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 as well, 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 who have 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 having an initial consultation with their proposed faculty advisor, students will need to 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 arts major for students interested in graduate and professional school study. The major prepares students for graduate work in fields such as 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 provides a solid basis for a variety of 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 arts 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 major/minor course lists, but fulfills the need. The petition application will be reviewed by the concentration coordinator (AMST, FOLK, AIIS, GLOBAL, SOUTHERN ST) and if approved, submitted for an official course adjustment. Students must already have completed the course or be currently enrolled when they submit a petition form. Course Petition Form