Fieldwork

Fieldwork is an immersive and multidisciplinary process that allows the students to explore a cultural issue or topic in a "real world" context. The resulting projects are an opportunity to learn vital research and analytical skills while gaining experience for and exploring future careers.

Fieldwork itself can take a variety of forms, although all begin with 3 credits of work in the field, to be earned either through directed-research, an internship or placement-based experience, or the completion of an AMCS approved field-based course.

In addition, students are expected to create fieldnotes and to develop a final project in which they engage with their field experiences. For more information about the Fieldwork requirement, please see the following links:

Fieldwork Objectives

Fieldwork is an important component of the AMCS major. It serves as the initial opportunity for students to do engaged research on a topic or issue suited to their interests. Ideally, it will also serve as a foundation for future work in the Major, included Concentration Area(s) and the Capstone.

All Fieldwork should meet the following three objectives:

Engaged Research

Fieldwork is an opportunity to participate in student-designed, hands-on research. In their final project, students should engage with different forms of real-world "data" they have gathered and experiences they have had which will allow for a fuller perspective on their chosen topic or issue.

Multidisciplinary Methodology

Students should be thoughtful and deliberate in combining more than one set of disciplinary approaches or methods. Using multiple methodologies ensures that students will produce a complex, multidimensional study of their chosen topic or issue.

Innovative Presentation

Students can choose any number of forms from their Fieldwork project. Choosing a presentation format that best serves their Fieldwork experiences and research methods should be an important part of a student's total project design.

Fieldwork Requirements

Below is a brief summary of the three Fieldwork requirements. For more, please see the Fieldwork Requirements PDF.

Requirements:

  • 3 credits of Fieldwork to be obtained in 1 of 3 ways:
    1. Directed independent research
    2. Internship or other more placement-based activity
    3. Approved AMCS Fieldwork course
  • Fieldnotes
    Fieldnotes should be kept throughout the fieldwork experience in order to capture observations, insights, and data that will help inform the final project.
  • Final Project
    This final project should incorporate experiences and insights gained in the field and demonstrate a multidisciplinary approach to the chosen topic or issue. The form of this project is up to the student; it should reflect a careful consideration of the mode of presentation that is suited to the student's fieldwork experiences and priorities.

Past Fieldwork

AMCS students have done projects on a remarkably varied set of cultural topics and issues. Their fieldwork has taken them to non-profit organizations, museums, libraries, political offices, schools, television studios, newspapers, and relief agencies, and more. See the following list of past Fieldwork Projects completed and AMCS approved Fieldwork courses previously offered.

Past Projects

Madeleine Alder interned as a Research Assistant with the contraceptive CHOICE Project during the Fall 2012 semester. This major cohort study conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, was designed to test whether removing perceived barriers to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) access would increase LARC use among American women, and whether or not the uptake of LARC methods would reduce rates of unintended pregnancy in the target population. Madeleine primarily served as data entry, but also participated in staff planning meetings and shadowed nurse practitioners with clinical rotations. Compelled by her anecdotal experiences, Madeleine spent the next semester researching the main trends behind the goals of this CHOICE project, studying global contraceptive uses and initiatives, especially concerning LARC use, unintended pregnancy and abortion rates, healthcare costs in the U.S. and the historic and medical reasons for why an overwhelming majority of American women don't choose this highly effective birth control method. Her research and internship experience has led Madeleine to focus her Senior Capstone Project on explore birthing trends and maternal health care in the U.S.

Alison Neuwirth explored the supposed decline of the American public intellectual through directed research during the Fall of 2012. She became acquainted with the modern debate surrounding the definition and decline of the public intellectual as well as potential reasons for the waning. She researched the strain of anti-intellectualism in American culture as elucidated in Richard Hofstadter's seminal work, "Anti-intellectualism in American Life," among other sources, and explored the unique position of American intellectuals within the international community. Her research led to a less-than-dire assessment of the American intellectual's status, and some intriguing questions about the roles the academy and the rise of the number of college-aided Americans have on the public intellectual. She plans to continue this research among other relevant topics such as American anti-intellectualism through her Senior Honors Thesis.

Genevieve Hay conducted extensive research of various digital modes of presentation of academic work and then designed and created Americana Online, a website for AMCS students to submit conversational, yet academically informed work in American Culture. The site debuted in Fall 2012, after a year of research and study; it was designed for students and is currently run by students, and meets several goals she developed for the site based on her research: namely, that it engage in interdisciplinary research; that it allow students to explore multiple modes of inquiry in coursework, with faculty, and one another; and that it unite and cultivate both an academic and social community with the American Culture Studies program.

Julia Lindon interned in the production department at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart over the Summer of 2011. She worked in many departments, including audience, control room, office/reception, and the tape library, and also logged and transcribed field tapes, attended writers meetings, and acted as a production assistant on field shoots. She drew upon this rich experience to develop the script for a comedic short film, which she eventually produced as part of her Capstone project. It is entitled 'Nice Guys - and Gals - of Washington University' and takes as its starting point the media representation of the psychology study, "Do Nice Guys - and Gals - Really Finish Last?" (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Feb. 2012) and the recent ranking of Washington University in St. Louis as the Second Friendliest College (The Huffington Post, 2011).

Caitlin Astrue interned at the Campbell House Museum during the summer of 2009. She served as a museum docent, giving tours and researching objects in the collection, but her main project was to redesign the panels for an exhibit on "Managing a Victorian Household." Caitlin used various storage mediums and software, including microfiche, PastPerfect, and Adobe Illustrator to research, review, fact-check, and create an overview about the Campbell House and the lives of domestic servants during the Victorian era. In learning about the family, she also learned a great deal about the city of St. Louis and how it has changed in the years since the Campbells occupied the house. This prompted her to consider the recent trend in museums to include or present information from the servants' perspectives, and to develop a thesis project about house museums and their nostalgic treatment of family history.

Cara Staszewski interned for John Baker, an award-winning independent filmmaker, in Spring 2009. She assisted with his project on The Pacific Ring, MO, a community aiming to become the national standard for sustainability. Intrigued by comments she heard during her transcription of key interviews, Cara researched different sustainable communities on the national and international scale, looking at how achieving sustainability differs when in a rural, urban, and suburban locales. This led her to examine how intentional communities (groups of people who unite towards a common purpose) are formed, and led to final research on the complicated details and challenges in achieving urban sustainability.

Lily Schorr worked as an intern at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri during Spring 2009. Lily was assigned to the Adolescent Task Force, and helped to create a pocket-sized youth services directory, which lists resources for at-risk and homeless youth in the St. Louis area. The Youth Yellow Pages, completed in early August 2009, is a more robust, user-friendly, and prolific community-resource, now including online websites and contacts. It is currently distributed throughout the St. Louis County area in teen centers, school guidance offices, and select social services organizations. Lily's internship not only gave her first-hand experience with working in a social services organization, but helped her develop skills in networking and community collaboration by holding focus groups to identify the needs and challenges of the St. Louis impoverished, and working within a grant-funded project.

Past Field-based Courses Offered

For further description see course lists at http://americanculture.wustl.edu/listing/

  • L98 316: Rediscovering the Child: Interdisciplinary Workshops in an Urban Middle School
  • X10 307: Community Building
  • L98 3500: On Location: Exploring America
  • L98 4455: Ethnographic Fieldwork
  • L98 3789 Building St. Louis Oral History: The City and its Renaissance
  • L98: Sexual Health and the City: A Community-based Learning Course
  • L98 3214 Topics in Theatre: Hairspray

Where to Begin

Fieldwork planning should begin at least one semester in advance of the start of the project. At this time, students will fill out a preliminary Fieldwork Proposal that accounts for the required elements, including 3 academic credits of Fieldwork, fieldnotes, and a final project of the student's design.

Students are encouraged to consult with their advisor(s) as well as any supervisors who may be involved in the completion of the fieldwork project before completing this proposal.

Máire Murphy

Academic Coordinator, AMCS

maire.murphy@wustl.edu