We’re delighted that you’re interested in American Studies!  Now’s the time to find out more about it.

Mosaic of paintingsWhat is American Studies?

American Studies is a discipline, founded almost a hundred years ago, that examines all aspects of the United States – its dominant myths and ideals, its growing role in the world, and its communities of class, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity – in the past and the present.  Above all, American Studies is concerned with American culture, both art, literature, theater, movies, television, popular music, etc., and everyday life. In studying all these things, we take an interdisciplinary approach.  In other words, we incorporate methods and insights from numerous disciplines, particularly English, history, art history, film history, anthropology, political science, and sociology.

What kinds of classes do you take in American Studies?

You can learn about all kinds of fascinating topics.  Here is just a sample: Disney in America, Food in America, American Popular Music, the American Vacation, Black Popular Music, American Political Humor, Sport and Film, Inequality in Sport, Gothic America, American Disasters, The Civil Rights Movement, Drugs and Popular Culture, Native Americans in Film, Immigration and American Culture, Sex and Popular Culture in the Postwar US, and Baseball in America.

You can see what’s on offer next semester here.

What can American Studies do for you?

These are some of the things you will gain from a major (or minor) in American Studies:

  • A deep understanding of American history, politics, and culture
  • An ability to read texts critically and historically
  • Proficiency in analyzing and evaluating audio and visual materials, such as photographs, advertisements, TV shows, movies, or popular music
  • Expertise in research
  • Creativity and flexibility of thought, an ability to make connections across different fields, to think outside the box
  • Improved skills of communication, whether in writing (essays, reviews), orally (debating, presenting), or electronically (blogs, online discussion)

What careers does American Studies prepare you for?

The skills listed above are crucial to a wide range of careers.  Here are some of the careers that the American Studies major leads to:

  • Business (eg. public relations, marketing, advertising, diversity outreach, tourism)
  • The professions (eg. law)
  • Politics and government
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits
  • Teaching and administration (schools, colleges)
  • Media (journalism, broadcasting, publishing)
  • The arts (art, music, theater, writing)
  • Cultural institutions (art museums, history museums, cultural centers, libraries)

Who do I know who was an American Studies major?

Actually, there are many famous people who have studied or taught American Studies at college:

What were the experiences of past American Studies majors?

Here’s what our past students have said about the major, and how it prepared them for their careers:

“I received my MS in Museum Education and that was directly a result of graduating with a BA in Am Studies!”

“I'm very happy with my degree….[M]y American Studies degree allowed me to differentiate myself [on the job market].  Also, because it was such a small department I had excellent mentors throughout my time at UI.”

“The knowledge I gained from the American Studies program has served me well as a librarian.”

“The broad knowledge of American culture (history, politics, literature, etc.) was very helpful [for my career path in communications] and I had some great professors. Also developed some excellent writing and critical thinking skills through my courses.”

“I greatly enjoyed the variety of courses offered in the program.”

“All 3 of my children are American Studies @ UI and I'm working on my Ed.D. now.  The program served me VERY well!”

OK, I’m ready to become an American Studies major. But how do I do that?

Visit the CLAS Academic Programs and Student Development office.  They’re at 120 Schaeffer Hall, and can be contacted at (319) 335-2633 or

CLAS students who are advised by the Academic Advising Center can declare or change majors there.

Potential new or transfer students should contact or visit the Office of Admissions.

You will then be automatically assigned an American Studies advisor, who will tell you about the requirements for the major.

What about a double major with American Studies?

Students in other majors often choose American Studies as part of a double major, because of its flexibility and broad liberal arts training.  We have had many who have studied American Studies as a double major with Journalism & Communication Studies, History, English, Business, among others.

How do I find out more?

Come to one of the Exploring Majors Fairs (or Hawkeye Visit Days)

These take place in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union, at 12:30-1:30 PM on the following dates:

Find the “American Studies” table, pick up some of our freebies, and we’ll tell you more about our major.


Come and visit us in the Jefferson Building

You can meet any time with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Stephen Warren , or with other professors in the department.  We are all up on the 7th floor.  Or you can speak to our secretary, Laura Kastens, on the 2nd floor (JB 210).

Or email us

Director of Undergraduate Studies in American Studies:

Secretary of American Studies: