Frequently Asked Questions

What is the AMCS Major like?

The Major is a liberal-arts-style program that allows you to explore a wide-range of topics in American culture. Students are given considerable freedom in defining their course of study, allowing them to learn how cultural study is done in multiple fields and periods even as they define concentration areas in ways that suit their specific interests.

The AMCS curriculum features coursework in several disciplines, an area of concentration, foundational coursework in a single discipline, fieldwork, and a capstone project. You can expect intensive advising and support throughout!

The Major is 30 credits, at least 24 of which must be 300-level or above. In addition, students are expected to complete 9 credits of coursework with heavy methodological content, what we call "Disciplinary Foundations Coursework". See our Major Requirements page for a complete list of requirements.

What are the differences between an AMCS Major and Minor?

Both the AMCS Major (30 credits) and Minor (15 credits) offer opportunity to study American culture from different disciplinary perspectives, to develop an area of concentration, and to take multidisciplinary courses. But the Major involves a deeper multidisciplinary experience, and requires fieldwork and a capstone project.

Click Here for an Overview of Major Requirements.

Click Here for an Overview of Minor Requirements.

I want to double-major, but don't yet know what my second major will be. Can I declare AMCS first?

Yes, and it makes perfect sense to do so. Since the AMCS curriculum has a broad scope and allows students to explore various approaches and models of cultural study, starting on the AMCS major requirements early may help you decide about your other major. And if you ultimately opt to do AMCS as a stand-alone major, you can use the Disciplinary Foundations requirement as an opportunity to explore a single discipline in more depth.

Where should I begin my AMCS major?

A good way to begin is to take one of our Introductory courses, which are offered each semester, intended to lay the groundwork for future cultural study, and are required by the major. Another option would be to start with a course in a Concentration area that interests you.

What are Concentration Areas?

Concentration Areas are subject areas of special strength and student interest in the AMCS curriculum. Currently, there are 9 established areas, though students are welcome to propose additional concentration areas, or tailor an existing one to suit their interests.

Generally they are intended to provide meaningful focus for study in different disciplines, and to encourage students to be deliberate about their coursework within AMCS as well as any complementary programs. To fulfill the requirement, students must take 3 courses in one single concentration area, 2 of which are at 300-level or higher.

How should I choose a Concentration Area?

While there is no one way to choose a Concentration area, you might consider the types of courses that fall in a given area or think about the approaches that will deepen your knowledge of a given aspect of American culture and prepare you to study a given topic using a specific set of tools and methods. For example, the Social Thought and Social Problems option would be suited not only to students who have a strong interest in social aspects and problems of American culture, but also for those who plan to do some kind of sociological study for their Capstone, and/or those who may pursue sociology or social work after graduation.

Obviously, you should pursue a Concentration area that focuses on a cultural topic or area of interest to you! The program has intentionally made Concentration Areas very broad to include courses from many disciplines / fields. Students are welcome to "customize" their own area if that proves useful. For descriptions of established Areas and examples of courses recently designated in each, please see our Concentration Areas page.

What are Multidisciplinary Courses?

Multidisciplinary or "MD" courses are those that apply multiple disciplinary models or methods to one topic of study. Usually, they are in some way concerned with how different disciplines or fields understand a cultural topic. They may also spend time thinking about how disciplinary models relate, contrast and combine. Occasionally, they are team-taught by faculty from different fields.

A complete list of MD-designated courses for any given semester can be found on our Courses Listings webpage (select the "Intro/Fieldwork/MD" option bar).

What is Fieldwork?

Fieldwork is an immersive and multidisciplinary experience that allows you to explore a cultural issue or topic in a “real world context while developing vital research and analytical skills that are relevant to the rest of the major, as well as providing an opportunity to gain experience for future careers.

Students complete their Fieldwork requirement through enrollment in an approved Fieldwork course such as L98 479: On Location: Exploring America or completion of a field-based independent project under the guidance of AMCS faculty (in most cases under the course number L98 298).

It can also be an opportunity to explore (and gain experience for) future careers.

Fieldwork is intended to be "multidisciplinary" in the sense that it combines different modes of investigation or analysis, e.g. firsthand observation with historical research, but does not fulfill the separate Multidisciplinary ("MD") coursework requirement. Many of our majors pursue fieldwork that is related to (and serves as foundational research for) their Capstone. For more information, see our Fieldwork page.

I already have an internship lined up for the next year. Can I use this as Fieldwork?

Internships do not automatically fulfill fieldwork, but they are can be a good basis for it. When you arrange for internships (e.g. at a law office, political office, non-profit organization), additional planning will be required for some project that builds upon your internship activity.

Some internships are very organized and have very clear goals, which can serve as excellent occasions to gather "data" and make observations that are relevant to some cultural topic or issue of interest to you. Others will not have such clear objectives and will require you to do considerable conceptual framing both before and after the experience in order to be a suitable basis for the Fieldwork project.

The total number of credits typically earned for internship-based fieldwork is 3. Please note there are additional restrictions concerning the minimum hours worked to qualify for this credit. Please see our Fieldwork page for further information on this and the Proposal process.

What are Disciplinary Foundations?

Disciplinary Foundations Coursework allows you to engage in serious work in a traditional discipline through the selection of three methods-based courses in a single field or discipline. Since mastery of multidisciplinary approaches cannot be obtained without mastering disciplinary ones, we expect nine (9) credits of coursework in a specific field or discipline. These courses are often heavy in methodology and should relate to your Distributions Coursework. A second major is even better, allowing you to undertake deeper mastery of that discipline's approaches and assumptions while studying, through AMCS, how to combine its approaches with those of other disciplines.

What is the Capstone Project?

The Capstone Project is a process that allows you to explore a topic of special interest in American culture, drawing upon more than one disciplinary approach or methodology (“multidisciplinary), and will yield a final project that can take any number of forms: a standard research paper or honors thesis; proposals; multimedia projects (websites, blogs, films, etc.); and other creative forms are all appropriate. Recent examples have included websites, blogs, films or other digital projects; ethnographic analysis; a museum exhibit; and a case study of Disneyland.

Capstone projects are proposed at the end of the junior year and completed during the senior year. The Capstone requirement is fulfilled through one of the following three scenarios:

  • a one-semester independent research project pursued with guidance from an advisor.
  • a two-semester honors thesis (for those eligible for honors work).
  • a one-semester project completed in the context of an approved 400- or 500-level seminar.

Students pursuing the one-semester independent project or the honors thesis participate in the AMCS Capstone Seminar, a preparatory workshop style course that provides support and structure for the Capstone. Students choosing the seminar-based Capstone carry out their project with guidance from the faculty instructor, and support from their AMCS Major Advisor. In all cases, students present their Capstone to the AMCS community in a research colloquium, or, on the AMCS website, at the end of the fall or spring semester.

For more on the Capstone Project, please see our Capstone page.

What is AMCS 375A: "Methods & Visions"?

AMCS 375A attempts to answer the questions of "What does it mean to study American Culture and how should we go about doing this work?" The course introduces multidisciplinary methods of cultural study, and serves as vital preparation for the Capstone. Students explore different approaches to American culture, focusing on a specific topic and corresponding set of cultural objects especially suited to multidisciplinary investigation (topic and focus varies by semester and instructor).

Much of the coursework will focus on primary sources and ways of interpreting them; student will engage with the many questions, material, and strategies of cultural study, and in doing so, will find new perspective on their other coursework. This course will be shaped by discussions on research methodologies and preparatory work for a final project for the course (which will, in turn, serve as preparation for the required Senior Capstone Project). As a Writing Intensive course, AMCS 375A also serves as an occasion for students to think about matters of argument and presentation, and to develop ideas and models for future research.

Can I "double-count" a course between AMCS and my other major/minor?

There is limited ability to do so. The College of Arts & Sciences requires that each Major have 18-credits at the upper level (300+) unique to that program, and each Minor have 12-credits unique to itself. In effect for students entering Fall 2015 or later, students may not double-count upper-level courses, but they are allowed to double-count 100- and 200-level courses.

To assist both the College of Arts & Sciences (and our) tracking process, and to assist you with your own progress, we ask you register for courses for your AMCS degree under the AMCS/L98 department, even when another cross-listed number is an option, and especially if the course is cross-listed with another program through which you are seeking a second major or minor.

Can I Study Abroad through AMCS?

Yes, AMCS Majors can (Minors are currently not allowed to study abroad through AMCS). There are several ways to make study abroad a meaningful part of the AMCS major; however, there are restrictions regarding the number of credits and which of the AMCS Major requirements can be fulfilled through study abroad.

Although it may seem counterintuitive given the program's focus on American culture, going abroad provides the opportunity to learn about different views of U.S. culture, and to explore the ways that cultural attitudes and ideas are shaped by context. It can also expose students to new models and methods of cultural study, and may provide an opportunity to study American Culture through an "outside lens."

Majors wishing to study abroad need to submit a separate proposal to the AMCS Study Abroad Advisor after consulting their primary AMCS Advisor to insure a semester abroad makes sense given your areas of study in AMCS.

An alternate option for both AMCS majors and minors is The Washington D.C. Program. This resource is a great idea for students who wish to study outside St. Louis but not go abroad. The D.C. program would be especially appropriate for students doing the "Policy-Making in American Society" concentration, but others will find the wide range of internship opportunities in D.C. appealing as well. The Fieldwork requirement can usually be fulfilled by a D.C. internship.

Máire Murphy

Academic Coordinator, AMCS

maire.murphy@wustl.edu